4 Ridiculously Simple Tips to Improve Your Email Communications

Whether you get too much or not enough of it, each email that we receive and subsequently send, has a lot going on it in. More than just words, our email contains emotion: surprise, joy, happiness, hidden angst and sometimes even anger.

Sometimes our email contains emotion that we don’t even intend. You know the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” right? Well, with email, emotion, tone and interpretation falls squarely to the perception of the receiver. You may intend one thing, but quite another is perceived. And that is exactly why I wanted to share 4 ridiculously simple tips to improve your email communications.Email Tips

Just yesterday I received and email from someone I don’t know from Eve. Since I don’t know this person I can’t imagine that her intentions were to evoke the emotion that she did. I interpreted the email as curt and rude. I decided to pause and reflect before responding. I also asked another person, whom I knew was her acquaintance, about how he would describe her email style. I am really glad that I did pause and reflect. Doing so lead me to ask the person the question I did. As it turns out, she is nothing like what her email made her appear.  She is actually very lovely and sweet. When we spoken in person, I liked her immediately. After a good chat, the topic of her email style came up and she actually acknowledged that email is not her forte and asked if I had any tips. I gave her the following tips: (I also asked if she would mind if I did this blog post, without mentioning her name of course. She smiled and said go for it!)

1.  Say “Hi”, “Hello”…..

This might seem obvious for many, and unnecessary to others. However, starting an email without saying something like “Hi Heather,” and just jumping into the actual message, could potentially come across as curt.  I am guilty of this myself. I admit it.  I tend to do it however with people whom I know really, really, really well.  I also tend to do this when we are having a back and forth. I don’t do this when emailing a person I don’t know and it is our time corresponding.

In business however, I think that it is imperative to always start your email with a formal hello. This immediately sets the tone of your communication and you are showing a level of respect and etiquette. And yes, etiquette still matters in business communications.

Finally, while a personalized email does not mean that it is not a part of a mass email (or spam), you do increase the chances of someone actually reading your email when it is personalized.

2. Understand Protocols for Addressing People

If you really want to impress someone, address the email properly at the get go. For example, if you are trying to sell me something, you will likely fail if you start out with “Dear Sir.” I should add that I have received email  with such salutations from very reputable companies.

Even though we have moved to more informal communications as a result of social media, there are still situations when you should formally address an email. For example, if you are communicating with a member of the C-suite, a academic or medical doctor, clergy, etc. you should carefully consider how you address the email. You might not want to go as far as Dear Sir or Dear Madam, but you might like to think about using Dr. or Reverend, etc. in the appropriate cases.

Remember this is not about being stuffy or rigid, but rather about setting the tone and building relationships. As noted above, I have not been impressed when I receive email inaccurately addressed to me. If the goal is to sell me a service or a product and the sender cannot take the time to properly address the email, then what kind of customer service will there be after the fact? The tone has been set by that very first email.

 3.  Words Matter

In many ways email has become far too relaxed. We type them up and send them off with little thought or consideration. That is often where we get into trouble. If you have a really good relationship with someone you can often get away with a quick email. However, with people you don’t know, subordinates and peers, and managers, it is important to take your time with your email and consider your words and the potential tone that they create. Remember to pause and reflect.

4.  Remember to Thank People or Sign Off

Again it comes down to to how people feel after reading your email. Saying “thanks” or “thank you” at the end of the email is not over the top. Of course there are other options too. Just make it human and respectful. After all, there is another human being on the other end of that computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.

Email doesn’t need to be boring or complicated, but you should think about your email as it is an important communication tool that is not going away. In fact, a recent survey by Forrester finds that 73% of Marketers indicated that email continues to be effective to generate leads. So, creating thoughtful and creative email is another step closer to reaching your goals, whether they be sales, communications and/or employee or customer engagement.

For more tips, check out our website and blog and follow me on Twitter.


3 Social Media Mistakes You are Making & How to Fix Them Immediately

While social media is not the new kid on the block anymore, we are as a population still learning how to effectively leverage social media for business. For this reason alone, those of us who are PR/Marketing/Communications practitioners cringe when we hear people profess to be social media experts. Even after using the tools for more than a decade we are all still learning how to adjust to the changing world that we operate within. We know that there are no real experts. There are people with experience using social media.  Some of us even have thousands of hours using social media. In fact, there are many people with 10 years of social media under their belts.  Remember that Malcolm Gladwell claims that to be a master in something you need at least 10,000 hours. Combine that experience with PR/Marketing/Communications experience and these are the people who can help businesses better use the tools to effectively meet business objectives.

So, just what are the social media mistakes that I see most often? And, better yet, how do you fix them?

1. Failing to Know/Understand Your Audience

Far to0 often I see people using social media channels or tools in the same way that they use social for their personal communications. How you use social in your personal life is NOT how you should use it for your professional/business needs.  It is essential to know and understand your audience(s).

The Fix:  Here are some quick and easy questions to think about and answer:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What channels do they use?
  • How are they using the channels?
  • And, do they expect a business connecting/engaging with them through the channels?

These are just some questions that you should be able to answer. There are more of course and they depend on a number of strategies/tactics.  However, starting with these questions should lead you in the right direction. If in doubt, find a qualified professional to help you. This is an investment that will definitely have a quick ROI.

