According to a study, corporate employees send and receive more than 100 emails a day on average, though I suspect in many cases it’s much more than that. Whether you realize it or not, every email you send is competing for attention, so you need to be on-point with every one you send.
In any industry, it’s important to be skilled at the art of email. In PR, it’s vital. And sometimes, in a field driven by deadlines and media inquiries, it needs to be fast. That’s why it pays to know the best practices of email so you can be efficient and successful in achieving your end goal with every message you send.
From sending an eye-catching pitch to communicating with colleagues and clients, here are my tips on being an email aficionado.
1. Cut to the chase. You should always be sure that if someone were to scan your email, they’ll understand your message clearly. Start right off with your main point and keep it as short as possible. The Mark Twain quote, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one,” always comes to mind. When pitching, remind yourself that you only have about five seconds to catch your reader’s attention. Don’t waste it.
2. Emails are about relationship building, too. While it is important to get your message across succinctly, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that the person on the other end is (hopefully) not a robot. Public relations is about building rapport—hence the name—so be sure to greet your sender with a personalized message. Use their first name when addressing them, and if you have been in contact with them before, ask what they have been working on lately, or comment on a recent article they’ve written. Showing you’re genuinely interested in what they’re up to makes a difference, and will make both of your jobs much more enjoyable.
3. Don’t underestimate the subject line. When it comes to pitching, your subject line is vital. It’s often what gets your email read in the first place. Be specific. “Easter Bunny Photos Begin at Northgate Mall this Friday” is much more helpful to your reader than “Easter Bunny News.” When you’re emailing a client or a colleague, the same applies. Being specific in your subject line will help keeps things much more organized for both you and your reader.
4. Know when to use the phone. In some cases, an email is not the most effective manner of communication. Recognize when it’s time to pick up the phone. It’s usually a good idea to nix the email and call someone when you need a response as soon as possible, or if there is an issue that needs clarification. Having a two-way conversation where both people can respond to everything in real-time is obviously totally different than typing a message to someone and waiting for them to get back to you. Also, know when not to use the phone. Most of the time, when item isn’t super time-sensitive, it’s viewed as a courtesy to email someone rather than call them, so they can respond to you when they are available to and ready with all the information. Some people respond better to emails than phone, and vice versa, so try to gauge the other persons’ preferences early on, especially if it’s someone you may be corresponding with frequently.
5. Re-read it. A lot of times, you’re typing so fast that it can cause you overlook a simple spelling error. Be sure to read back through your email before you press send. To harken back to tip #1, along with proofing, ask yourself these questions: “Can I shorten this message? Is the most important information at the beginning? Is it clear what I am asking or telling? Is there a call to action?”
6. Timing is everything. If at all possible, try to avoid sending your message at the start of a weekend, during a weekend or at the end of the day. Those emails are way more likely to go unanswered, your information forgotten. The best time to send an important message is a the beginning of the day.
What are your best email tips? Share them with me on Twitter at @megelisekam.