Posts Tagged ‘email’

Do you use email responsibly?

August 2, 2011

Email recently turned 40 years old. Hard to believe it’s been that long and even harder to believe that given its longevity, it’s one of the communication tools that is so often misused. Many of us feel so overwhelmed by our email in-boxes that we incessantly check our computers and mobile devices day and night trying to keep up.

A number of blogs and books have sprung up to help people manage email and to use it effectively. The blog, NetMatters, offers numerous tips and missives on the proper use of email and even urges people to take an “email etiquette pledge.” Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft, has gained attention for her promotion of the email sabbatical and provides details on how to take one when you go on vacation.

Even though I’ve noticed that teens and young adults appear to dismiss email as a form of communication in favour of SMS and chat, in the workplace, email still rules. Now that this communication tool has firmly reached middle age, maybe we can finally learn to manage it.

When I look at my own in-box and how I use email, I recognize areas that need reform. Here’s my personal list of resolutions and tips:

1. Not always responding – I try to be good about this, but sometimes I catch myself responding to an email even if I’ve just been copied on it and it’s a matter that does not require my input. There’s no need to contribute to the sender’s overloaded in-box with a response that simply says, “Thanks for the info.”

2. Clear subject lines – It makes me crazy when I’m searching for an old email using every keyword I can think of only to find that the original subject line from the sender was “Re”. That is not a subject line. I’ve resolved that when I get an email with an unclear subject line, I respond and insert a proper one. This makes it easier for me to search in future if required and, I hope, sends a subtle message to the sender that a clear subject line is required. Somewhat related is when someone uses an old email message in order to hit “reply” to send an unrelated new message. The person should start a new email thread to make searching for it later easier and to avoid confusion.

3. Vacations – I  need to improve here. When someone is on vacation, I need to stop sending him/her email. This is a tough one because if the person is gone for awhile, I’m afraid that I’ll forget that I need to inform him/her about something upon the person’s return. I think I can solve this by creating a draft email and waiting until the person returns to send it. That way, it’s written and just sitting there waiting for me to click send. I hate it when I return from vacation and have too many emails to deal with, so I need to set the example. Danah Boyd’s solution is a bit drastic but I can see its merits.

4. Visible email addresses on mass emails – I never do this on purpose but it annoys me when others do it. If you’re sending a mass email to multiple addresses, do a blind copy to all the recipients rather than making the addresses visible to everyone. My business email address is public knowledge but the Gmail address I use for personal correspondence is something I want to give out at my discretion. This public group email practice can also lead to the dreaded “reply all” thread that results in email conversations I don’t really need to be part of, which leads me to #5.

5. Reply all – Don’t do it unless everyone in that email address box really needs to be part of the conversation.

How about you? How have you tried to tame your email box? Share your success.


Email protocol

June 25, 2008

Best selling business author and top blogger, Seth Godin, posted a great list of 36 items to consider before clicking send on an email. Email has become ingrained into our business and personal lives to the point that we barely think about how to manage it. Seth’s post points out a number of things to consider.

Here are the tips that either made me say, “Oh yeah, I hate that” or “Gee, I think I do that”.

# 3 – Are recipients blind copied?

Seth’s referring to group emails here. It amazes me when I get a group email and all the addresses of the other recipients are visible to me. That’s OK for the gals in my book club but not for an email where the recipients don’t necessarily know each other. You wouldn’t give someone’s telephone number and address to strangers would you? Use the blind copy (Bcc) address box for these emails.

#13 – Are you angry?

I have both been a recipient of angry emails and will admit, I’ve sent out a few in the past. I take Seth’s wait one hour advice a bit further. I now won’t draft a response for 24 hours or as long as it can reasonably wait. I’ll sometimes get someone else to read over my response before clicking send just to make sure I’m not saying something I might regret later. Email doesn’t go away. Once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.

#14 – Would it be better to make a phone call?

Ok, I struggle with this one. I love email. I prefer to get email over phone calls. Why? I’m an introvert and so I like to process information before I respond to it and I find interruptions jarring. I just assume everyone is the same so I email more than I phone. However, clearly a phone call is better in some cases. Complex ideas or information that will take a long time to type isn’t best for email. As well, if you’re worried about how someone will interpret your email, pick up the phone.

#15 – Blind copying the boss

Seth asks you to consider what will happen if the recipient finds out you’ve blind copied your email to the boss. Visibly copying the boss is not always advisable either. Are you doing it because the boss needs to be involved in decision-making or needs to know an outcome? Or, are you copying the boss as a message to the recipient that you don’t trust he/she will follow up or because you want the boss to know that the person you emailed has screwed up somehow. Either way, this is a nasty way to communicate. Be careful with this one.

# 28 – Forwarding a hoax?

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate forwarded emails telling me about some concern that is clearly an urban myth (e.g. Don’t let someone spray a perfume sample on you in a parking lot—it’s poison etc.). Seth recommends checking before you forward something like this.

# 30 – Am I quoting back the original text in a helpful way?

Related–make sure you respond to all the questions asked. There are some folks out there who routinely answer the first or last question in the email only, making subsequent emails necessary.

Check out all 36 items and let me know the ones that you can relate to. Are there any you disagree with?

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to this blog?

Free marketing tools non-profits often miss

January 11, 2008

Nancy E. Schwartz, author of the Getting Attention blog, wrote a great post about an often missed marketing opportunity—including your organization’s tag line as part of your switchboard greeting. This is a great example of free branding opportunities that non-profits often overlook.

Nancy writes that she was recently astonished upon calling the American Liver Association when the main switchboard greeted her with the message, “Thanks for calling the American Liver Association, the nation’s leading organization in the fight against liver disease and hepatitis.”

Adding your organization’s tag line to your switchboard greeting is a simple way to reinforce your non-profit’s brand and to build awareness about its work. Of course, as Nancy points out, you first need a succinct, effective tag line. That’s a topic for another post.

Other missed opportunities include standardizing company email signatures. All business email signatures should include the employee’s full name, position title, name of the organization with tag line, contact information and link to the corporate website.

It’s amazing how many companies don’t do this.By not setting clear guidelines about email appearance, many organizations end up with a mishmash of styles, formats and even messages. I’ve even received corporate emails from an employee who created her own flowery “stationary” that did not even remotely resemble the agency’s brand. Not only is this a missed opportunity, it also appears dismally unprofessional.

The same holds true for voice mail messages. Many times, when I get the voice mail for an employee, I am lucky to hear his/her full name. I don’t often hear the organization’s name or the employee’s position title, never mind the tag line for the organization.

One more often overlooked opportunity to promote a non-profit’s brand is the use of professionally designed name tags for senior staff and others who interact with the public on a regular basis. Small tags often have enough room to include the employee’s name, the organization’s name and logo and, if succinct, the tag line.

Staff members should wear the tags whenever the organization hosts public gatherings and when they attend workshops, conferences and other outside business-related events. The tags are inexpensive, especially when purchased in bulk, and silently make others aware of your organization’s presence. If you have any doubts about the power of the name tag, visit Scott Ginsberg’s website, Hello my name is Scott.

Are there other no-or-low-cost ways that an organization can reinforce its brand? Share your ideas by making a comment below.

For a regular stream of ideas about communications and public relations for non-profits, subscribe to receive future blog posts by email.