Looking back in the early days of my career, there are several things I wish I’d known. Now that I’m the CMO of Leyard’s international business and vice president of marketing and product strategy at Planar, I’m sharing lessons that would have been helpful when I started my career, in hopes they will help recent graduates as they enter the professional workforce.

In most professional environments, email is the most commonly used communication tool. While you have likely used personal email for many years, there are different protocols in the work place. These 10 guidelines will help ensure you are communicating what you want to communicate and how your message is being received.

1. Never use email to criticise or gossip

Never say something on email that you don’t want printed and put on the company bulletin board. Never gossip or take a harsh tone in email. Assume every email will be read by more than the recipient – before you hit send, would you be comfortable sending it to everyone in the company?

2. Never use email to discuss a heated or controversial topic.

Because you can’t read an email and determine the intended tone, it is not a good medium for discussing sensitive things, being sarcastic or delivering feedback. A good rule of thumb is that if there are more than 3 replies in the thread, it is best to take the conversation off-line to a meeting (in person or at least on the phone). You can reply to the thread saying, “It looks like this topic is a good one for us to discuss further. I suggest that we don’t continue in email, but rather schedule a call or meeting. How would tomorrow at 3 PM look for you?” Plus, a measured response demonstrates maturity and self-control, which are always good in the workplace.

3. Use proper language and full sentences

Do not use text slang (do not use LOL, BRB or the number 2 in place of “to” or “too”). In some offices, using this shorthand in messaging applications (like Lync or Skype or WeChat) is okay, but not in email. By using proper grammar and spelling, you are showing that you are professional, intelligent and do not take unnecessary shortcuts.

4. Respond to every email

Unless it says that no response is necessary, reply to all emails addressed to you. It can be with an answer or with more questions. It can be with a simple “thank you” or a message of completion to a project request. If you want to acknowledge the email, but don’t yet have the answer or have anything to report, reply back saying when you will respond. “I wanted to say that I got this request and have begun work on it. I expect to be done on Tuesday and will let you know when it is complete.” Keeping it short is fine, and often preferred. Responding to emails is a way to make and keep commitments while building trust.

5. Set your out of office when you are away

When you are on vacation, travelling for business, or even away from your desk in meetings (if they last longer than when people would expect a reply from you, which varies by job and person), set your out of office message. Most email programs allow you to set your out of office for a particular time and deliver different messages to internal and external parties. Keep it short and professional. Say how long you will be out of the office. Tell them you will get to their message as soon as you can, but they should expect delays. Offer them an alternative contact for immediate assistance, if one is available. Never disclose personal information in an out-of-office intended for external parties (i.e., “I’ll be partying on the beach in Miami for Spring Break”).

6. How to use the To: line: strategically

If you want someone to take action or the email is addressed to them, put them in the TO line. Most emails should be to one person or to a small group where all of the roles are clear and be sure to clarify who you need to respond to which aspects. For example: “Kevin, I am copying you so that you can help me estimate the costs. Gary, can you help me greet our guests at 2 PM tomorrow?”

7. How to use the CC: line: judiciously

Include people in the CC if they need to be aware of the discussion, but are not active participants. If you are sharing good news or a compliment, feel free to copy in that person’s manager. Avoid the temptation to copy the world in on emails, especially if the content is bad or difficult. (And remember it’s often better to handle difficult news in person rather than over email.)

8. How to use the BCC line: carefully

Blind carbon copies are often used to complain or as a way to “cover your tracks”. My advice is to be honest and do not use it to be sneaky. In general, I don’t think it is a good form of communication and I don’t use it. The times BCC is acceptable is sending company-wide email to avoid unnecessary reply-alls, or if someone introduces to you to someone else via email. For example, a good use of BCC would be if Bill thinks you should know Sue and sends an email suggesting you have coffee sometime with Sue. You can move Bill to BCC to thank him for the introduction (telling him you are moving him to the BCC), then remove him from the conversation you and Sue as you figure out when to schedule the coffee.

9. How to use “reply to all”: rarely

Replying to all is rarely a good idea. It clogs up emails and makes people look like amateur communicators. The exception to this is when someone is trying to schedule a meeting or brainstorming to build upon each other’s ideas. But even then there are better ways, such as using the busy/available tool in the calendar.

