Tips for Email Templates: Improving Your Communication Strategy

Email response templates save your organization time, especially when you’ve received a high-volume of submitters or applicants. They also offer a unique opportunity to communicate valuable information to an engaged audience.

With Submittable, individuals who apply or submit to your organization will receive, at the very least, two messages from you—one to confirm the receipt of their submission and one to communicate your decision.

Although we provide default templates for both, it’s a good practice to customize these emails. Go to More > Configurations > Response Templates to draft messages that suit your organization, and consider the following tips for making the most of your communications.


Customize Your First Message

Default form response templates are easy to spot, particularly for those familiar with the submission process. A customized response demonstrates that your organization values and respects applicants enough to communicate personally. It’s also the perfect time to clarify policies, showcase your brand, and further engagement. There are several ways to do this:

Subject Line

Submittable recently updated our software to encourage customized subject lines. If you’ve chosen the generic auto-response for submissions, the subject line will read:

RE: [Your Organization Name] “Submission Title.”

Creating a response template with a custom subject line allows you to express gratitude (“Thank you for submitting to [Your Organization Name]”) or uniquely confirm receipt (“[Your Organization Name] was glad to receive your submission”). Be sure to cut and paste a placeholder tag since double-clicking on a tag will not populate your subject line.


This first communication is a perfect time to remind submitters, who may have skimmed some fine print, about important policies. You might clarify the review process (“This first round of reviews will be completed by our board”) or reiterate your expected response time (“You should hear from us within three months”). Perhaps you want to provide an ideal contact email for questions or remind submitters how to withdraw work that is accepted elsewhere.

If you only accept one submission at a time, you might include something like this: “We take eight months to review applications. Please do not submit again until you’ve heard from us.” Consider the most common questions your organization receives and include their answers in your first response to save everyone time.


Who better to share your brand with than individuals who have already expressed an interest through submission? Acknowledge this interest in your first response email to submitters or applicants by thanking them for choosing you. Some organizations demonstrate gratitude, and increase engagement, by offering a special discount code or promotion on a product or service, exclusively for applicants.

You might choose to share news about a new publication, your latest release, or an upcoming event in this message, since you can assume submitters are invested in your success and progress.

This is also an excellent moment to increase followers for your social media networks and encourage newsletter sign-ups. Remind your applicants why they selected you by celebrating your organization’s strengths and encouraging them to join your network.


Personalize Your Decision Response

Once you’ve reached a decision, match the integrity and rigor of your review process with a gracious and professional email template. Submitters and applicants will respect a timely and courteous response, even if the outcome isn’t what they desired.

There’s no way around it: successful organizations often receive more submissions than they can accept and more applicants than they can place. The task of communicating your decision is never an easy one but well-crafted templates can help.

Note: In light of recent updates, you will be asked to create a custom subject line for each new response template. Be sure to add subject lines to templates you’ve already been using.


Submitters appreciate knowing about your process. Did you receive an unprecedented number of applicants this round? Were your decisions last year especially difficult or time-consuming?

A declined submission stings less—and an accepted one feels even better—when context for the decision is provided. You might share your data (“We received over 2,000 contest submissions”), explain your process (“Each submission is reviewed by 3 team members), or even reveal a challenge, if its genuine (“This round’s decision was one of the hardest we’ve ever faced).


On the end of every email is a human being. Although response templates may put extra distance between your organization and your submitters, taking the time to draft a considerate message can bridge the gap.

Thank applicants for their time and acknowledge their trust in both your organization and your process. It’s not just polite, it’s professionally essential. Cold, impersonal, or inconsiderate emails make your organization look bad and people who are upset by rejection will talk about it. For your brand’s image and integrity, it’s worth a bit of extra effort to keep communications kind.


For acceptance templates, this is the perfect time to inform your applicant about next steps, policy guidelines, and process. What do they need to sign? When will publication happen? Where should they go?

For rejection emails, having a variety of templates can be useful. For example, is the submitter someone you’d like to hear more from in the future? If so, create a template that encourages them to try you again, and tell them how long, if at all, they should wait before doing so. You could even tell them about an upcoming opportunity that would be well-suited.

You might also want a distinct decline template for submissions that clearly don’t suit your organization, indicating that the submitter did not do their homework. Noting a failure to follow guidelines or get to know your organization will also put a rejection in context. Save yourself extra steps here by communicating what you’d like submitters to know before they reach out to you to ask.


Find more information on response templates here. Can we assist you further? Please reach out anytime.

Rachel Mindell

Rachel Mindell is a Special Projects Editor at Submittable. She also writes and teaches poetry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.