HBR: How to Make Sure Your Emails Give the Right Impression

Have you thought the way you write emails might affect your reputation? Are you sacrificing quantity for quality in emails? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Shani Harmon.

How to Make Sure Your Emails Give the Right Impression

Given the avalanche of email we receive each year — 121 messages per day, on average — it’s no wonder that we have become somewhat desensitized to its impact on our professional brand. We’ll spend hours polishing our LinkedIn profiles and revising our résumés, but hastily hit send on an unintelligible missive simply because we’re in a rush. “Sent from my device, please overlook typos” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for shoddy communications.

Have you ever thought about the brand you’re conveying through your emails? You should. Every email you send affects your professional reputation, or brand. Don’t make these all-too-common mistakes in your communication:

Your emails are too long for anyone to digest. Are your messages typically the length of all 12 installments of Crime and Punishment? Do you include all the backstory a reader could ever want to know? While context is critical to guiding the reader’s interpretations, remember that what they need to know is inevitably a subset of everything you could tell them. Given that the adult attention span is a mere eight seconds, it’s important to make every moment count. Get to the point.

You’re including way too many people. Do your Cc habits ensure that a cast of thousands is in the loop? If so, ask yourself who is truly the essential audience for the message. In many organizations, overuse of Cc reflects a political culture in which people cover their tracks by overinclusion. Remember that each message you send contributes to everyone’s inbox, including your own, especially when one of your recipients decides to Reply All.

You’re dashing off incomplete thoughts. While there’s a lot to be said for brevity, there’s a big difference between being concise and being terse. Do you find yourself shooting off one-liners that pick up in the middle of a thought without considering whether the reader can follow the thread? Do you end up with a high volume of clarifying questions in response to your messages? If so, that’s a clue that your emails need more composition and more context.

You’re burying the lede. It shouldn’t take a symbologist to find the important message hidden in your email. Make sure your readers know what the ask is and why they should care about responding. Despite our compulsive relationship with it, responding to email is not a sacred duty. If you want your readers to digest your message, and perhaps even take action on it, make it easy for them to do so.

When it comes to composing an email, I think we could all take a cue from Mark Twain’s writing style: He developed a unique and memorable voice, relentlessly edited himself, and was easy to understand. As he said, “Anybody can have ideas — the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.” Take the time to truly craft your messages, and you’ll find that your results improve accordingly. Sacrifice quantity for quality. Not every email merits your attention.

However, the one characteristic of Twain’s brand that I wouldn’t emulate is his being a curmudgeon. We already have a negativity bias toward email messages. As has been demonstrated in the emerging field of social neuroscience, without the social cues — voice tone, facial expression, and physical gestures — that we rely on to interpret communication, we are prone to conclude the worst. Don’t skip the niceties, or your audience may assume a message that wasn’t intended, and you’ll be forced to do damage control.

The next time you start to write an email, follow a few rules:

  • Use an intuitive subject line that clearly states the purpose of the message. Bonus points if you include a header, e.g., [ACTION] or [INFORM], that helps the reader understand the expected response.
  • Provide a clearly stated request right at the beginning of your email in case your audience fails to read beyond the preview pane. At least you’ll increase the chances that people will understand the essence of your message.
  • Bold the names of anyone who’s been assigned a task or asked a question in the body of the email to increase the likelihood of it getting the needed attention.
  • Take the time to be nice. It will help your audience truly hear what you intended to say.

The next time you’re in your email account, take a closer look at your sent folder. Everything you need to know about your email brand is contained within. If you don’t like what you see, tomorrow is another day. There’s always another chance to shape your email reputation.

 

Honoring America’s First Forester on His 150th Birthday

Peeling Back the Bark

The following is an op-ed piece by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 9, 2015, in honor of Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on August 11. 

Born just after the guns of the Civil War fell silent, he died the year after the first atomic bomb was dropped. He was, in his own words, a “governor every now and then” but a forester all the time. Indeed, Gifford Pinchot, born 150 years ago on Aug. 11, served two terms as Pennsylvania governor but is best known as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service (established 1905), which today manages 192 million acres. He also created the Society of American Foresters (1900), the organization that oversees his chosen profession, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1900), the oldest forestry school in America. And just south of Asheville, in the…

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The 5 A’s to Dealing With Problems

Why Lead Now

As a millennial, I’ve grown into a world where people expect things to be dealt with quickly, and they want as much information as they can get in the process. Just look at Domino’s pizza tracker. Why just wait for your pizza, when you can check when it’s being prepped, in the oven, and out for delivery?

This speed, and thirst for information, is transposed onto complaints and problems. According to a Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital, survey, 72 percent of people expect a response to a Twitter complaint to a company in less than an hour.

To make sure I’m always ready with a response when someone complains, I like to remind myself of “The Five A’s to Dealing With Problems”. They provide a simple process that I can follow to connect with the disgruntled person in front of me, make them feel better…

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HBR: Does Your Company Need an Instagram Storefront?

Are you using Instragram as a marketing tool? You can share with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Here are some ideas on how to use Instragram as Building Supplier Dealer. Post photos of your overstock items, promote your customer’s deck design, or post photos of new products at your store. Below is a blog post from the Harvard Business Review by Mitch Joel .

Does Your Company Need an Instagram Storefront?storefront_deals

As the internet continues to make it easier to connect with potential customers, some entrepreneurs have decided that Instagram isn’t just for “selfies,” but for marketing. Blogger Jason Kottke reported last month on Kuwait’s “booming Instagram economy,” where anyone with an Instagram account is simply putting a price tag on an item, taking a photograph, and selling it via the photo sharing online social network.

Everything from Manga to make-up , and more is being sold in this very simple and direct platform, leveraging additional free technology like WhatsApp (customer service), PayPal, and Square(transactions) to make the business infrastructure as simple as possible.

Not unlike eBay and the power-sellers it spawned, Instagram has the scale, stability, and user trust to create a viable marketplace. Once upon a time, if you wanted to sell online you needed a sturdy e-commerce site with analytics, a robust hosting facility, and a web team to create, design, merchandise, market, and more. Today, you need a couple of free accounts on some of the major online channels along with the persistence to keep at it. Is this the digital equivalent of a garage sale, or the next generation of business?

The answer is likely somewhere in between. It’s doubtful that those in the upper echelons of the massive consumer packaged goods companies are going to care about this, or that Sephora and Walmart see this as a competitive threat, but the barriers to entry for someone to start and market a new business continue to be lowered.

These Instagram businesses may not be the next big thing, but they could well be the nascent stages of what is the next big, small thing in business today. On April 23rd and 24th of this year, the American University of Kuwait hosted a two day conference, featuring case studies, how-to’s and networking for those wondering what it takes to build a business on Instagram. The Insta Business Expo , featured a slew of new entrepreneurs who built and grew their respective businesses through Instagram.

While this may seem inconsequential in the grander scheme of global economics and business, consider the global reach of Instagram, the burgeoning ability to use 3-D printing to create or augment existing products, and the desire from consumers for more unique products and services . There is also potential here for more traditional brands to try moments of commerce; an Instagram storefront could help validate a new product line or market ancillary products.

Instagram should not be underrated as an engine of marketing, considering the engagement beautiful images can generate. Today’s Instagram entrepreneurs have uncovered an easy way for brands to quickly share new inventory, and a very simple way to conduct business from a smartphone. If your brand has the goods, you might want try out an Instagram store of your own.

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