10. Don’t forget how to write a letter

I like to send hand-written notes. It is bit old-fashioned, I know, but because it is rare, the gesture is genuinely appreciated. I have gotten thank you calls and emails from folks who received a thank you note and felt compelled to respond. It is a great way to build relationships.


Jennifer Davis is a senior executive, industry presenter, business leader, mentor and volunteer. She is the vice president of marketing and product strategy for Planar Systems, a global leader in display and digital signage technology. More information about Jennifer is available at her website: http://atjenniferdavis.com/#homeinfo

In any industry, the way we ‘talk’ to one another in the business world is through email. But how do you leave a lasting impression on a potential employer or current boss? Enter: the perfectly crafted email.

Whether you want to take your career to the next level, or are on a hunt for a stellar new job, having a killer email is essential. Here are 5 ways to write the perfectly crafted email. Get ready to negotiate your way to the top and sing your own praises to the bossman via email!

1. Hug Your Inbox & Say Hello

In face-to-face negotiations, research finds that the more powerful person will usually win out. If you’re negotiating with your boss, you have a better chance when negotiations are conducted over the phone or (surprise surprise) via email.

Facebook messaging and/or Skype chatting co-workers and bosses are a staple in people’s daily routine than face-to-face watercooler sessions. Some might actually call this unhealthy, others would call it the perfect opportunity to engage in negotiation.

Steve Jobs changed the game for how negotiation happens through email. In true word brawl, details are spewed via email, when we are often told these matters should be handled in person. It just goes to show that if done right, negotiating is possible over email.

2. First Impression = Subject Line

The first thing anyone sees when glancing at their inbox is subject lines. Keep your subject line simple yet informative. Mailchimp performed an email subject line study and found that short, descriptive subject lines perform best.

Try utilizing a call-to-actions, keep it under 50 characters, and don’t abuse the ALL CAPS button or exclamation points. Also, don’t fall into the temptation of using the subject line for a short email. It’s a habit that leads to unread emails later.

3. Spread the Good Vibes

Once you’ve established a subject matter, open with a personal statement. It sends a signal that you’re trustworthy. Try this:

Hi Jane,

I just returned from a much-needed family vacation at the happiest place in the world, Disney. It feels good to be back in the office again even though my to-do list seems to e overflowing.

Emails aren’t meant to be peace, love, and happiness, but studies have shown that those who share personal details throughout negotiations have yielded higher results than those who kept things dry and monetary.

Try utilising a call-to-actions, keep it under 50 characters, and don’t abuse the ALL CAPS button or exclamation points.

Next, engage in a Q&A conversation with your negotiating partner. Getting people to talk about themselves can trigger the same sensations of pleasure as food or money so use this to your advantage. Be sure your questions and action items are clear and explicit with bullet points and proper format. Keep in mind the other person’s perspective. It’s always good to validate their opinion to have them working with you.

Also, be aware of your verbiage. Using words like “we” help to build cooperation by promoting a sense of union. Try to stray away from these words.

4. Don’t Be Too Casual

Ask yourself: What’s your market value? When employees get an offer, feelings of happiness and giddiness are the most common responses, in the hopes of trying not to seem too delighted. This causes a chain reaction that forces people to gloss over real issues in hopes to earn brownie points in the long run.

This will drive your manager crazy. The best strategy is to voice your concerns and work through them.

5. Show No Fear & Be A Solution

When closing your emails, end with a clear call to action. Stay confident and don’t ask them for the next steps – GIVE them the next steps. Make it simple for your negotiating partner to say yes to a meeting or phone call.

Be sure your questions and action items are clear and explicit with bullet points and proper format.

It’s been 20+ years that people have been using email. It’s a proven form of communication for the business community. Words are capable of communicating the bottom line and can portray emotions of passion, curiosity, and empathy. By mimicking “real life” conversations via email, you have the ability to successfully reach your end results.

