How to Use Email for Project Management Communication

Jennifer Broflowski

A project manager who adopts a smart email communication strategy will see immediate, long-ranging results in terms of productivity and workflow. Learn how to use email to improve your project management in 8 easy steps. 

Updated July 21, 2022

One of the most important tasks for project managers is ensuring that their team members communicate well not just with each other but with management and clients. In this guide, you will learn how to improve email communication and have the productivity of your team. 

In this guide, you will learn how to improve communication for project planning and improve your team's productivity by improving email (whether it’s Gmail or Microsoft Outlook) communication. 

As a former project manager who has worked with dozens of teams in the past decade, I have used these strategies and discovered their immense potential to help other project managers as well. 

Read on to learn how to adopt a communication plan, change the scope of your emails to fulfill more goals, and optimize your writing skills to be more persuasive.

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How to Use Email as a Project Management Tool

  1. Develop a communication plan
  2. Separate file sharing from email communication
  3. Start with a compelling subject line
  4. Deliver clear instructions
  5. Encourage feedback
  6. Proofread
  7. Use collaborative tools for email management
  8. Use email for employee motivation

Step 1: Develop a Communication Plan 

A communication plan is a good way for project managers to keep track of when, how, what, and who they communicate with, thus having a better idea about their communication needs and goals. 

Analyze your current communication patterns and answer these questions: 

  • Which are the main objectives of your emails? Do you use them to set up meetings, share reports, track projects, give project updates, deliver feedback, or assign tasks? 
  • Who do you communicate with by email?  
  • How frequently do you use email communication? 

After answering these questions, you have all the information required to determine your general communication plan. You can adapt it for each new project accordingly. 

With a thorough analysis of your current communication style, you can get a clearer idea of how to organize yourself, which will help you reach your communication goals more effectively. 

In need of an internal communication plan beyond your email inbox? Explore ‘Internal Branding: 5 Strategies to Motivate Employees

Step 2: Separate File Sharing From Email Communication 

In the workplace, a team mostly communicates by sharing and discussing files and documents, so a project manager can improve the flow of email communication by using specific apps and programs for file sharing. 

Sharing files and documents by email is time-consuming and unproductive. You have to upload them, then each recipient must download and edit them on their digital device. File sharing apps come with several benefits:

  • Each individual has instant access to files.
  • Each individual can edit files in real-time and see the real-time changes made by others. 
  • Your team will save valuable time.
  • You prevent loss of files. 
  • Your team will experience an increase in workflow. 

Since a team must exchange a large number of files and documents, sending them by email will clutter everyone’s inbox while a file-sharing app or dashboard allows you to separate communication objectives easily.  

Step 3: Start With a Compelling Subject Line 

No matter how attractive your emails are, the subject line determines whether the recipient will open and read them with keen interest.

The subject line is the first line that someone sees when receiving an email notification. It helps them decide whether to open the email immediately or to postpone the reading indefinitely. Depending on who you are writing to, your email should include a suggestive and clear subject line that informs the recipient of its urgency. 

For example, if your project task has a due date, include that in the subject line while having a follow up in the email body.

As a project manager, don’t neglect the importance of the subject line as this determines the positive or negative reception of your emails. 

Step 4: Deliver Clear Instructions 

When the stakeholders or higher managers present you with the full objectives of a project, you must ensure that your team understands perfectly what you require and expect from them. 

As a project manager, it is your duty to ensure good communication flow by expressing clearly the project’s objectives and requirements and presenting the tasks of each team member.

  • To this end, efficient emails for task management respect the following rules: 
  • Clear instructions expressed in concise language
  • An overview of all major and minor objectives on the short-term, medium-term, and long-term 

In a workspace, there is no time and space for confusion or misinterpretation, which is why good email communication revolves around clarity, transparency, and straightforwardness. 

Step 5: Encourage Feedback and Interactive Communication  

As a project manager, you’re most likely to be the one to send out project information, but communication is a two-way street, especially when it comes to maintaining the cohesion of a team. 

