Stop me if I’ve told this one, but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t told it here, at least with this intent. This is my go-to story about the importance of appropriate email subject lines (and good diplomacy). Fairly early on in my corporate learning curve I had an email exchange with the principal (read owner, responsible party) of a distribution company regarding a customer account that was my responsibility. The subject line was a one word job, the main name of the customer in question.
We went back and forth as I clarified and then resolved his question. At the end he came back and wrote that I should do a better job of naming my emails. Huh? Just to be sure, I scrolled to the beginning of the email and sure enough he had originated the string. Still, he was right – the subject was entirely too generic and didn’t offer any reference points to the specific topic at hand. I briefly answered back that I agreed that the subject line of this particular email was not very clear and left it at that.
So began my mission to improve my own email subject line protocols. Which included renaming an email that had a vague heading at my first reply. (Be careful in renaming an email when there were multiple recipients because that can lead to further misunderstanding.) When I moved into supervisory and then management roles, I made this a frequent topic within my team. A big part of our job was clarity in communication – the first step is appropriately naming a thing.
Email volume is high for most people, so your naming protocol should be short and to the point. Sometimes a little lyrical helps to get noticed, but utilitarian is best. Get a feel for what is best for you by reviewing the subjects of the emails that land in your inbox – which ones draw your eye and why? Are the subject lines that are used suitable for the actual email content? Also consider your recipient – what speaks to them?
I hope I got your attention.
© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations