Some Good Thinking

Lessons Learned From a 90% Open Rate

Make a positive impact with email

We all know how challenging the 2020-2021 school year was for teachers, parents, administrators, school staff and students due to COVID-19. There was a lot happening, with decisions about virtual learning versus in-person learning, guidelines for keeping students and staff safe, and so much more. There were also lots of emails sent to communicate with both staff and parents about what was happening.


In honor of school communicators, we’re taking a look back at a big win one of our school district clients achieved last fall. Like many districts, they had rapidly shifted to virtual learning in the spring of 2020 and learned a lot during the process. As the new school year approached, teachers and administrators spent countless hours working to plan a virtual learning environment that would benefit students while keeping everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic. As anyone in education knows, it was no small feat.


Finally, the first day of the new virtual school year arrived — August 25, 2020. As the day went on, members of the district’s communications team monitored social media accounts and gathered positive feedback from parents and students. Early that evening, all district staff members received an email.

  • Subject line: ❤ Comments from a grateful community ❤
  • Message content: A long list of supportive comments pulled from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with parents singing the praises of Mehlville’s teachers and staff, plus a few announcements and reminders for district staff
  • Engagement metrics: 90% open rate. Yes, you read that right.
Let’s be honest: 90% open rates are rare in email marketing. But when you’re sending to a small, targeted list and sharing a timely message, sometimes it happens. But this isn’t really about trying to help you get a 90% open rate on email. It’s about the lessons we can all learn from this type of communication and the impact it can have on people.


Timing is everything

The communications team at Mehlville School District monitored comments throughout the first day of school, both to watch for positive comments and to quickly respond to any questions or concerns shared on social media. Then they pulled many of the positive comments into an email and sent it to staff at the end of the day.

Teachers had just finished their first fully virtual day of the new school year. Perhaps some thought it went well and others were concerned about technology issues or other problems in their day. Either way, it was a challenging day for all. And here was an email with positive feedback at just the right time. Thus, the 90% open rate, and it was timely content they wanted to read because it was so encouraging.


Communicate with heart

When it comes to challenging times or difficult subjects, communicating with heart goes a long way. The start of the school year is an especially hectic time for everyone who works in a school district even without the extra layer of COVID-19 decisions, protocols and new ways of teaching. Going the extra mile by gathering positive comments and sending them out to staff as a special thank-you made a significant impact. (And those heart emojis in the subject line help too.)


Find a balance with content

Sometimes an email is purely to say thanks or share positive news, and sometimes it’s a balance of sharing engaging content along with other important content. Mehlville paired the grateful comments from their community with a link to the Zoom recording of a recent staff meeting, some inspirational notes from the district’s Teacher of the Year, and video of a TV news interview with one of the district’s teachers. The significant response to the community feedback meant more eyes on the other important content for teachers and staff as well.

If you work for a school district or any other educational institution, Katey Charles Communications would love to help you with your emails! Contact us at .