Cultivating A Professional Email has agitated my mind for about two years, but procrastination, one of the enemies of progress, won’t let me put pen to paper! Some researchers define it as a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.” We all suffer from thiS one way or another. As if that is a consolation.
So when I was told to headline the first weekly virtual discourse at the School of Impactful Communication, I jumped at the opportunity. I agreed on the topic: Business Communication: Cultivating a Professional Email. I strongly believe that the topic is very important.
My task here is to convince you and not to confuse you that it is important to take extra care and attention when corresponding through emails for business and social purposes.
I can imagine you asking: why is it important to pay more attention when writing emails? Truth is, it is very important if you care about making a good impression, boosting your personal brand, and professional positioning. Besides, whether you realize it or not, everyone wants to be loved and favoured. Having a professional email can give you that edge, trust me.
Let’s quickly touch on impression management which I define as a deliberate process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of others by managing information in social and business interactions. Business communication is the process of sharing goal-oriented information between people within or outside a company. Both are essential for the success and growth of individuals including organizations.
Media channels of business communication include the Internet; email; print media; radio; television; ambient media and word of mouth, according to Wikipedia. They all have their uses depending on the scope and target audience. Our focus tonight is cultivating a professional email that greatly boosts people’s perception of you.
A senior colleague and employer of labour shared the story of a supplier his friend referred to him. The supplier attached his proposal to the email having a subject. But conspicuously missing are salutation, narration, and closing/signature of the sender – the important elements to include when formatting emails. The employer said he didn’t bother opening the attachment or acknowledging receipt. So, another opportunity was lost.
The supplier is not the only one lacking this essential soft skill for managing emails. I observed that it is prevalent among public servants, entrepreneurs, doctors, journalists, job seekers, students et al. They will just forward you a mail without a simple hello!
More like writing an essay, elements of a professional email include:
The Header/Subject of your Mail
This is a short phrase summarizing the kernel of your communication. The header/subject is so important that email programs have it on the default setting and will remind you to add it when sending emails.
It starts your mail. Haven’t you noticed that people love hearing their names if typed or pronounced correctly? So, start by saying Dear John (first name if you’re acquainted or contemporaries) or Dear Mr. Smith (last name if not acquainted or a superior). Never use Mr. with first names.
The Narration or Body of the Communication
This is where you will pass the full message. However, brevity should be your watchword. Make your point quickly and clearly before losing your audience. Remember that less is more. Use active voice and avoid acronyms, abbreviations or writing in all capitals (e.g., PUBLIC RELATIONS IS THE PRACTICE OF MANAGING AND DISSEMINATING INFORMATION…) it is equivalent to yelling or shouting.
Add a personal touch to build rapport which is the process of establishing a connection with someone else, usually based on shared experiences or views, including a shared sense of humour.
This is the last line before the signature and should wrap up the message. It is important to keep it short and simple (KISS).
Label Attachments Properly
There are times when you must update a file you previously shared. Make sure it is labelled differently each time to avoid any mix-up.
Append your Signature
The is where you identify yourself by name, title and any other information relevant to your communications. The good thing is that most email programs allow you to set a fixed signature that’s automatically added to the bottom of your emails.
Nowadays, most people send emails on their mobile devices which also come with a default signature. So, when you get their mail, you notice a message like: “Sent from my iPhone, Android, etc.” This can be embarrassing. One can easily add a personal signature by setting it up in the email setting.
Proofreading Makes Perfect
This is the final stage of going through your draft to correct grammar, errors and inconsistencies before it is flighted. Free tools like Grammar Checker are available online to check grammar and spelling for English texts.
Follow up on Your Emails
Most people receive several emails per day, so it is possible to miss or forget to respond. So, if the recipient failed to respond within two working days, consider calling or sending a friendly follow-up email.
Respond to Emails Promptly
Taking too long to respond could send an unintended message. It is the equivalent of ignoring someone talking to you, which is rude! By responding and taking action quickly, you are letting them know that they are important and you appreciate their communication. It is an important part of keeping the recipient happy and meeting their expectations. The best time to respond is one hour. However, 24-hour is still permissible.
As I conclude, let me point out that having a custom email address using your domain name (e.g, your_name@your_organisation.com) makes you look more professional and trustworthy. It makes it easier for people to look up your company website for more information and assuring them of your legitimacy.
Cultivating a professional email is a soft skill which is desirable in all professions. The good news is that it is a learnable skill. You only need to practice. The American motivational speaker, Les Brown, said, “Practice makes improvement.” So, Keep practicing. By using the above tips to improve your email efforts, you will be rolling out professional emails, making better impressions, and developing stronger relationships in no time.
This article was written by Segun Mcmedal, the immediate past Chairman, Lagos State Chapter, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.