Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What your email auto-respond can do for you

"I saw your out-of-office message," said the vice president, the boss of the group of general managers I was training at a big corporation.

I'd crafted a message that told clients where I was traveling, which companies and groups I was working with and what we were doing, with links to my clients' websites...including his. And, of course, when I'd be back and how I was handling responses.

"I'm going to steal that idea," he said. "My group travels a lot, and their auto-responses could be telling clients and prospects about our work, and sharing examples, instead of just saying we're out of the office. And I like that you promoted us and the training we are doing with you. Makes us look smart."

That was when I told him I'd stolen the idea from another client, who was using her out-of-office automated messages to say things like "I'm in Portland, Oregon, for the week, working with the most amazing scientists and hearing about their plans to change how we protect the environment!" -- a message with good internal and external content, and likely a real team-builder, if nothing else.

Much as I learned in What's in a filename? The story of scipak and why filenames matter, these seemingly mundane, routine bits of content can play a powerful role in your messaging. And by that, I don't mean adding your corporate tagline to your signature block. I mean going a little further, being concrete and specific and authentic to what's happening right now, since an auto-responder most often reflects something that's happening right now, aka your absence. Your primary message is about how long you're away and how you will handle messages during that time. But you *could* add value by telling us more about the work you are doing, where you will be, with whom you are working, whether you want to meet up with people who also are there, and more. And that lets you co-promote your colleagues, your clients, and your portfolio.

If you work with clients, internally or externally, this is a no-brainer. Even if you can't mention with whom you are working or the specifics of the job for an external client, you can say you're in Seattle to work with a major client in aerospace or a corporate client for a high-level training. Get descriptive. And if it's your internal client taking you out of town, treat them the same way. "This week, I'm teaming up with our publishing department to work with the top editors of our award-winning magazine" will win you a few bonus points at the office.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new out-of-office messages that work better for you.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tommaso Galli)

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