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How Four Major Corporations Cleared Away Email Confusions Using PoliteMail.

For most communicators, it’s hard to know what’s working.

Internal communicators put a lot of effort into the content of corporate communications and email news letters. But just how much do they do to ensure that what they’re creating is actually being read and utilized?

That was true of communicators at Cisco, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Jones Lang LaSalle and Amedisys, until they discovered PoliteMail, an email measurement application which integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange

At all four companies, PoliteMail has had a real impact on communication strategies. Now, communicators can focus on what really works and avoid wasting time on the stuff that just doesn’t get through to employees.

At Cisco, the leader of the integrated marketing team discovered comprehensive
emails with long lists of links resulted in fewer click-trough’s. Using shorter, more frequent and focused messages enabled click-through rates and content delivery to jump substantially, helping people get to the information they needed. Communicators at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia use PoliteMail metrics data to better inform internal clients in meetings. It also discovered that some people wait up to three weeks to open emails, which enabled them to realize evergreen content was a better solution. Jones Lang LaSalle has used PoliteMail to find pockets of employees who just don’t open email newsletters, and reach out to them with a different approach. At Amedisys, PoliteMail data saved communicators substantial time and
energy. It cut out a printable version of the employee newsletter no one seemed to be using.

This whitepaper expands on the stories of those four companies, and may help you discover why measuring your Outlook email communications with PoliteMail will enable you to measure and improve your own email communications.

“Giving people too many links to click on, they won’t click on anything”

Brad Langford

Integrated Marketing Manager, Cisco

Through measurement, Cisco discovers shorter emails are better

Using PoliteMail, the technology company learned what type of email communication works best – from number of links and length to frequency – and saw click-through rates reach 70 percent.

Cisco Systems is a high-tech firm where employees have lots of communication options: social media tools, blogs, you name it. But when it comes to reaching every member of a team, nothing seems to beat the communications workhorse, email.

“It’s just part of Cisco’s culture,” says Brad Langford, integrated marketing manager at Cisco. “It’s still an email culture as communication goes.”

When Langford joined his current team, he noticed there wasn’t any real way to measure how effective email communication was. So he turned to PoliteMail to learn what works and that doesn’t.

Selecting the right tool

Not every team at Cisco used PoliteMail – it’s been put to use among pockets within the company, Langford says.

“Basically, Cisco doesn’t offer its own way of tracking internal communications,” Langford says, though he notes that the IT department tracks external communication. PoliteMail has spread through Cisco by word of mouth, he says. For Langford’s team, which started using PoliteMail about a year ago, the process for finding the right tool took some searching and testing.

“When I came over to the services team about a year-and-a-half ago, they had no idea how to track their internal metrics for their email-based communications, so I had someone on my team do some due diligence,” he says.

Langford discovered PoliteMail via a colleague who had used it for internal communications metrics, but he didn’t automatically choose it. He interviewed a handful of vendors and landed on PoliteMail for several reasons.

“I liked that PoliteMail was just a plug-in into Outlook, so it was more or less a seamless integration,” Langford says. “The other solutions we found, you had to log in to a separate website, then put your content in there.”

Then there was the cost. Other vendors charged setup fees for using multiple headers, which added up. Plus, any content was uploaded to a server outside Cisco’s firewall. Langford says PoliteMail made it easy to switch out headers and templates.

Making email work

Before Langford’s arrival, email communications among his team were inconsistent and often too long, and they had either too many calls to action or none. With the help of PoliteMail, he found that messages with long lists of links defeated their own purpose.

“Giving people too many links to click on, they won’t click on anything,” Langford says. “They don’t know where to start.”

He found that emails that only have one or two links result in far more clicks, but that doesn’t mean he’s sending tons more email. After all, the purpose of sending digest emails is to keep inboxes a little tidier.

“I liked that PoliteMail was just a plug-in into Outlook, so it was a seamless integration”

“We just send out fewer communications, period,” Langford says. “Just because it can be included in a summary doesn’t mean it would have been worthy on its own. This has kind of helped us focus on, hey, what’s really important to get out there?”

Langford often highlights what’s really important in a “call to action” box in the top-right corner of the email, to make sure the information people really need to see is above the proverbial fold.

“Our click-through rates go up a lot when our content is shorter and more succinct,” he says.

“Readers also don’t want to be inundated with frills,” Langford says.

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about fancy headers and banners,” he says. “I just make sure that call to action box is clearly visible and whatever message I have there is clearly visible.”

The numbers

Langford’s team consistently sees email open rates at about 70 percent, he says, “but what we really want to measure is clicks on the call to action within that email, to make sure people are actually getting that content.”

Langford says his ultimate goal is to measure something that isn’t necessarily quantifiable. He wants to make sure not only that people see calls to action, but also that they retain them.

Langford says he knows he can’t spot-quiz everyone on his team, but he’d like to work on a process for testing just what employees are getting out of their email messages.

