You’ve Got Mail … NOT!

You’d think with us being communicators we’d have mastered the art of the quick response; or understand the importance of getting back to people who email us. But it still amazes me at the number of professional PR people out there who make unprofessional impressions by not responding back to the people who send them a message.

Take for example, my recent experience trying to find a client project for my Client Project class. As part of this course, I had to do some PR work (free of charge I might add) for the next 10 weeks with a local organization, not-for-profit, or agency. So I emailed a bunch of organizations (about 10 – 12) asking for help and outlined in detail what were the requirements of the class, what I needed to do, and what the role of the organization would be. Imagine my surprise then, when out of the 10-12 organizations I contacted only five of them responded.

Now I know what you’re thinking … what did I do wrong? What was the catch? Did I write a poor email? Did I come off as a spammer? Perhaps I was just a victim of the cynical belief that a free offer of help was too good to be true. After all, why would anyone not jump at the chance to have some free PR work done for them? Well, I hate to break it to you, but there was no catch! In fact, the only thing required of the company was that they simply grade me on the work I did for them and provide that evaluation to my instructors.

But, no matter what the reasons were behind my lack of responses, it seems incredible to me that anyone in the PR industry would not comprehend the value of responding to people who contact them, even if to just say no. As my instructor Christine Smith told us in our PR Writing class, emailing someone back, even if it’s just a quick response to say you got the original email, shows respect. And in this industry, the respect we show others translates into the respect we receive in turn for ourselves and our organizations. So that said, let me say a great thanks to those individuals who did show me some respect by getting back to me, and increased my respect for them tenfold by doing so.

1.) Marnie L. Hill, Senior Executive Communications Consultant, IBM Canada Ltd.

2.) Tanya Wymer, Corporate Communications Manager, Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.

3.) Barbara Onrot, General Manager, The Group Tix Company Inc.

4.) Cynthia Shipley, Manager, Marketing, Toronto Zoo

And, the communicator who I am working with for my client project:

5.) Tammy McQueen, Manager of Communications, Citizens’ Environment Watch

So, maybe I am being a little naïve, but I think in this industry, where gaining positive public perception is 75 – 80 per cent of our battle; what impression do you think it gives your audience when you don’t bother to respond to their questions? These communicators above proved how a little consideration went a long way to getting a lot of respect. It’s that kind of thought that makes me think these individuals are the kind of people that I would want to know, and the kind of bosses I would want to work for … and not just for a client project.

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3 Responses

  1. Marnie and Tanya are both graduates of our PR program. I gues they learned their lessons well!

    Another comment: busy communicators get hundreds of e-mails a day and they’ve lots of pressures to produce. Tons. So, don’t be too hard on those who didn’t reply.

    Perhaps they wanted to take advantage of your offer but it required too much time, thought and effort to decide exactly how they might use your skills. Then, 25 more e-mails landed in their boxes and they got sidetracked.

  2. Thanks for the response Christine. I agree with you in some respects. Many communicators are swamped with hundreds of requests daily, and trying to manage them, I imagine, can only be a nightmare.

    At the same time, however, it only takes a minute to respond if you need to say no, and maybe two minutes to say, “yes, but I will email you back as soon as I can, because right now I am very busy.” (Ok, well maybe three minutes…)

    But I should point out that I haven’t written off these organizations as bad, or the communicators who didn’t respond, as lost causes. Rather, I recognize that when busy, it’s hard to shift attention to something else and therefore someone who mailed you may not get e-mailed back.

    At the same time though, it still makes an impression, and this one for me wasn’t too impressive. But it just shows me the importance of what you were trying to instill in us, that email etiquette is a lot more important than we think.

  3. Joe, I had the same problem all throughout journalism school.
    I would send out e-mails AND call when they did not respond and most times the outcome was one of two things:

    1. They responded to my e-mail/called back long after my deadline
    2. They did not respond at all

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