Reflections on the Lowly Email

Last November I hosted a breakout session at my diocese’s catechetical conference on “school marketing in the digital age.” I covered the topics you might expect: web sites, social networking tools, etc. But I also spent some time discussing the lowly email.

Email tends to get overlooked in favor of text messaging, Facebook, and other tools, but it is still one of the most prolific means of communication. How we communicate via email will determine how our message is received — how easy the message is to understand and whether we appear professional or not.

I made three primary suggestions about how email should be used in a ministry setting — be that in a Catholic school or parish.

The official email addresses for your organization should match your web address. In other words, if your web site is http://www.stkungaparish.org, your pastor’s email address should be “frbob@stkungaparish.org”. This helps make your address easier to remember and helps assure potential contacts that “frbob1956@hotmail.com” is actually a representative of your parish. (With apologies to Hotmail users, but hey — get on Gmail already.)

Don’t use fancy email “stationary” or change the standard background and text colors. Email readers are notoriously fickle with how they display non-text elements; it is almost impossible to format an email to appear the same across various platforms. Best to stick to the white background, black text, blue link standard; people know it and accept it.

All organizational representatives should have a standard format for their email signature. Ideally it should include the ministry’s

  • physical address
  • main phone number
  • web site(s)
  • tag line (if applicable)

Having a standard email signature reinforces your message (especially if you have a tag line) and helps promote your web site. There is no need to include the person’s email address in the signature, since that information is included in the email’s header information.

Here’s what my email signature looks like:

Have you thought about how your email reflects on you and your ministry?

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Author:Jonathan F. Sullivan

Jonathan F. Sullivan is the director of catechetical services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter @sullijo; he also blogs on catechetical topics at www.JonathanFSullivan.com.
  • Anonymous

    Good suggestions Jonathan. It’s always been a peeve of mine when staff are using personal email accounts (hotmail/yahoo/gmail) etc at work. Strikes me as unprofessional.

    While social media is the dominant topic of the day, lowly email gets short shrift…but it’s still a valuable tool in the arsenal.

    Also, I’m a big fan of ‘newsletters’ for some of my web clients, e.g. Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, etc. Easy to setup, and easy for folks to ‘unsubscribe’ from. Plus, the price is pretty reasonable.