Public relations professionals are very accustomed to being asked what they do, which makes the “What I actually do” memes so funny. Most of us have an analogy ready to help make our career more easily understood, but after the last two weeks of omnipresent coronavirus coverage, many PR pros could sum up their jobs by simply saying, “You know the avalanche of coronavirus emails in your inbox? I write those.”

It’s an oversimplification—public relations and crisis communications in particular is so much more than that—but a highly relatable one just the same. Everyone has received a spate of coronavirus emails and even text messages from businesses in the last few weeks—so many, in fact, that they couldn’t possibly read all of them.

This begs the question: Is email the best way to reach your customers…or is it the best way to annoy them?

The answer to both is yes. Email marketing can be very effective; according to HubSpot, 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI. Knowing this, companies have dashed off a flurry of COVID-19 emails in recent weeks, only to be roasted by publications like Slate for going overboard.

If your company recently sent a mass missive to clients, customers, employees or vendors, you’re definitely not alone, but here are a few tips for building loyalty instead of alienating your target audiences.

  1. Think before leaping on the bandwagon. Does reaching out make sense for your brand? Restaurants informing customers of their sanitation practices is understandable, but companies hawking non-essential items and services come across as tone deaf. Before pressing “send,” consider whether your message is relevant and provides truly useful information. If it doesn’t, find a more compelling reason to make contact.
  2. Timing is everything. Even when your content is relevant to your audience, the timing may not be optimal. An ill-timed message can come across as insensitive or out of touch (this is also true of your social media posts). If your message isn’t truly urgent, waiting may preserve your goodwill in the long run.
  3. Scrub your lists, not just your hands. Consumers are especially irritated by messages from companies they haven’t interacted with in years. The best way to avoid this is through a sustained communications program. Email newsletters are an excellent tool for regularly sharing information, but if you haven’t been communicating consistently, be considerate of who is on your list. Remove anyone who hasn’t recently interacted with your company.
  4. A little goes a long way. Not only should your message be short and to the point to avoid the dreaded trash folder, but you should also hold back from overcommunicating. Send as few messages as possible to avoid being a nuisance; urgent breaking news is the exception to this rule.
  5. Just the facts, ma’am. Many of the worst coronavirus messages shared information people could get anywhere, including generalized advice. Although the senders meant well, readers perceived it as a waste of time and sent those messages—and the company’s credibility—straight to the trash folder. Stick to your key messages and expertise to remain a trusted partner.
  6. Skip the platitudes. Phrases like “we’re in this together” lose their meaning the 10th or 50th time someone sees them. Worse, they come across as talking down to the reader. Avoid clichés and banalities; readers see right through it.

When well crafted, email can build rapport during a crisis—especially when it is part of a cohesive campaign. Writing a message that strikes the right tone requires a deft hand; Aker Ink has assisted many companies in concisely communicating complex information and can ensure yours creates positive associations.