“The ability for us to see what kinds of news and cultural messages are most interesting to our employees is invaluable”

Meghan Parrish

Director of Corporate Communications, Amedisys

New Data Prompts Hospice Provider to Revamp Newsletter

After installing PoliteMail, Amedisys discovered some interesting tidbits about employee behavior and cut out some things that just weren’t working.

When you have 17,000 employees spread out over 39 states and the District of Columbia, keeping tabs on who is reading your email newsletters, and when and how they’re doing so, can be tough.

That’s the dilemma home and hospice care provider Amedisys faced until May 2012, when the communications team started using PoliteMail to gather data regarding who’s reading what, and what employees find most relevant.

Within a few months of installing the PoliteMail software, Amedisys has made some major changes to its newsletters and figured out ways to better connect with its far-flung employees.

The search

Amedisys’ communications team was curious about how different audiences responded to its various email messages. The company has weekly and monthly newsletters, as well as unscheduled email news updates and cultural initiatives that communicators send throughout the week.

“We started using PoliteMail in May 2012 after a long search for a tool that met our information management needs and the level of security we require,” says Meghan Parrish, Amedisys’ director of corporate communications.

Beyond an annual employee engagement survey, which goes well beyond communications in terms of scope, PoliteMail’s reports are the company’s first try at measuring email communications. It’s been a good fit, Parrish says.

“We like that it gives us a more granular look at messaging and readership patterns,” she says.

Trends and changes

Since it began using PoliteMail, Parrish and her team have noticed some clear patterns of how employees engage with the various emails they receive. For example, HR information and updates about upcoming events are the most widely read messages throughout the company.

“We’ve also seen that different roles respond very differently to email,” she says. “While someone in our corporate office may read email right away, our nurses in the field check in periodically, because they are focused on seeing patients and not tethered to a computer.”

The data communicators have collected have spurred significant changes, too, Parrish says. Specifically, the information prompted them to cut out a version of the newsletter that employees weren’t paying much attention to.

“One of the first changes we made was eliminating the printable version of our monthly newsletter, saving us tons of design and production time,” she says. “PoliteMail was able to show us that the majority of recipients read the newsletter electronically and very few were actually printing it.“

What’s next?

As far as changes to the actual messages in the communications team’s emails are concerned, Parrish and the others are still working on it with a few trials, she says.

“Right now, we’re still testing to see how different segments of our audience respond at different times of day and to different types of messages,” Parrish says.

Even once those trials are complete and adjustments are made, Parrish says PoliteMail will remain as an important resource for Amedisys’ communicators.

“The ability for us to see what kinds of news and cultural messages are most interesting to our employees is invaluable,” she says. “Knowing what they react to helps us better communicate updates and initiatives.”

“Every time we tweak a little bit, we get tons of emails and people in the hallways, at meetings, congratulating us for making it that much better.”

Abby Bronstein

Internal Communications Strategist, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

PoliteMail Metrics Improve Aesthetics and Open Rate of Hospital’s Emails

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia initially started using PoliteMail to make its emails look better, but the metrics included have been a huge help, too

Not too long ago, Abby Bronstein, internal communications strategist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and her team sent email newsletters as essentially lists of links, copied and pasted from Microsoft Word.

Bronstein wasn’t totally satisfied with that setup, so around April, she started using PoliteMail to give the newsletters a better look and make them instantly more compelling. It was only after the changeover that she noticed PoliteMail’s various metrics were a huge benefit, too.

Now, the hospital is looking at some ways it can reach out to a large number of employees who don’t seem to be in the loop.

Making the choice

Bronstein wanted to improve the aesthetics of the newsletters, so that they’d be easier and more enjoyable for employees to read. So she started reaching out.

“I just started doing Google searches,” she says. “I was talking to other people that I know who are working at small, nonprofit organizations. I was just cold-calling places where I like their newsletters.”

Bronstein says she checked into tools such as Constant Contact, but she settled on PoliteMail because it could integrate directly into her Outlook and active directory.

“A lot of our distribution lists are dynamic, so they change based on our employee census,” she says. “There’s no way I could update those distribution lists accurately on an ongoing, constant basis.”

PoliteMail enabled HTML newsletters so that the hospital’s three main emails
—one that goes to all employees, one from the CEO for leaders, and a third from the chief medical officer directed at medical staff—could include branded, standardized graphics, banners, and headers.

“We are getting such great, positive feedback,” Bronstein says.


PoliteMail’s metrics capabilities came as something of a surprise to Bronstein, “a really awesome added bonus,” she says. “That’s something we’re utilizing, really, a lot.”

Along with Google Analytics, the open rate and click-through numbers from PoliteMail make Bronstein considerably better equipped for meetings.

“It’s so helpful to say that, in the last month, only six people clicked on it in the CEO message, but 300 people clicked on it in our all-staff message,” she says. “We can give better feedback to our clients.”

In the past, the communications team “tried to blanket everything” with every message, Bronstein says. Now, communicators can guide leaders toward targeting those messages more effectively.

Even so, Bronstein says, “We haven’t really gone beyond just being able to look at [the statistics] yet.”

