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Career, Networking, Professional Advice,

Getting Busy People to Answer Your Emails

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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.


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?

Social Media,

Three Levels of Listening: What To Listen For

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This post can also be found at the Lunar Logic blog. Lunar Logic is a web development firm in Eugene, Oregon. I’m working on a series of posts for my friends there and this it the first.


If you’ve been pondering a social media strategy, it’s likely you’ve heard the advice to “listen first.”

Lots of super smart people have talked about how to listen and monitor with blog post upon post that provides reviews of tools and links to resources.

In fact, I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

What you don’t find written about much is what you should be listening for. Maybe it’s intuitive to some, but in my experience, once you set up Google Alerts for your name and your business name, the “what else?” question looms large.

It’s not complicated, but you need to step outside your “insider” role and think about your organization from your customer/donor/volunteer/key audience’s perspective.

As part of my Social Media Boot Camp curriculum, I developed this graphic for listening & monitoring.

I’ll take an aside here to say that listening and monitoring are not the same thing – or at least they don’t have the same purpose. Listening helps you understand your audience, your community, your market better… almost like eavesdropping. Is a passive activity and you is vital to understanding how your audience/community/market behaves and your organization’s role in it.

Monitoring is more directed. You’re monitoring for the purpose of participating and responding. It’s active and action-oriented. They can be done simultaneously, so you’ll often see them together.

Back to the “what else?” question. I break it down like this:

Level One

  • Business name
  • Product names
  • Key leadership & executives
  • Key competitors

Level Two

  • Key industry terms & phrases (news, information, trends)
  • “Point of need” questions (what do people ask that your business/product/service can “answer”)
  • Influencers

Level Three

  • Related topics, terms, trends to your organization’s core products services. Think about the lifestyle of your audiences. (ex: what else are yoga enthusiasts interested in? how about small business owners?)

The specifics will depend on your organization and your goals, but in general, you need to be listening and monitoring in all three levels. This schema is also useful for expanding your listening and monitoring as you learn more about your community (“That’s a level 3.”).

If you’re creating content (blogging, tweeting or managing a Facebook page for example), you’ll find listening and monitoring across all three levels gives you lots of great input to produce great output. Bonus!

What would you add? Anything that you’ve found works really well for listening & monitoring?

Social Media, Tips, Twitter,

Brand-Tweeting-New: Tips for Twitter Newbies

We’re kicking off another year at the University of Oregon. I’m not teaching social media-focused classes this term, but I always encourage my students to tweet and use a hashtag for the course. This term you’ll likely see #J350 and #J453 tags from students. Because the classes aren’t social media oriented (although certainly infused), I don’t take time to “teach” Twitter. But I’m not under the illusion that it’s intuitive and doesn’t need to be demonstrated. It’s been awhile since a did a post with resources and tips for those new to the microblogging platform, so here you go!

Some of my favorite resources on Twitter basics

  • Twitter 101 for Business: Written by the folks at Twitter, this guide is a terrific how to on using Twitter professionally. For journalism students, you really do have to think about all social media in that way. You’re a professional communicator and all your communication should reflect that.
  • Twitter’s Twitter Basics: A helpful guide from Twitter that covers a wide variety of topics.
  • College Students Guide to Twitter: This has long been one of my favorite resources for Twitter. I’ve shared it many, many times.
  • 10 Ways Twitter is Use for PR Practitioners: An overview on the top 10 reasons PR pros can find Twitter useful.

Who to Follow

  • Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students – a list created by another professor of her recommended people to follow. You can follow everyone at once.
  • 100 PR People to Follow – another list based on a blog post that identified the top 100 people in PR to follow. The two lists will have some overlap.
  • – A handy directory of Twitter uses categorized by tag.

More Tips

  • Give Twitter at least 30 days & aim to follow and be followed by at least 100 people. Thirty days because Twitter is not intuitive – it takes time to figure it out. And the 100 following/follower level forces you to think outside your physical/offline networks and connect with new people.
  • Participate in chats: There are a few Twitter chats either specifically geared toward students or are particularly useful. Top 10 chats for PR & Marketing professionals. That list doesn’t include two that are specifically targeted at student and young professionals, so check out #PRStudChat and more about #u30PR0.

