Getting Busy People to Answer Your Emails

Did you know that 247 billion emails are sent every day. This equates to one email every 0.00000035 seconds. Somedays it feels like half of those are delivered straight to my inbox. (Source)

An invaluable communication tool, email is probably the method I use most to interact with colleagues, clients, students and friends. However, I get around 300 or so emails a day. That, combined with a very full schedule means sometimes those emails go unanswered (or even unseen). There’s no way I have a corner on the lots-of-email-busy-schedule market, so I’m often on the other end — sending an email, trying to get a busy person to reply to my requests.

So how do you get busy people to respond to your emails? Some tips:

State your subject in the subject line: Your email subject line can make or break you in a couple of ways. If your subject isn’t clear, the recipient may not open it at all. If it has any kind of spammy words, it may trigger a spam or junk filter. Don’t be clever, be clear.

My friend Sherry says she puts the action needed right in the subject line. Something like, “Info to Share: Sherry’s Awesome” or “Approval Needed: Quote for Press Release.” Another friend, Amanda Ip (UO ’09) says if you’re networking and have a referral, put the name right in the subject. That helps get her attention and makes your message a priority.

Clear subject lines also make it easier for my email program to appropriately sort or thread your message and makes it easier to go back and find it later if needed.

Start on the right foot. Your salutation is your first chance to make a good impression.

“Hey, so-and-so” is universally panned as inappropriate and annoying, especially on first contact. It’s not friendly or casual, it’s immature and disrespectful. It’s not hard to do a bit of research and figure out how formal or informal someone is in their communications. Do some LinkedIn research or look for tone in Twitter content.

It’s safer to err on the side of being more formal at first. Ms. So-and-So or Mr. Blah-biddy Blah is usually appropriate and you’re not going to put anyone off. I will say, be careful about which honorific you choose, though. I hate (hate!) when people call me Mrs. Matthews. Matthews is the name I was born with and I’m not married.

In an academic setting Professor This-and-That is usually safe (the specifics of professor vs. instructor aren’t really interesting to anyone outside academia), but be careful about Dr. What’s-Her-Name. Dr. is a title bestowed upon those who complete specific requirements for their profession. In my case, I don’t have a PhD. Again, a little research will help you know what to use.

via GIPHY

Note: Mx. as a gender-neutral honorific was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this week. I’m not sure I’d use it with just anyone, it may look like a typo, but it’s definitely worth knowing.

Don’t bury the lede. You’ve been clear in your subject line, but make sure the body of your email is equally clear. Keep the introductory remarks to a bare minimum. You don’t want to be rude (and you want to be culturally appropriate), but keep it short.

Avoid the scroll. In a world where we often check our emails via mobile devices, consider a smart phone screen the ideal length of an email.

That’s about 115 words (the first two paragraphs of this blog post). If you can’t get your point in that space, you very well may have lost the battle. Busy people have a lot of things competing for their attention.

Another mobile tip: when you can, include the text of an attachment in the body of the email along with the attachments. Not all attachments open on all devices and you don’t want that to get in the way of getting a reply.

Make it skim-able. A big block of text is hard to read on a screen of any size. Breaking up the text into no more than two or three lines per paragraph makes it easier for the reader to see the point and take in what you’re asking. Making it hard to read your email is only going to slow the reply.

Try another line. If you have tried email and not received a response, you can try reaching out on Twitter or LinkedIn. Don’t be shy about resending the email. I call my email the Pit of Despair. Once an email slides off the first screen, it can be out of sight out of mind.

Sending a follow-up is not annoying to most busy people, as long as you’re professional, polite and gracious about how you do it.

Take it off-line. As several colleagues said when I asked this question via Facebook, sometimes an in-person meeting or a quick phone call is much more productive than a back-and-forth email conversation. Ask for a few minutes of their time and set a time that you can call them. You can work through multiple screens of emails in a short time and get more done.

But don’t just take my word for it. A handful of great blog posts and resources on this very topic:

How to get a busy person to respond to your email (Medium)

How To Write Emails To Busy People (Business Insider)

7 Tips for Emailing Extraordinarily Busy People (Inc.)

What tips do you have for getting replies from busy people?

A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads

[Updated September 2014]

 “When should I start applying for that internship?”

“Where do I start with my job search?”

“Do I need to be sending my resumes out now?”

There’s a point of recognition where the senior public relations major realizes that yes, barring any major gaffes, chances are good that they’re going to graduate and need to find a job. And then the panic sets in.

Senior year both flies by in a blink and seems to drag on forever at the same time.  Benchmarking a few key activities may help you create your own plan for prepping for graduation.

