Voice and Tone for Emails
There’s one key thing to remember when you’re writing an email: you’re a human being. It’s important to sound like one. Write like you’re talking to a person standing in front of you.
When it comes to Bethel’s voice, we try to make it consistent across our electronic communication. Users should feel like they’re interacting with the same Bethel no matter what email they're reading.
It’s important that we match our tone to how our recipient is feeling. So what are our recipients thinking when they receive our emails? That depends on what we’re communicating.
We’ve outlined common types of emails to help you think about what your recipient is feeling and expecting.
Reminding your recipient...
One common type of email is the reminder email. This is the email you send when you're reminding someone to do something they already know they need to do. Maybe you're asking them to pay a fee, submit a form, or complete a waiver.
To get your tone to match your recipients, think about what you're reminding them to do and how it will make them feel. Think about how you'd remind them in person.
"I can’t believe I keep forgetting to mail that check."
What I'm feeling:
“We understand that you’re busy and these things can be overlooked, but completion of this step is important for this reason...”
- Remember that receiving this type of email can be alarming.
- Think about their context. Maybe they simply forgot, in which case they might feel insecure. Maybe something in their life is preventing them from completing the task.
- Be sensitive to the fact that the recipient knows they’re supposed to complete the task, knows they haven’t, and probably doesn’t feel great about the situation.
- Avoid making accusations or judgements.
- Show grace.
Announcing something new...
You might send an announcement email if you need to communicate a new piece of information or an update. For example:
- An event has been moved to a new location.
- There’s construction around Bethel’s campus that may affect your commute.
- A longtime faculty member is retiring.
“I’m going to the football game at Bethel for Family Weekend. I want to make sure I get there in time for kickoff! What, construction? Bummer.”
What I'm feeling:
"If you're planning to travel on I-694, Selling Ave., or Highway 10, be aware that there is road construction that will affect your drive time. Plan to leave early to make sure you get a seat."
- Be aware of what type of announcement you’re making. Are you providing information that people need to know to complete a task (an event has been moved)? Delivering a potentially stressful announcement (road construction)? Making an announcement that might be surprising for people (a retirement)?
- Let the type of announcement inform your tone for the email. Be clear with informational announcements, helpful and calm for potentially stressful announcements, and straightforward and tactful with surprising announcements.
Sharing what's happening at Bethel...
Marketing emails generally highlight Bethel’s programs and overall experience to potential students.
They’re tricky because you want to be excited about what you’re communicating but not overly pushy or sales-pitchy.
Examples of marketing emails:
- Showing prospective undergrad students how Bethel celebrates community (Welcome Week, Student Life, Spiritual Life, etc.), and the opportunities they’ll have as Bethel students.
- Informing Bethel alumni about graduate school and seminary programs.
- Telling people who have shown interest in Bethel programs about cohort start dates, informational sessions, etc.
“The college search is hard. There are so many options. I wish I knew what would be the best fit.”
What I'm feeling:
- But also a little impatient
“Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a chance to explore the world and learn about other cultures firsthand. At Bethel, we do everything we can to make it possible for students to take advantage of these unique opportunities.
- Show your passion for Bethel. Are you excited about the programs, opportunities, and community at Bethel? Here’s your chance to celebrate.
- Strive for authenticity. How would you talk about Bethel to a friend or family member? Try to share Bethel’s story.
- Be as specific as you can. Why is this community great? How will this program help me with my career goals? How is being a student at Bethel different from being a student at any other school?
Inviting your recipient to an event...
There are a lot of events that go on at Bethel, including Homecoming, Festival of Christmas, and Parent’s Weekend (that list obviously isn’t exhaustive).
We want to make sure people in our community (students, parents, alums, staff and faculty, etc) know the details and feel welcome to join us.
“I can’t wait for Festival of Christmas this year. It’s always my favorite part of the Christmas season.”
What I'm feeling:
"Join us at Bethel for the 56th Festival of Christmas, Oh How Joyfully! An International Festival. This cherished holiday tradition features more than 300 of our talented student musicians joyfully celebrating our King Jesus and ushering in the Christmas season with music from around the world."
- Make sure you come across as warm, welcoming, and personable. It’s important that people feel like we want them to come to our events.
- Convey your excitement and enthusiasm. People are more likely to attend your event if they believe it will be worthwhile.
- Provide all necessary event details: date, time, location, cost, registration information, event description, etc., with a link if this information is online.
Asking for support...
At their core, solicitation emails ask for money. I know that this type of email can make people uncomfortable, but once we’re honest about the purpose of the email, we can start to get real about the tone we should take.
“Bethel wants me to donate money to the Bethel Fund. Why would I do that?”
What I'm feeling:
"The cost of providing a life-transforming, Christ-centered education is expensive—more expensive than what student tuition alone can cover. That’s why your donations are crucial."
- Be straightforward and upfront. We’re asking for donations. Don’t bury the purpose of the email by hiding the solicitation at the end.
- The three most important pieces of a solicitation email: What, Why, and How.
- What do you want me to donate to? Be clear and specific.
- Why should I donate? Tell me how my donation will help, and why I should care.
- How do I donate? Make sure the donation process is easy and intuitive.
- Try to avoid sounding pushy or aggressive. Make people feel like they want to donate because they’re helping a cause they believe in, but don’t make them feel guilty if they choose not to donate.
- Show your gratitude and appreciation to those who decide to donate.
- Sound like a real person. How would you talk about this with someone face-to-face?
- Voice & Tone
- Rules for Web & Email Writers
- Bethel Style Guide
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