I attended a presentation given by John Reed of Westreed, a brand consulting group. Mr. Reed provided some great tips to help you connect with people in writing like you connect with them in person. As professionals, we are always trying to get others’ attention in writing. You are probably taking a break from writing an email to read this blog. Most people receive on average 100 to 300 emails a day. And they are not reading every one they receive. What are you doing to make sure people stop, read and respond to your emails? Here are some of the tips Mr. Reed shared.
There are three areas to focus on when writing: 1) get attention, 2) get understood and 3) get a response. Let’s look at each area.
- Use a headline to catch the reader. Come up with a headline that answers a key question the reader will have; “Why should I care?”
- Make it easy to read or scan the communication. Don’t have one big paragraph. As an example, use a short introduction paragraph, three to five bullet points for the body, and a short closing paragraph.
With email communication, take time to think about the subject line and make sure it pertains to the content of your email. The subject line should be used like a headline for a newspaper article. Resist hijacking another email string to start a new thought. Start a new email with a new subject line.
Mr. Reed shared a four-step process to get started writing quickly and make sure your points are made. This is very similar to an approach I use to write my blog posts!
1. Start with a brain dump. Just get information down.
2. Throw away the junk. Read through your brain dump and start removing content that is not needed.
3. Box and label the valuable stuff. Group thoughts and give each group a label.
4. Clean up and edit. This is the last step. Resist the urge to edit as you go.
Prior to me learning a similar strategy, I remember feeling paralyzed sometimes and couldn’t even get one word down. Here are some other helpful hints to help you get started.
- Start with the easy stuff. Don't feel like you have to write linear. You don’t have to write the intro, then the body, then the closing. Start with what is easiest for you.
- If you are struggling writing. Write in question-and-answer format. What questions will the reader ask or need to know? You may not want to send a communication that way, although you can. But, at a minimum it will help you get some thoughts down.
Get a response
Some of our communication is for informational purposes only, but much of what we are doing is looking for some action to be taken. It may be you want the reader to make a decision, review a document, provide feedback on the information shared, etc. Always ask for a response and make it easy for the reader to respond. If you want someone to call you, share your phone number…don’t make them have to search for it. If there is a document you want them to read, attach the document or provide a link. Don’t say something like “download the document from our project SharePoint site.”
The final thought shared by Mr. Reed was the 24 rule. Write something and wait 24 hours before you send it. If you don’t have 24 hours, wait 24 minutes. If you don’t have 24 minutes, at least wait 24 seconds. It helps to get something down and re-read it later after you stepped away from it. By the way, I just waited 24 seconds to re-read this!
To better communication,
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