Featured photo credit: amanky via photopin cc

Anna Crowe Leaders in Heels bio imgAnna Crowe, Hello Anna Branding

Anna has helped brands like McDonald’s, staySky Hotels & Resorts, and Hearst Publications achieve explosive success. In her spare time, Anna moonlights as a blogger and enjoys eating vanilla frosted donuts with sprinkles. Say hello on Twitter via @annaleacrowe

Digital clutter is becoming a bigger issue as more people are trying to leave behind paper and deal with the digital world. After watching an episode on the Living Room, Episode 23 featuring Peter Walsh, I had an ‘aha’ moment to deal with digital clutter. Peter was dealing with a couple who had to clean out all their things from a granny flat and start afresh. The final reveal really showed how much of a difference it can make to your headspace when things are cleaned out.

Aha Moment: There are often deeper issues when dealing with clutter, regardless of whether it is dealing with emails, files or even apps. The process of cleaning your ‘digital clutter’ out can make a huge difference not only to your headspace, but to your productivity.

Recently I had a client who needed urgent attention with her email. She had over 4,500 emails sitting in her inbox and had got to the point of being ‘infowhelmed – or information overloaded’.

Here are five steps to dealing with ‘digital mess’.

1. Unsubscribe to (or roll up!) emails you don’t need!

I recently used unroll.me to unsubscribe to over 180 email lists that I had in my three email accounts. It was amazing to watch the next morning as my inbox drastically reduced. They include a service entitled ‘Unroll.me Daily Wrap Up’ where you can choose to have several subscriptions rolled up into one email. My client who had email overload used this service and unsubscribed to over 90 email lists.

Tip: Realise WHY you are holding onto these emails. If they are important, copy the link and paste it into an Evernote notebook (or pin it to a Pinterest Board). It’s then important to delete the email, so you can get to INBOX ZERO!

2. Find those files (and name them properly!)

So, have you ever been taught how to name and tame your files? I have a number of clients who have difficulty finding their files because of the organisation of their folders/sub-folders or lack of folders.

I discovered David Sparks (author of ‘Paperless’), and he suggests having YY-MM-DD followed by a space and hyphen, then a description of the document. An example is this blog post, written on 14-07-30. Then I usually add what it’s related to i.e. invoice, blog post or client files.

3. Consistency for your files

Why use Evernote? I have been working with both new and existing clients recently using Evernote to manage their ‘digital filing cabinet’ i.e. taking notes, scanning documents, planning renovations, working on projects, keeping records of warranties and the list goes on. This is available for desktop (Mac/Windows), Android, iOS, Windows devices and Blackberry. So last year, I started running Evernote workshops in Melbourne because I realised that individuals are struggling with ‘digital overload’ of information.

4. File Receipts

Today, receipts are all thermal, so if you don’t deal with them immediately, they are at risk of fading. Late last year, I worked with Denise Childs from ‘Systems for Order’, a professional organiser (something I wish I had done a few years ago). I realised as we were working on my lounge room that I had a huge issue with paper trails, with paper left in at least 6 places around the house.

Tip: Where is the paper trail in your house? How do you file your receipts?

It got me thinking about making scans of important documents that I need, either with Evernote, or another app called ‘JotNot Scanner Pro’ so that I can access them easily through Evernote, Dropox or Google Drive.

Shoeboxed’ is another option which also has an app which allows you to scan your receipts in. It uses them to create an expense report. The other option they have is to send files to a central location, and they will do the work for you for a fee.

5. Organise your website research

How do you organise your website research? I personally use Pinterest on both my desktop via the Internet (Mac) and my iPad and it is one of my favourite apps and websites.

There are some other great tools–I highly recommend using Evernote Web Clipper and Evernote Clearly to manage websites that I would like to collect. You will need to sign up for a free Evernote account first, so you can add the resources to your Evernote notebooks.

The iOS (iPhone and iPad) version is Dolphin Web Browser and I use this when I am not using my laptop. It is also available forAndroid users.


photo credit: T a k

Being an entrepreneur, it’s important to manage digital files so that you business can be more productive and save time, money and frustration! For further details, on how you can get help with ‘digital decluttering, contact Tech Coach HQ.

Megan Iemma

Technology Coach and “IT” girl Megan Iemma is a thought leader in the world of technology and its uses. An educator and techno geek, Megan combined her passions for education and technology and founded Tech Coach HQ working with businesses and their teams to improve processes and embrace the productivity technology has to offer.