2. Thinking that Social Media is a Stand Alone Tactic or Strategy

It is not really surprising that 10 years into social media we are still doing this. After all there are more consultants selling social media as a stand alone option than not. I would caution managers however, to really pause and reflect about this. For example, if you are a sales manager, do you approach your sales plan in one of’s? Or, do you have an overall strategy for your product/services based on a number of variables that all fold up into one plan? It is the latter of course. Your sales plan is all about meeting corporate sales objectives. The same goes for your social media. It is NOT a stand alone.  Repeat after me: social media is not a stand alone tactic, tool or strategy. It is a part of the overall strategy and is but one tool or tactic to be used strategically to meet an overall objective or objectives. These objectives should be measured too, but that is another blog post.

The Fix: Don’t be fooled by wrong information:

If someone suggests that social media doesn’t link to the rest of your business: run! Run fast and run far. Gone are the days of silos. To effectively leverage social you need and integrated strategy. And, if someone tells you that can’t be done, well, you have the wrong person helping you. It really is that straight forward. When you hire a marketing strategist or a social media consultant, be sure that he or she is well rounded in terms of experience. Because someone has a Twitter account and a LinkedIn profile does not make them the right resource. What is their exact experience? Do they have PR, marketing, communication, business development and customer services experience? Has the person worked in social media in a number of capacities including but not limited to: community management, engagement, listening, playbook development, ads, analysis, research, etc. If the person can demonstrate that he or she has this experience, hire him or her immediately.

3.  Not Having a Social Media Playbook

A social media playbook can be a lifesaver. Imagine you and your company are going along your merry way sharing information on social when all of a sudden someone makes a very disparaging remark about your products, services or your company in general. The first comment is made on your Facebook page and you or your employee removes the comment. Good idea? Likely not. What could happen is the person who made the comment will repost and/or make it known that you delete unfavourable comments. This could very well result in a number of people calling your openness and transparency into question and filling your feed with unflattering comments. What then? What about if they are Tweeting about you? You can’t delete their Tweets? What if it is a blog post? What then?

The Fix: Have a Living Playbook:

Playbooks will vary according to your business and the level of listening and engagement that you do. At the very least you should have a plan about what you do and do not respond to, what you escalate and to whom. Having an up-to-date playbook can save you and your team a lot time and anguish. It sets the stage for how you operate. It gives everyone the same guidelines. It is your brand and you need consistency. For a sample of how to get started, here is an ebook that I wrote while I worked for Radian6 (a.k.a salesforce.com). This is just a starter to wet your appetite. I have worked with playbooks that have been five pages. I have worked with playbooks that have been 150 pages. It all depends on your business and how you use social. In any event, you need to be prepared!

If you have any questions on your social media plan and your overall integrated strategy, I would love to help. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest marketing and communications best practices, news and insights.

content marketing

Busted: I Haven’t Practiced What I Preach

I admit it. I have not been practicing what I preach. For those who follow me, either through blogging or speaking engagements, I often talk about content marketing and how to do it well. One of the things I “preach” about, is frequency. WELL…the last time I posted on this blog was about a month and a half a go. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it is not that I haven’t been writing and blogging. I have. But, just not for my own blog. I feel a bit like the carpenter – you know the one who is always working for others, but not finishing the work he or she has at home. So, while no one has called me out, I am calling me out. I am busted: I haven’t practiced what I preach! The question is: what will I do about it?

content marketing

Image courtesy of www.keepcalmandposters.com

I do have a plan however! Ya, I am one of them. I make plans and lists and even pros and cons lists! Ironically I haven’t made a pros and cons list for awhile, but after a Friday conversation with my 212 degrees buddy, I realized how much I miss the value that they bring to the equation. So, I made one last night for a specific issue. It helped significantly..but I digress….back to content marketing and my plan.

1.  Dust off my editorial calendar

I also admit that writing as much as I have for others, including some really, really fantastic industry blogs I have let my own editorial calendar kinda get dusty. So, I have spent some time thinking about my own calendar and doing some planning. While it took a few hours, it was well worth it.

2.  Setting Realistic expectations

While I do believe I should be blogging at least five times a week for my blog, that might not be realistic right now. In total I am writing for more than seven different sources at the moment. And, while I love it, I have obligations and commitments to develop content for others that I have to put first. I want to give them the best content I can so they can achieve the goals that they have for lead generation and reputation/thought-leadership.  This is important to me. So, I will strive to blog three times a week for my own blog.

3. Finish the Eight Drafts

Again, no excuse for not creating my own content. I actually have eight blog posts in draft format.  Something was holding me back from publishing them. Some little piece of the content was not quite right. After reading them, I know what I need to do to make them “right”. All I really needed to do was pause and reflect. Look at them critically and view them as my audience would. Sometimes absence is a good thing.

4. Make a Commitment to Myself

In the journey to financial independence, advisors tell us to pay ourselves first. I guess the same can be said about writing your own blog. Write for yourself first. While it is extremely important for me to meet my commitments to others for content, I can’t forget how important it is for my own audience. I do have people who read my content and often send me wonderful feedback, comments and questions. So, for them and myself, I need to make a commitment. Will I fall off the wagon again? It’s possible. I am, after all, only human. So, if I do, prod me..poke me and call me out. It’s o.k.

5.  Have Fun

I love writing. Somewhere along the way though I was making it a bit too formulaic though. I am not sure why. Maybe I was trying to emulate some of the serious stuff I see out there. While business is all about return on investment and turning a profit, there is (and should be) a human element. People do like to have fun, and I need to be me and not someone else! So, I will commit to being me.

There. That is my plan. Simple and uncomplicated.

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