Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do what you say, say what you do

Recently, my colleague Martin Waxman, shared an e-mail he had received from a business acquaintance we both know. In content, format and style, it is a fitting example of how even the etiquette-savvy among us get tripped up when using the Internet to do business.

The e-mail's objective was to encourage Martin to purchase tickets for an upcoming event. It should be noted that the event in question was obviously near and dear to the sender's heart, featured a high-profile speaker and had a charitable component. All good things.

What raised the etiquette flag was the way the message was delivered. The e-mail started with Happy New Year and went on to read: "I wanted to send you a personal note...". When I read this, my eyes immediately gravitated up towards the To field, which read: undisclosed-recipient. In my view, a 'personal' note goes out to one person and starts with a personal salutation which includes the recipient's name (e.g. Hi Martin, I wanted to send you a personal note...). You could probably bend this rule if you were sending it to a group that was already in formation or a group small enough in size, that all members could be called out in the body of the e-mail (e.g. Dear PR Club of Canada membes or Hi Martin, Louise and Amy).

I realize in a time-starved world, it's tedious to send 50 separate e-mails when you can, in theory, accomplish the same thing with one. But, in our somewhat impersonal society, don't people deserve to feel they are worthy of a truly personal e-mail, especially when you are asking them to spend money?

In this case, the sender could have easily avoided the etiquette gaffe by simply omitting the word 'personal' and being honest with recipients by apologizing for the mass mailing up-front. A little honesty and humility can go a long way, maybe even encourage people to open their wallets.


  1. I'm totally on board with your p.o.v, Louise -- even if I'm sending essentially the same message to several people, if I can I actually send individual e.mails and personalize the content for the person I'm addressing. If I'm sending a group e.mail, I start with a group salutation. May be because I tend to form solid connections with most people -- I LIKE people! -- so I really feel I'm speaking with the addressees as though they're just on the other side of the screen.

    Welcome to blogworld, by the way! It's a nifty place to hang out!


  2. Louise - congrats! Great topic and insights -- I was just noticing how nice it was to receive a personal note from you about your new venture. I love that you 'walk the walk.'

    Look forward to seeing you soon! Charlene