Tag Archives: email

LEADERSHIP: THE ULTIMATE EMAIL KILLER

“Do as I do, not as I say.” (Or something like that anyway…)

I’ve realised just how much I used to be driven by email. Now I get a relatively manageable 50 or so per day, but it used to be more like 300 and it meant I couldn’t do my actual job. Email became my oracle; feeding my workflow while also demanding to be fed, and containing every audit trail of every piece of work I’d ever done.

I truly believe that there is an art to constructing an email, which takes its lead from the more ancient and dying practice of writing letters. My first summer job was working at an investment company writing letters to customers who wanted an account balance (this was last century folks!) or who had changed address. We had templates, but more often than not you needed to extemporise. I graduated to answering complex enquiries and communicating good/bad news (e.g. “we found a £5,000 trust you didn’t know about”/“we haven’t found the £5,000 policy you swear you took out”) which, looking back, really helped my skill-set.

But email stops being a communications mechanism in the presence of extreme volume. Then it’s just processing. You don’t write them well, and you don’t read them well either.

Yammer: Making it stick

A great way to kill email is by using an enterprise social collaboration platform like Yammer. An easy quick win with Yammer is to railroad certain types of email into this Facebook-like social network that only your colleagues can see. Cakes in the Kitchen, Lottery Money Please, I’m WFH Today, Running Late, LOL Cat Being Sick – all that crap stops showing up in your email overnight.

I recently gave a training session to a national housing group about how to successfully implement Yammer for better internal communications and collaboration. I’ve used Yammer since the beginning and it’s a great tool for saving time as you work together on defined projects and general work stuff alike. The objective wasn’t to show them how to use the platform, but how to get it adopted consensually and make sure it ‘stuck’.

(Incidentally, my timing couldn’t have been more ominous. I’d unwittingly picked the launch day of Facebook at Work for the training session. If anything is going to end up knocking Yammer off its perch, it’ll be FB@W)

We covered everything from email offload and basic document management, to brainstorms, version control and team empowerment. But the thing that will make the difference to that organisation – any organisation – won’t be the training they receive or the platform structure they adopt. No; it’ll be the leadership they demonstrate.

Leadership levels

Leadership needs to happen at two levels to change communications behaviour: (a) the very top, and (b) in and amongst the user community.

So we appointed Yammer Champions to go forth and spread the benefits of the new system and offer support to colleagues. We equipped them with stick and carrot and urged them to be part careworker and part vigilante militia (AKA “The Yammer Police”). This will ensure that the majority who haven’t been converted to the faith slowly and incrementally become the minority.

But people look to their leader in times of change. They have to hear that they’ve bought in to the strategy, but they have to see that they’ve bought in too. We remember the great leader-orators like Lincoln and Churchill; but words are nothing in leadership without deed.

If you’re a CEO or Managing Director who wants to kill email overload, ensure the success of an expensive software implementation or change communications behaviour, you can’t just want it to happen. You have to take the lead; you have to BE the change. Do that and the hard work of others will pay off.

Gorging on Christmas Content

The earliest journalist content request for a Christmas related article I got this year (from Peter of Rowing & Regatta magazine) was the 23rd of June.

Print magazines continue to use Christmas to jostle with each other on the newsstand. Even for those mags distributed on controlled circulations, it’s a time for bumper issues, annual round-ups and free giveaways. It’s also the time for most yearly subscription renewals, and that all-important December issue is the last make-or-break chance to make a genuine impression. However, there are less print magazines now than ever, and so the proportion of corporate communications being funnelled to buyers through that channel is getting marginalised.

The typical method of reaching the corporate buyer remains email, and again we see Christmas emerge as a common theme for content. You’re more than likely to receive some of these in your inbox in the run up to Christmas:

  • The ‘instead of burning carbon to send you a Christmas card, we thought we’d email you this’ seasonal greeting
  • The ‘lessons from 2014 you can put into action now’ list of top tips
  • The ‘what’s going to be really important in 2015 that we just happen to be ideally placed to sell you right now’ thought leadership piece
  • The ‘countdown to Christmas’ series of promotional emails, with a new one every single day
  • The ‘best content/news from the past year’ round-up (great for covering up the profound lack of any fresh content/news)
  • The ‘make sure you enjoy yourself this Christmas without having to worry about things that might go wrong as a direct consequence of not buying one of our products yet’ semi-threatening discount deal
  • The ‘buy now for no other reason than because it’s Christmas and we’ve stuck reindeer everywhere’ limited time offer

The obvious drawbacks with this approach are:

  • It’s a bit hackneyed, isn’t it?
  • The amount of Christmas related spam email always spikes during this time of year, and your message is a high risk of being zapped by the recipient (if the spam filter doesn’t get it first)
  • Email is also diminishing as a proportion of corporate communications voice, with the slack being taken up by social.

Ah… social. Real-estate wise, we’ve gone from A4 sized magazine cover landing on someone’s desk, to an email subject line enduring in someone’s inbox, to now – with social – an ephemeral snapshot of content appearing momentarily in the line of sight of a busy person’s fickle social media preference. What to put in those 140 characters or less…? Does your community want it to be full of knockabout festive cheer, or to continue engaging them on the kinds of trusted content you’ve worked hard to develop in the other 350 days of the year?

Christmas is 9 characters long (unless you’re the kind of heathen who’d swap for Xmas) and many people are sick of it by mid-December. We all need a creative theme for our content, but how creative is it when it’s the same theme as everyone else?

I say you threaten your integrity by complacently going through the motions with any kind of content. If you really want to share a good old-fashioned Christmas message with your customers or prospects, then you should absolutely go ahead and do it. But if you started looking at the calendar in mid-November and thought: “Eh up, time to wheel out the chrimble schmaltz,” then kindly go and stick it up your chimney.

And before I unwittingly cause offence by overlooking the religious and spiritual significance of Christmas, consider for a moment – by comparison – what vacuous lack of homage a box-shifting IT distributor is paying when it spams customers about its 2 for 1 Christmas offer on Ethernet routers.

A little less Christmas surely makes the Christmas we’ve got left far more special.