How to use standardized email templates for better communication

Using a standardized email template helps IT disseminate important information in a clear and understandable way.

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Sharing technology information with the user community can involve some pitfalls if not done properly.

It's not for lack of trying. An e-mail has been a workplace communication standard for decades, but simply sending out an email announcing what people need to know isn't enough anymore.

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The fault lies on both sides. Part of it is informational overload, part of it is short attention spans, and part of it is a this-doesn't-apply-to-me mindset.

One way to grab the attention of your users and provide them with important information in an easy-to-understand way is to use standardized email templates.

How to build standardized email templates

Using standard templates discussing what users need to know can be invaluable to provide a consistent and reliable mechanism for disseminating information.

You can create standard templates in Outlook and save them as .msg files for reuse. Note: You need to customize each template each time, so use a master blank copy with standard fields where you can then add specific details.

For instance, you might have two templates: One for information alerts (here's how you do X, this is what's happening on such-and-such date, and there should be no change in procedure, etc.); and one for maintenance alerts (this system is down or will be down during this upcoming timeframe, you will need to use a different or new process on such-and-such date, etc.)

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A sample informational alert

Subject: INFORMATIONAL ALERT

The body would contain these fields:

Summary: KeePass is recommended for secure password management

Details: Please review and follow these instructions for installing and relying upon KeePass to store your passwords securely.

External link: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-to-manag...

Why this is relevant: These steps will help you manage your passwords as effectively as possible and to reduce password management complications

A sample maintenance alert

Subject: MAINTENANCE ALERT

The body would contain these fields:

Summary: Instant messaging server is not functional

Date/time of maintenance: Present time

System impact: Server is down

Service impact: Instant messaging services not available

Recommended workaround: Use email/phone for communication until services are restored.

Description: The instant messaging server is unavailable at the moment. It is being actively worked on, and we hope to have service restored by 10 am. A follow-up email will be sent out when it is available again.

These fields can be customized to meet the needs of your organization. For example, you can add company logos, contact information, and so forth.

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Shared group address

Send these emails from a shared group address (e.g. systems@company.com) and not an individual user's account. Otherwise, that individual will be directly contacted with all questions or complaints about unrelated technology problems.

In fact, I recommend setting the group address to NOT being able to receive reply emails, at least from end users.

Mark these emails as high importance if appropriate, but use that option sparingly, or it will turn into a boy-who-cried-wolf situation, and these emails will end up ignored.

Also, make sure to include in every standard email template a link or set of instructions for how users can request technical support via the appropriate channels.

Also see

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By Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.