She’s discovered that those numbers are fairly consistent. About 55 percent of the people who get the leadership email open it. In the CMO’s emails, the most clicks are on a section that recognizes physicians for their accomplishments. About 3,000 out of 14,000 recipients open the all-staff email.

Bronstein says she’s discovering some unexpected trends through PoliteMail’s data. For example, she can see exactly when people open messages. Some wait until three weeks after they’re sent, which means some evergreen content would be useful to them.


Staffers at Children’s are intrigued by PoliteMail’s potential. So far, only Bronstein is trained to use it, but she’s planning training sessions for the other three members of her team. She says people who don’t even have the license to use PoliteMail want to attend those sessions.

Over the next year, Bronstein hopes to work on the hospital’s distribution lists. “We can do a much better job at targeting our segments,” she says. “Getting that down, it’s kind of our missing link.”

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s staff is spread out, with locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Bronstein thinks the emails could be localized to appeal to people in different areas.

“We’re really advertising a lot of things that happen at our main campus,” she says.” I would guess some of the people that work in New Jersey say, ‘None of this applies to me. I’m not opening it.’”

The hospital is overhauling its intranet this year, adding Newsgator to personalize information. Bronstein theorizes that change may prompt a shift in how her email newsletters work. It’ll make them more personal, too, and whereas the newsletters currently link to intranet articles, the links will probably become something more like supplements to the intranet.

“It’s no longer ‘I think,’ it’s ‘I know,’ because that’s what the data says,”

Chris Close

Director of Internal Communications, JLL

How Email Metrics Helped a Real Estate Giant Improve Communications

PoliteMail’s analytics tool put to rest assumptions that no one read company-wide e-newsletters at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. It also revealed why staffers opened particular emails

For the communications team at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, using PoliteMail to measure how employees interact with email messages has provided one of the greatest gifts anyone in business can have: certainty.

“It’s no longer ‘I think,’ it’s ‘I know,’ because that’s what the data says,” says Chris Close, director of internal communications at the firm.

With that information in hand, Close and his team have been able not only to disprove a number of incorrect assumptions employees had about the firm’s email newsletters, but also to identify those employees for whom email isn’t the best communication tool. As a result, the firm has made adjustments and communications have become more inclusive.

A need for more

In his experience with email messaging, Close says he’s always thought “the metrics around it have just seemed kind of lacking.” Most tools, such as Google Analytics, measure only page views.

“If you get 400 page views or 1,000 pageviews that you’re pretty sure are driven by an email, that only tells you so much,” he says. “So 400 out of what? How many people aren’t even bothering to open my email?”

Close had been looking for some time for a tool that would track email open rates and click-throughs. He says he found PoliteMail one day when he was poking around the Web for something that would do the trick. He quickly saw how it would benefit him in comparison to other tools, which require users to send email lists to an external server.

“I just do everything from my computer,” he says of PoliteMail. “I don’t have to send it off to a vendor to take care of. We’re able to share the plug-in among the team, so we can all use it.”

Finding the truth

PoliteMail enables Close to track who opens the firm’s various email newsletters by email address. Close says he doesn’t use that to seek out individuals who do or don’t click on email links, but he can ask the human resources department to analyze the list and discover which groups are or aren’t reading or clicking.

“Everyone has assumptions that they bring to the table,” he says.

For example, people who don’t read corporate emails sometimes think no one reads them. Close’s email metrics reports clearly show that’s not the case. For one newsletter, People Connection, more than half of recipients open the email.

“What we’ve brought to our internal communications program is a level of analytical rigor that maybe we weren’t able to produce before,” Close says. “In a business setting, that sort of analysis is respected. It gives you a little stronger voice.”

That rigor also enables Jones Lang LaSalle’s team to identify employee groups that they really aren’t reaching. The firm’s brokers may spend most of their days in front of computers, but its property managers don’t, and PoliteMail’s reports confirmed that they don’t really read emails.

“What it’s helped us do, then, is go and work with that part of the business those folks report up through, and talk about how you better interact with them, rather than reach them by email,” Close says.

A leader on that side of the business has “embarked on a kind of road-show program” to meet with property managers face to face and communicate with them, he says.

“We’re trying to reach everyone.”

Added value

Beyond informing Close and his team of who opens the emails, the data also help him figure out why they open them. For instance, the company discovered that employees are much more likely to click a link to an article that would appear to benefit them personally.

“You’ve got to approach it from the ‘What’s in it for me?’ perspective,” Close says. “Too often times, information is presented as, ‘This is important to me, and it should be important to you.’”

“What we’ve brought to our internal communications program is a level of analytical rigor that maybe we weren’t able to produce before,” Close says. “In a business setting, that sort of analysis is respected. It gives you a little stronger voice.”

As a result, the company’s communicators have taken a hard look at how they package content, particularly the headlines they use. People don’t just click the first headline they see, he says. They scan through and find the things that pique their interest.

“You can still deliver the message you want; it’ll just be more effective,” Close says.

Close’s team mainly focuses on the Americas, though the firm is an international one. Still, he says he encourages communicators in the company’s offices worldwide to use PoliteMail.