By Paul Lombino
Omission #1: Who are You, Again?
Emailers fall into one of two categories: Those who end each correspondence with a business signature and those who, for some bewildering reason, don’t. Over the past month, I have been working with a new client, a delightful fellow. In his introductory email he outlined his project and asked me if I could call him to offer my thoughts on how to manage the editorial content. Only problem was, he didn’t include his phone number. He didn’t even include his last name.
Best Practice: For those who don’t yet have an email signature, take a few minutes this week to add one. All major email programs offer a signature tool that you can easily customize. AOL users, for example, can create a signature under the “settings-compose” links. Here’s what I use:
Freelance Editorial Services
117 School Street
Somerville, MA 02143-1717
You can adjust the type face and point size to your liking. To save space, I embed my website link within my business name. It may be helpful to include your department title. Adding a signature serves two purposes: Most obvious, it identifies who you are and how to contact you pronto. But it also serves as a “period” at the end of each communication.
Omission #2: No Email is an Island
A string of email exchanges can be a great way to memorialize progress in ongoing conversations whether it involves operational, procedural or tactical matters. On more than one occasion, however, I have received direction in writing that goes something like this: “Paul. Let’s go with our second idea from last week.” Of course, no previous emails were attached. That meant weaving through my “saved” folder to revisit earlier communications to identify “our second idea” and then getting back to my fellow e-communicant to see if we were on the same page.
Best Practice: Unless it’s a one-off message, don’t treat separate emails that reference the same topic as individual missives. When exchanging ideas, keep the email thread active until that particular issue has been clearly resolved. This way should questions arise, you can retrieve your last email on that subject to quickly reference agreed-to goals and dates. Keeping the string alive adds clarity to your overall message and mitigates the potential for misunderstanding.
Omission #3: You Can Judge a Message by its Subject Head
Your subject head can be very useful for managing multiple emails. I’m currently writing a series of articles on various financial topics for the marketing communications group of a bank, while working alongside a third-party administrator. Needless to say, emails can, at times, fly across your screen with the speed of light.
Best Practice: Take a moment before you press “send” to evaluate your email’s subject head. I find it helpful to label my subject heads with abbreviations that move from broad to narrow in meaning. I tend to use the following general format:
Company_Department_Project Name_Core Message_Call to Action
That may seem like a lot, but you can adapt your subject head to your own style, preferences and needs. When appropriate, adjust the copy on the far right to indicate some change in process or deliverable. Most important, think about the core message you want to convey to your readers in one or two words. Keep in mind that a level of consistency can enhance any communications process.