The emails you write are either helping you move forward and standout, tread water, or worse, an email can diminish your reputation, or embarass you, as the hacked emails from Sony Pictures revealed.
Think about it. If you’re like most people you write hundreds (or more) emails each week. Yet most of us believe that too many emails are nonessential time wasters, or are downright annoying. Why? Too many emails are not organized or well written, or are unnecessary.
Because of the volume of email we send, we forget that it is one of the most important ways that we make an impression, build our reputation at work, and in our careers. It is more important than most of us think.
Have you cringed when you’ve received an inappropriate, embarrassing email from someone in your company? Maybe it had TMI of a personal nature, or bordered on anti-social. Most of us have received at least one email that has done much damage because it was written to be private, but was shared, or it was written in haste or anger, with the send button hit before better judgment prevailed.
As you think through your day, and jump into the rush of meeting your deadlines, or persuading people to meet theirs, remember to treat email as if it is a live conversation that everyone and anyone can see and hear – now or later.
Email is a not only a communications and productivity tool, it is also an underappreciated relationship tool. Follow these guidelines on email and you will add value and enhance your reputation:
- Be clear and brief. I have friends in the intelligence community who once mentioned a formula they are taught to perfect at writing emails that I, too would like to master. They use 2 acronyms to guide them in writing email (and in the interest of full disclosure, this is all the “intelligence” they gave me):
- BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front — that say’s it all. Get to the point quickly; if we were to add up how much time we spend sifting through poorly written emails, or doing the follow-up to gain clarity that could and should have been there to begin with — it would total hours, days, or weeks!
- AAIR – Actor, Action, Impact, Result — write your information in that order and you will be clear.
- Make the most of your subject lines. Wendy Clark, a president with Coca-Cola, says employees include tags in their subject lines to help manage email flow: URGENT, ACTION REQUIRED and INFORM.
- Don’t send too many – you still need to pick up the phone and call (I had a post- it with those words on my laptop to overcome my over-reliance on emails!). Every relationship benefits from more person to person contact.
- Your subject lines should be specific – and even appealing; you want your emails to be read and not passed over.
- Another way to approach email is to treat the content as a journalist would — and briefly answer the 5 Ws — the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why – answer those with the facts, and your opinion (as long as you know it can be shared).
- Always be polite — open with an acknowledgement of someone (thanks for their last email, or for ideas they shared); I usually end with a friendly thought, like thanks or best.
- Check the BCC line – if you are on it, save yourself the embarrassment and don’t hit reply all!
- If you have bad news, it’s better to do this in person (or over the phone), not email; it is much better for your short and long term relationships to deliver bad news in person.
Try these ideas with your emails and you’ll see results — and may just become the new office hero.
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Question: What are your best tips for better email?