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Pro Tip 9: Getting it out there (Part 2): Designing your survey invitation email

Getting it out there (Part 2): Designing your survey invitation email

“This survey is completely anonymous … Tom”

There’s a bit of an art in designing and writing invitation emails in that:

  1. Your are trying to convince someone to spend their valuable time doing something that often they would rather not (though SOME people will be keen – you know who you are)
  2. You are trying to convey that the survey is anonymous, without going on about it so much that they feel like maybe they SHOULD be worried

The components

We have an example “third party” invitation email on our website here Island Inc. invitation email, but the primary parts of our invitations are, in order:

  1. Dear X
  2. The intro blurb …
    1. (third party) Who we are
    2. (internal) Why this survey is happening / a call to action
  3. Details on anonymity and confidentiality
  4. How much time you are asking for
  5. (third party) A warning on not sharing the unique link
  6. The close date and time
  7. Contact info for questions and issues (internal and/or third-party)
  8. The link to the survey

Some notes on some of the bits then:

Re “Dear X”:

Even if the survey is being run by a third party we’d suggest that you not use their name.  This is more of an issue of perception than anything else – so we’d go with “Dear Island Inc Employee” or something of that order.

Re the intro blurb:

Internally: This is your final call to action, following up on the other internal communication that led up to this invitation. (as opposed to instead of)

Third party: This is where the external organization make it clear that they are legitimate (they really do exist, and are wise and caring) and external to the organization, with a link to their website for further info.

Why am I not including the “why this is happening” bit when using a third party?  Because this information should have been sent previously and separately as part of your internal communication LONG before this email ever arrived in their inbox. See Getting it out there (Part 1): Setting up the environment

Re anonymity and confidentiality:

This is where you show in detail the steps you are taking to keep things anonymous (delinking the data from the individual), and confidential (controlling who will see the results).

Re adding a warning re not sharing their unique link (third party surveys):

It’s surprising how, regardless of how large, bold, framed and centered I make the warning (I draw the line at flashing text), the occasional person will still innocently and helpfully send their personal link on to someone else. I’ve had managers do this for their entire department, and it takes ages to clean up. So make this warning as obvious as you can (while still maintaining SOME sense of esthetics).

Re the contact info:

If running internally add a contact for questions on what the survey is about, and possibly a second for IT issues if that is available.

If running through a third party, an external contact can be extremely valuable in allowing respondents access to someone “who doesn’t have a stake in the survey” and where they can ask loaded questions. Mostly the questions I get are in the way of “Is this REALLY anonymous?”, “I didn’t get the invitation” (it’s in spam), or “Is this survey required” (yes and no).

Re the link to the survey:

That’s coming up next!  Stay turned for “Getting it out there (Part 3): Creating your survey invitation links.

We love to engage in curious conversation! Grab a time on my calendar if you’d like to elaborate more on this topic or anything else
Maureen Simons

Maureen Simons is a senior human resources and communication consultant with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business and organizational objectives through their people. (Linkedin)

Picture of Adam Hunter

Adam Hunter has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 35+ years of technical and programming experience, resulting in a broad mix of analytical, statistical, project-related and business skills. (Linkedin)