A quick note: University of Oregon is on the quarter system – we start the last Monday of September and finish mid-June, so this calendar may vary based on your University.

Continue reading “A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads”

Leadership & Life Lessons from an Investor Relations Pro

ir futuresI’m not going to lie, as an undergrad, the idea of doing investor relations would’ve given me the heebie jeebies. Math? numbers? all those regulations? Blech.

As a professional, I’ve learned that not only are numbers and math your friends, they can be a lot of fun. And regulations? Everyone’s got ‘em. Communicating complex info in a clear, persuasive way while navigating the rules and regulations along with company culture and politics is pretty much what we do.

Had I had some mentorship or just some instruction in financial communication, I might have taken a different path. Or I’d at least had some sense of all the options for a career in public relations.

So I was pretty excited when, this spring, the PR sequence at the SOJC launched IR Futures, an investor relations-focused student club. We have a couple of stellar faculty who have expertise in investor relations and financial communications and this is a growing area of focus for the PR sequence.

Continue reading “Leadership & Life Lessons from an Investor Relations Pro”

5 Ways to Spend Your Winter Break

Classes are wrapping up at the University of Oregon and we’re all more than ready. I get the need to hibernate over the break. I intend to do some of that myself. But if you feel like getting a job start on the intern or job search, winter break can be a great time to focus. And if I know our PR students, they’re not likely to “hibernate” for long.

Some suggestions to make the most of your winter break:

Update your resume (and LinkedIn). Adding new positions, editing based on instructor or professional feedback, playing with the layout and design… Your resume is in a constant state of change at this stage in your pre-professional career. Make sure it’s up-to-date. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile and add some new connections.

Work on your e-portfolio. An online home for your writing samples and resume is a must. If you already have an e-portfolio, take some time to update the materials. If you don’t have one, this is a great time to start. Finding a platform (I like WordPress) and uploading your favorite writing samples is a good start.

Read. Pick up a PR, social media or general business book. Or update your feed reader and find new blogs to follow. Catch up on your PR industry news and trends while you have some time. Yes, you can even read some fiction for fun. It’s ok! This summer reading list is still pretty relevant if you need some suggestions for books. You can also use my public Netvibes dashboard for PR, marketing and social media blogs to read.

Research. Research companies you want to work for, who their clients are, what kind of jobs are available while you have time to follow the Internet rabbit trails (and have fun doing it!). You can find some tips here to get started.

Do some informational interviews. If you’ve done some research, reach out to people working in PR and set up a time to chat over coffee. Info interviews are a great way to network and get to know the industry. An oldie, but a goodie… this post gives some great advice for informational interviews. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work in your hometown, you can always get out and meet some people. PR is a small industry and you never know where a chat over coffee will lead.

What are your winter break plans?
Photo via Flickr by niznoz.

Engage 2012 Internship Opportunity

Editor’s Note: I don’t often post internship opportunities directly to my blog, but this one seems like a fantastic opportunity. My friend, Ed Madison and one of our students, Maya Lazaro are looking for some help with a political journalism project that focuses on K-12. 

Engage 2012 is journalism challenge that asks K-12 students from schools throughout the United States to create 2-minute non-fiction multimedia stories from their communities about one of six topics relating to the presidential election. These topics include:

  • Voter Turnout
  • Jobs & the Economy
  • Education Reform
  • Health Care
  • Energy & Environment
  • Immigration

We are currently in the process of securing a panel of well-known journalists and professors from journalism schools across the country to judge the entries. Winners will potentially be announced on ABCnews.com and CBS This Morning.

We are looking for public relations students from the University of Oregon to help us draft and implement a communication plan to publicize the challenge. The plan would incorporate traditional and non-traditional advertising and public relations strategies. Applicants must be self-directed and dependable, in addition to possessing strong writing skills.

This is a volunteer position and will last until January 31, 2012. It will require between 10 and 15 hours of work per week, although that will vary depending on the month. Most of the work will be done from home. Volunteers are also expected to attend project meetings from time to time.

You will not be getting paid to work on Engage 2012. However, you will gain experience in copywriting, public relations, marketing, and project management for a semi-high-profile journalism project.

You’ll also be empowering elementary, middle school, and high school students to share stories from their communities and become politically engaged on both a local and national level.

If you are interested, please send your resume or a brief description of your previous public relations experience to Maya Lazaro at mlazaro@uoregon.edu by Friday, August 24 with the subject header “Engage 2012 Volunteer.” Direct questions about the project to mlazaro@uoregon.edu.

