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Data: How to Write a Better COVID-19 Vaccine Email

Granicus, which has a wealth of data on the performance of emails sent from government to the public, has released statistics on which kinds of emails about the COVID-19 vaccines do best. Here are the big takeaways.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is ramping up in the U.S., giving the country hope that the end of the pandemic may finally be within reach.

But while President Joe Biden has said there will be enough doses available for every adult in the country by the end of May, that doesn’t mean everybody will actually get the shot. In fact, polls have found that one-third of Americans either don’t want the vaccine or aren’t sure.

So how can government get more people to sign up for vaccines?

The answer will involve many moving parts, but new data from the company Granicus has shed some light on one part of the process: Emails.

Granicus is a very popular choice for state, local and federal government agencies to manage email communications with the public, so the company has access to a wealth of data on the subject. Recently, the company released some of that data, based on 199 million vaccine-related messages that 450 of its government customers sent between Dec. 1 and Feb. 8.

The company found that, broadly speaking, emails related to COVID-19 and the vaccines had significantly higher open rates than the average message.

Granicus also delved into specific strategies that seemed to boost open rates. Messages that had “how to” information — along the lines of “How to sign up for a COVID vaccine” — had 60 percent higher open rates than average. Those that included detailed information about different vaccines, safety, number of doses required and how effective they are had 40 percent higher open rates.

Here are three elements governments have been putting into email subject lines that led to higher open rates:

  • Urgency: These subject lines offer the reader some kind of action, such as a notification that vaccine scheduling is available at that very moment.
  • Focus: When the subject line focuses on COVID-19, vaccines or both, they have higher open rates than emails that include those topics along with others.
  • Attribution: The most successful emails include some kind of local community leader, such as a school superintendent or department head. Less successful are subject lines featuring government sources or health-care workers.
Here are some examples of successful headlines, provided to Government Technology by a Granicus spokesperson:

  • It is time to schedule your second dose of the Moderna preventative COVID-19 vaccine
  • Ottawa County Vaccine Notification - Limited appointments now available for people 65 years of age and older
  • Dutchess County COVID-19 Vaccination Appointment Scheduling Now Open - Very Limited Availability
  • Schedule Your COVID Vaccination Now
  • COVID-19 Vaccinations Information Session today - A message from David Stevens
  • DDOT Executive Director, first DDOT coach operators receive COVID vaccine Friday
  • Superintendent Update: Vaccinations this week
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.