What are some of your favorite Twitter basics tips or resources?

Linky Love,

Tick Tock, Term’s Almost Over Linky Love

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This is the next-to-the-last linky love of the term. It really has been a fun term, but let’s just say senior-itis isn’t just for seniors… Counting down!

That said, apparently there are other people who still have working brains and have created some food for your thoughts, too.

I’m more and more fascinated with the Facebook privacy brou-haha and several great posts last week illuminated the discussion for me (for purposes of your linky love post, dear J452 students, you can take all these together or look at them individually). darah boyd had a terrific post about radical transparency and informed choice. Jeff Jarvis also talked about *the* public vs *a* public when it comes to the way people participate in Facebook and other outlets.

Campbell Brown (who I love) is leaving CNN. That’s not terribly newsworthy, but the statement she issued was really terrific. What’s your reaction to her statement? What can we learn as communicators?

Do you have a “20% project”? What fuels your creativity, keeps you motivated, sparks your passion? BBD talks about what their team members do… what do you do?

Some nitty gritty, down and dirty advice from the Bad Pitch Blog about alternates to a press release. Great ideas!

A little bigger picture, but important nonetheless… Augie Ray at Forrester gives us a list of seven things your company must do because of social media.

From Mashable, a list of the most social companies. In a shiny whiz bang cool infographic!

Linky Love,

Crawling to the Finish Line Linky Love

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I am week 10 tired on a week 7 Thursday. Not a good sign.

However, it turns out not everyone feels that way, so I was able to find some great content to share with you this week. For students, you’re going to pick one to respond to on your own blog and for my regular visitors, these are definitely worth a read. Enjoy!

“It’s OK to be imperfect”: One School’s Quest for Social Media Success: Oregon State is doing some great stuff with social media. This article talks about the ups and downs, ins and outs and lessons learned along the way.

Five Steps to Social Currency: This post from one of the students in my Strategic Social Media class discusses a recent report that focused on the “social currency” of brands. Interesting concept and really interesting data.

PR Customer Service Merger Accelerating: This process is fascinating to me (mostly because I’m watching my career come full circle from doing customer service before I went back to college). And Todd’s list looks a lot like my to do list in a given day.

Get Real About Media Relations: Pitching media is not my favorite part of my job, but I recognize the importance of the process and of doing it right. This is a nice reminder from Kevin at Bad Pitch Blog about just that.

Facebook Facts You May Not Have Known: I love infographics. Love them. This is a good one and I learned some stuff.

Helping Others (Well, Students) For HAPPO: If you haven’t caught onto some of what’s possible with the interwebz, this is a great example. Jeremy Pepper lays it down in his blog and highlights a handful of students, including our own Marcella Lentini in this post.

7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now: Great tips! I found this post by David Spinks thanks to Karen Russell. Looks like a great resource for young professionals.

Linky Love,

Freshly Scrubbed Linky Love


After a three term hiatus, I’m again teaching the advanced writing class – now call Strategic PR Communication. As part of that class, I publish a list of my favorite posts from the week for students to choose from and respond to on their own blogs. While the list is specifically for the class, I hope that other visitors will enjoy, too.

Why Should I Work for You, Dude? (Council of PR Firms): In a tight job market, it’s important to hire good talented. How do you as soon-to-be grads look at your opportunities and how can organizations retain you for the long term. Interesting article on a really interesting topic (and one I study, for what it’s worth).

The Community Manager Role Unplugged (Buzz Canuck): Our class is doing a little community management this term with PROpenMic during the first week of May, so I found this post interesting. It’s also a  good look at best practices for this increasing important role in organizations.

Is Social Media a Requirement for PR Pros? (Social Media Today): Interesting debate by two smart people about whether social media is a requirement for our profession. Complement the Social Media Today post with one on PROpenMic by a student not pleased with having to learn social media and well, we have ourselves a little trend. What do you think?

