Working as a member of the media in a town with only a few reputable publications, I receive a lot of email. And most of the emails are from individuals or organizations that are hoping to receive something in return – space in our publication or at least assistance with spreading the word about something they are invested in.
While the majority of these requests come from people that mean well – and many have very worthy causes – the sheer volume of requests that I receive means I have to be diligent about filtering them.
For this reason I’ve become extremely picky about the way in which an email is constructed. If you’re looking to get your point across via email, here are six tricks of the trade that I’ve gathered from experience.
1. Be Transparent in Your Subject Line
The subject line on an email is the first way to let the recipient know the key information you’re relaying, so be as transparent as possible. If your email is time sensitive, let them know. If you’re following up on a phone call or meeting, try to fit that in.
Spam runs rampant these days; so avoid any indication that you are sending a mass email. If a recipient doesn’t think an email applies to her, she’ll delete it before even glancing at the body message.
2. Don’t Use a Generic Greeting
If you’re trying to get the word out to a large group, it may seem like a good idea to send a mass email with a simple greeting like “hello.” But the truth is, your message may reach a large audience that way, but you’ve also greatly diminished your chances of anyone in that audience paying attention to anything that follows.
If you are trying to get someone to take action on your behalf – i.e. if you’re applying for a job, submitting a story idea, etc. – you have to let the other party know that you have done your research and that you’re aware of who they are and what they are looking for.
It may take extra time, but if it increases your chances of getting a response, isn’t that the whole point?
3. Get to the Point
Don’t make someone read through an entire novel before getting to the point – whether that’s a pitch, a question or a complaint – because chances are, they will never get there.
If the reason you’re emailing can’t be summed up in a succinct manner, consider calling instead. Or pair it down, saving the rest for a later exchange when you’ve already gotten the go-ahead.
When it comes to reading anything on a computer or smart phone, most people are scanners, skipping the details and honing in on the main point. So keep your paragraphs short and utilize bullet points if at all possible.
4. Offer Sufficient Contact Information
If I am on a deadline and need information about a possible story idea quickly, I need a phone number that will connect me to someone right away. Otherwise, I’d much rather use email. Therefore, if I don’t have the contact information I need, I’ll simply move on to the next idea.
Don’t be your own stumbling block to getting what you want. Offer up all the contact information you can think of so you can ensure that you won’t receive an email on Monday morning that needed a response on Friday afternoon.
5. Proofread and Beware of Your Tone
There’s nothing that shouts, “don’t take me seriously!” quite like an email riddled with punctuation and spelling mistakes. At the very least, use spell check, but always read and re-read until you feel that your message is being conveyed in the best way possible.
Also, beware of how you are conveying your tone. Capital letters and exclamation marks won’t ensure that your reader act quickly on your request – in fact, they usually just convey impatience and that can lead to a deleted email.
Be professional in your tone and execution and the results will sway in your favor.
6. Cover Your Bases
After checking your spelling and grammar, but before hitting send, double check that you’ve addressed the email to the right person. There’s nothing that discounts an email more than when someone starts an email with “Hi Albert” (my last name) instead of “Hi Kayla” (my first name).
Also, if you intend to include an attachment, make sure you’ve done so. Double emails can get lost in the shuffle, so while your pitch might be great, if you have to send another email with the forgotten attachment, it could lose steam.