Josh Merkin|Oct 20, 2014

A couple of weeks back, I was deep into my world of multitasking: I was responding to a client email on my phone while holding a Facetime conversation. Then, you guessed it: I messed up. I was trying to send my team a thought about a client and ended up emailing the client directly.

Luckily, what I said was completely harmless and the client was understanding, but it got me thinking about just how quickly our goodwill and good work can get derailed by one wrong “send.”

While face-to-face interaction is the preferred method of client communication, time and geographic locations don’t always allow for this, which is why email is and will remain the primary form of interaction.

However, because email is a part of PR pros’ daily routines, it’s easy to become robotic in emails and forget that how you answer emails is a reflection of your ability and skills. With that in mind, below are some rules to live by when it comes to your email communication with clients.

1. Being responsive doesn’t always mean you have to know the answer right away

If a client emails you with question you don’t know the answer to, it’s smart to at least acknowledge its receipt. This lets them know you’re working on their question and will respond when you’re able to provide the information they’re seeking.

Of course, any urgent requests should be dealt with immediately, but being responsive is smart client relations and assures them that their emails are important. That said…

2. Don’t let smartphones make you stupid

Smartphones are great, because you can show clients how much you love them by answering their email within seconds of receiving it. But don’t let your hunger for being responsive cloud your judgment, either.

We tend to reply to messages on smartphones in a much terser manner, and while spelling mistakes and abbreviations are more accepted it’s important to weigh fast client service vs. intelligent communication.

Smartphone email responses can also be heavily influenced by time of day and outside surroundings. Replying to a client while driving, coaching your child’s soccer practice or consuming a couple of glasses of wine might not be the best idea. Instead, put those thumbs back into your pockets and wait until you have a clear head.

3. Edit and proofread until you are blue in the face

You wouldn’t send a press release or a strategy plan to a client without a careful proofread. Emails should be treated the same way. In fact, if you aren’t proofreading at least three times before sending, then you’re doing yourself an injustice.

Earlier in my career, I worked for a supervisor who was tough when it came to client communications. Oftentimes my phone would be buzzing less than three seconds after I sent an email, and she would be asking why I said something a certain way, why I wasn’t more extensive in my explanation, or why I was so verbose. Was this micromanaging? Perhaps, but I got the point. You are judged by your ability to communicate through email.

The editing process is more than just counting on spellcheck. Each email requires a thorough reading to ensure that you have answered questions, provided valid strategic counsel, and crafted a message that positively reflects your knowledge and ability.

Editing your email is also a great way to ensure you’re being clear and concise. It’s important to remember that whoever is on the receiving end of that email is just as busy as you, so make their life easier by keeping it simple. That brings me to my final suggestion.

4. Make sure your email is shareable

Whether you’re dealing directly with your client’s in-house marketing team, PR executives or even the C-suite, there is a pretty good chance your email will be forwarded to someone else in their office. Therefore, consider how someone reading your email for the first time might perceive it. Would he or she understand what you’re conveying?

Making your client’s life easier is always a bonus for you, so providing them an email that can easily be shared is a best practice that should be utilized always.

Also, be aware mindful of your tone. Often, after working with clients for a while, you may be more casual in your replies. Double check your responses, especially when you’re writing a short one, to ensure you’re avoiding a tone that could be misinterpreted.

There are always exceptions to these rules and not all situations require you to be William Strunk, but keep in mind that email is more than just a primary means of communicating – it is a reflection of your company’s brand, as well as your own. Don’t take it for granted.


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