Build a Stronger Network (Journalistics): Building your network can feel intimidating – and do so in public settings can be uncomfortable. But, it’s important. These tips are great and worth considering before you head out to Portland Paddle or a mixer/event.

13 Ways Your Resume Can Say “I’m Unprofessional” (The Ladders): It makes me a little sad that a site like The Ladders (which posts positions that have $100K+ salaries) would have to post such a list. Shouldn’t their audience know better? I’m guessing not… Great advice.

Journalistic Sodbusting (Occam’s Razr): This is a fascinating look at astroturfing. Not sure what astroturfing is, take a look at this case and see what you think.

9 Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Blog (Altitude Branding): You’re just getting started with your blog, but Amber (as always) has some terrific tips that are relevant for newbies as well as those of us who have been around a while… and should be blogging more. What can you take away from Amber’s advice?

Social Media, Tips,

Watch Out For Sneaky Spammers

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I’ve noticed a new tactic with spammers lately… they are awfully complimentary of your content, your blog and your writing style. Flattery is hard to resist, I know. So here are some tips for keeping the spam out of your comments section.

  • If the comment seems to be over thesaurus-ized – common words turned into $5 words that aren’t quite used right – you’re probably looking at spam.
  • If the comment could be related to any blog, any post, anytime? It could be spam.
  • If the commenter asks about your fabulous layout and how you did it – yup, spam. (I fell for this one, hard!)

If you’re not sure, check the possible inputs on the comment form for consistency and legitimacy. Individually, they might not raise any red flags, but combined can tip you off:

  • Name: By itself this might not be a problem one way or another, unless it’s clearly not a name.
  • Email: Look for an email that lines up with the name entered and with the URL
  • URL: This is the big giveaway, usually. The point of spam is to get linkbacks to the spam site in question through comments. So check the URL, visit it to make sure it’s a real site.

Elli here has some pretty obvious problems. Her name is ok, but her URL is a dead giveaway. Line that up with her email address that has nothing to do with either thing and we’ve got a spammer. Click “spam” on the comment and move on.

Look for ways to get real people engaged with your content. Much better for the ego in the long run.

measuring tape wrapped around the word success

Results are the Bottom Line

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At the end of each term, the students in PR Campaigns, our capstone PR course, present their portfolio of work to a panel of professionals. It’s an exciting day, with lots of great energy and terrific feedback from our talented professionals who give anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours to share their expertise with our students.

I had a chance to speak at some length with several reviewers this term at the end of the process and at the top of that feedback was that the students need to focus on the results of their work.

This is often hard to do for students (it’s often hard to do for anyone, let’s be honest). If you’re dropped into the middle of a campaign at an internship, for example, your work is often task-oriented – write this release, compile this clip report. But having a results-oriented brain will help tremendously and set you apart in the job search process.

Of course, to measure, you must have clear objectives.

Based on my students’ questions and reviewer feedback, here are some common “tasks” and how you might measure them. I would love to get your feedback and I’m hoping some of the reviewers will drop by and share their thoughts.

  • Scenario: I compiled media clips for my internship all summer. Clip books are not glamorous, but it’s a very common entry level activity and if you know how to do it (and why!), that’s important.
    Measurement: Media clips are an evaluation method in and of themselves. Talk to your account supervisor and ask what the goals of the campaign are/were. When you describe your clip-compiling activities talk about how this was a crucial piece of reporting to the client and were proud to help showcase your agency’s or department’s success.
  • Scenario: For a class assignment, I wrote a release/fact sheet/FAQ [insert tactic here].
    Measurement: Even for an assignment, you can still include information about how you would measure a particular written tactic. Think about how you would see that particular tactic through. The point of a release is usually to get media coverage, for example. Include a short blurb at the bottom of the release you include in your portfolio that describes how you’d measure.
  • Scenario: I created a blog.
    Measurement: Make sure you have some analytics available. has built in site statistics, Blogger and can run Google Analytics. It’s important to understand what these basic statistics mean, so do your homework. If you can dig a little deeper than per-post viewers, that will show a more complete understanding of the tools.

There are a thousand scenarios, of course. I think I’ll dig in a bit on a few in future posts and explore some more ideas about measurement and evaluation.