Email communication issues stem from not knowing whether your recipient has read and understood the information. This can easily lead to job dissatisfaction and failed projects. 

A survey of PMs found the major causes of project failure during the lifecycle of an IT project include breakdown in communications, lack of planning, and poor quality control.

A breakdown in communications means a team is unable to cooperate effectively. An efficient project manager has the ability to sustain interactive communication. These are the main ways to do this: 

  • Ask questions in your emails and encourage your team members to respond honestly. 
  • Encourage your team members to ask for clarifications and additional information when in doubt. 
  • Encourage your team members to share obstacles and challenges that stop them from achieving the goals of the project. 
  • Make your team members feel listened to and appreciated by considering each individual input. 

Despite the hierarchical roles that exist in a team, efficient communication is impossible without feedback, cooperation, and sharing of ideas, suggestions, and doubts. Teamwork makes the dream work in all aspects.

Step 6: Revise, Edit and Proofread Emails 

A project manager sends dozens of emails on a daily basis, but before you hit “send,” check if your writing is impeccable in terms of grammar, punctuation, and style. 

In a professional setting where you discuss important work issues, a blatant grammatical mistake can distract the recipient of your email from the important task of hand. No matter how persuasive or compelling is your information, sloppy grammar makes you look unprofessional and might even lead to misunderstandings regarding your message. 

To avoid this pitfall: 

  • Use extensions for your browser that automatically check the grammar in your email, underlining misspelled words, and other common mistakes.
  • Read your email out loud or read it at least two times before hitting send. 

Good writing skills are essential for effective email communication, and grammar, punctuation, and flow determine your professionalism when writing. 

Additional Reading: 'Best Practices for Email Automation'

Step 7: Use Online Tools to Improve Your Email Copy 

Some emails have a higher stake than others, but online tools can help you ensure that your emails respect certain criteria regarding wording, word count, structure, or style. 

When writing important emails as a project manager, every word counts. To ensure the strength and relevance of your email, you can use these online tools: 

  • Online proofreading and editing tools like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor 
  • Word count processors like Easy Word Count to check the length of your email 
  • A reception tracker such as Contact Monkey, which shows you who has opened the email and who has deleted it without reading. 

Email communication centers around writing, but business writing must follow several rules for maximum efficacy, which are much easier to follow with the help of dedicated online tools. 

Step 8:  Use Email for Motivation, Encouragement, and Celebration 

Email communication is an important tool if you want to provide encouragement and motivation and celebrate achievements in order to create a strong and cohesive team. 

When your emails focus only on instructions and requirements, your team members will open each of them with the expectation that you are introducing them to new tasks. To make your emails more inviting, add to your communication plan emails where you:

  • Offer encouraging words
  • Congratulate your team for their efforts
  • Celebrate milestones and achievements
  • Provide motivation during challenging stages of a project 
  • Provide feedback on what is going well 

By following the guidelines above, a project manager will successfully touch upon more subtle responsibilities of his position: 

Essential soft skills for a PM include: leadership, team building, motivation, communication, influencing, decision making, political and cultural awareness, negotiation, trust building, conflict management, coaching.

Positive emails have the power to ensure that the energy stays appreciative and optimistic, with high levels of trust, motivation, and confidence between team members, exactly what a project manager must aim to develop with his soft skills.  

Productivity and Smart Cooperation with Email Communication 

Project managers must be excellent communicators if they want to stay successful at their jobs. Despite the growth of other business communication channels and other collaboration tools, emails remain as effective and popular today as they were a decade ago. 

When a project manager seeks to improve workflow and productivity, optimizing email communication is an essential strategy. In my experience working for different types of companies, all the tips presented above determine quick changes with high impact. 

Adopting a communication plan, diversifying the goals of your emails to encourage interactive communication, using online tools to improve your writing skills, and separating information in emails will lead to enhanced communication with your team, clients, and stakeholders. 

Additional Reading:


Jennifer Broflowski

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