Image credit: a4patil / 123RF Stock Photo

International Student Job Search Tips

I often get asked for job search advice from international students who want to stay and work in the United States. Karen Miller Russell at University of Georgia tapped a former student for these tips: Tips for international students who want to work in the United States.

My favorite and the one I might not have thought of off the top of my head:

2. Look for jobs in the want ads in the foreign language press and on Websites for people [from whatever country you’re originally from] now living in the U.S. If an organization is looking for a bilingual speaker, that’s where they’ll advertise.

Thanks Karen (and George!) for these great tips.

Congratulations, Graduates!

On Saturday, our seniors walked across the stage in MacArthur Court to receive their diplomas. Well deserved.

Many of “my” seniors are going on to some great position with agencies. Here are a few:

Heron Calisch-Dolen: Gooby, Silverstein & Partners
Andrea Nowack, Marisa Olson and Peter Lytle: Waggener Edstrom
Julie Ma: Koopman Ostbo
Nicole Wasowski: LEWIS PR, San Francisco
Devon Ashbridge: Verve Northwest Communications
Kristin Hunt: Chevalier Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations
Maya Shaff: SZPR

I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting or haven’t heard about yet. If you’ve landed a job or internship, let me know!

Work is Hard: Tips for your First Job

Recent grads are eagerly anticipating the first day on the job. And my students are no exception.

I want to offer a few first-days-on-the-job tips. I’ll preface this by saying that your first job will not make or break you. You can take a risk, follow your heart (or your wallet) and you’ll be just fine.

So, say you’ve landed that first great job. You’re eager to make a good impression, to make your mark on the industry and to move up the agency or corporate ladder. But what can you expect?

Your education is only the beginning.
I see three parts to this piece of advice – the logistics of work, the tasks and the personalities.

Education doesn’t prepare you for a 8 – 5 schedule. And believe it or not, it’s hard. It’s hard to be at work by 8 am and stay active and engaged for 8 hours. It’s hard and it will take some time to adjust. And don’t let work consume you. Easier said that done that first six months or that first year – but remember to exercise, to spend time with family and friends and to have some fun. It’s called work-life balance.

ZenHabits has lots of great tips for all these things. Here’s a nice post about being more productive.

My piece of advice for learning office personalities and politics is – stay out. Stay out for a year if you can. You don’t want to “side” with the wrong person or issue because you don’t know any better. Just stay out. And don’t gossip. You probably won’t get fired. But you might damage your relationship with your employer. Better to stay out.

Find a mentor.
Look around. Who in your office is doing good work and is well-liked and well-respected? Tell them. And ask if you can go out to coffee. A mentor relationship doesn’t have to be a formal one. But having a senior person to go to with questions or of whom you can ask advice is invaluable.

I met my mentor through a volunteer project with a nonprofit organization and, while we don’t work together often, or even see each other more than once every couple of months, I know I can always ask her advice. Not only do I know I can ask. I know she’ll be honest with me and give me good feedback.

Seek challenges.
You come to the table with outstanding professional skills and a background to be able handle much of what’s thrown your way. Seek out challenging assignments. Look at the basic assignments you’re given and figure out how to do it better or faster. Make recommendations or suggestions for programs that will add value for your organization or your client.

By seeking challenges, accepting more responsibility and making yourself more visible in your organization, you’re likely to zip up the proverbial “ladder” in no time.

For my readers who are new professionals – what would you add?

Keep networking.

Sloth: One of the 7 Deadly Sins

I love this analogy!

The Ladders, a job search engine that lists jobs mainly in the $100K + salary range, has this terrific site around the 7 deadly sins of interviewing.

My favorite is “sloth,” I think. Mostly because I see this with soon-to-be or recent graduates more than I’d like. Excerpt:

Winging it is never good, particularly in an interview. Be able to show knowledge of your potential employer, awareness of the industry, and the company’s business strategy. The level of detail in your questions should match your experience.

What questions match your level of expertise? If you know you’re going into an entry-level position that is going to be media relations focused, ask questions about the day-to-day of your potential job. Will you be pitching? Or providing support? What kind of mentoring does the agency offer?

There are plenty of ways to show your genuine interest in a position before and after the interview. But it takes time and effort. My absolute favorite idea comes from one of my superstar students, Laura Bishow who got her dream job at Maxwell PR Studio in Portland, Ore.

When she decided that she wanted to work at Maxwell, she found a few select clients of the agency and created Google News searches for those clients. She had a contact at the agency because she’d done an informational interview. So, connect the dots, here… when Client A came up on a Google News search, Laura emailed her contact and said (something along the lines of), “What great coverage! How did you work with this reporter? how did you pitch this story?”

Genius!

What other advice do you have? Any horror stories?

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