Remember that regardless of which stage in the process you got involved with a project or how little you had to do, you can always think about how you would measure, even if you didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Kaye Sweetster from University of Georgia suggested creating an executive summary report or a metrics report for any project. You can even do this if (gasp!) it wasn’t required! Focus on – what was the opportunity or problem, what was your approach and how did/how would you measure.

Blog in typescript letters
Social Media, Writing Tips,

Creating Compelling Blog Posts: A Checklist


Creating a blog post is really more than just writing good content. The following checklist can help you ensure that your post is readable, findable and shareable.

  • Do you have a compelling headline? There’s some dos and don’ts.
  • Does your post have good structure & provide useful information? Plenty of folks have written posts on how to write posts. Take a look around.
  • Does your post invite feedback or ideas?
  • Did you provide at least one in-text hyperlink? Don’t include links as text, hyperlink them using the “link” button.
  • Did you include an image? (or other multimedia) 
 Some blog templates require an image, but even if it’s not required, an image helps to make your post more visually attractive. 
Try, or flickr (creative commons licensed) for images. Or check out some of these sites for free or cheap images.
  • Did you assign a category or categories? Categories help to organize your content. When your blog has a lot of posts, categories can help you visitor find what he or she is looking for.
  • Did you include tags based on keywords in the post?

What did I forget? What’s on your checklist?

Picture 1
Tips, Twitter,

Split-Second Decisions: My Twitter Follow Back Tips


Recently, I was (very!) honored to be included on Valerie Maltoni’s list of 100 PR People Worth Following. Because Valerie is so widely read and clearly well-respected, my Twitter follower count jumped by about 350 – 400 people in the course of three days. I enjoy meeting new people through Twitter and I genuinely try to follow back people who look like they would add value to my experience there.


It took several days for me to go through the profiles of each new follow (the only ones I skipped were brands I was not interested in, spambots, etc.). I didn’t necessarily learn anything “new,” but going through so many profiles, there were a few lessons that were really highlighted by this experience.

So you want a follow back? Here are my tips:

  • Include your location: I am much more likely to follow you back if you’re in my neck of the woods. I love connecting with people from all over the globe, but I’m not going to lie that I have a special affinity for fellow Oregonians.Include your actual location. Don’t be clever (i.e., “planet earth” or “state of consciousness”)
  • Your bio is important: I appreciate a clever turn of phrase and play on words. But when I’m making a snap decision about whether to follow you back, I want SOME sense of who you are or what you do. Why should we be connected?
  • Share good tweets: This idea of “what to tweet” or how to add value deserves more than a bullet point. But I love the signal to noise ratio analogy as a general rule of thumb. It’s ok to share random pieces of info and have “off-topic” conversations (noise). Note: “off-topic” in quotes because “topic” is relative. when I’m deciding to follow you back, I am thinking about what I want my Twitter topic of conversation to be about. Most of what you tweet – say 60 – 70% – should be adding value (signal). Share links, provide insight, point me to interesting news or resources. If your last 20 tweets are: all noise about random things you’re doing, conversations better had on instant messenger with your BFF or all retweets of other people’s content … I’m not going to follow you back.
  • Have a photo: I prefer to see a photo of the person behind the profile, but at the very least have some sort of photo. I’m highly likely to just skip over new followers with the “newbie” bird logo.
  • Don’t use excessive hashtaggery: Hashtags are a terrific way to keep up with conversations across the Twittersphere on the same topic, or at the same event. But when you’re tagging every other word in your tweets, it just become difficult to read or to find the actual content. This seems like a no-brainer to me… but I looked at several profiles where the majority of the tweets on the page were packed with hashtags. I had no idea what that person was tweeting about.

If your goal is to build your network and connect with professionals in your field, these tips should come in handy. If you’re happy with the way Twitter is working for you, then by all means, keep going! There are no “right” ways to do Twitter. It all depends on what you want to accomplish.

How do you decide who to follow back on Twitter? Any mental short cuts or rules of thumb that you use? I’d love to hear about them!

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