By: Isha Edwards
In the opening line of the movie, “The Gods must be Crazy,” the narrator says, “In man’s quest to make life simple, he made it more complex.” That is certainly the case with electronic mail, known as email, which replaced printed office memos in the late 90s.
Although the format is the same as a memo, the purpose of email is obscure, in part, because marketers have commandeered email to drive product sales, brand awareness, and engagement. Thanks to technology and social media, the shift from using a memo to circulate “briefs”* to having conversations, aggregating news, and advertising has wreaked havoc on inboxes worldwide. Daily, people spend an inordinate amount of time managing emails instead of completing assignments. As a result, they are less productive and they glaze over many a call to action (CTA).
Marketers can help curve inbox inundation and increase CTA response rate by employing the following email guide.
The saying, “I didn’t get the memo,” speaks to a time when reminders, instruction, and critical information circulated widely by printed memo. Failure to receive a memo was evidenced by lack of compliance—usually due to absence or an oversight in circulating the memo to everyone listed on the To: line. Anyone who missed acknowledging receipt of a memo was expected to comply once they had been “briefed” on memo contents. Ensuring that everyone is “on the same page,” is why some email servers have a confirmation receipt feature and others have an open or read feature.
Short for memorandum, memo is a Latin noun, which has the same root as memorare or memory. It translates to recount, to mention, or call to mind. A memo is informal business correspondence used for communicating simple instructions, information, and news. The primary audience for a memo includes managers or leaders and colleagues within an organization or group. Clients or customers and constituents may be copied on a memo or issued a memo, in which case, the tone of the memo should be formal.
Nine important things to know about a memo:
1. *The origin of the office memo is tied to legal “briefs.” It is also a derivative of “military briefings”. Think of a memo as a note that summarizes lengthy, detailed information.
2. Technically speaking, you should only distribute an email memo when your message needs to be documented in writing–not as a way to avoid speaking with people by phone or even face-to-face due to schedule conflicts (#4 explains why).
3. Email memos should be used to instruct (think SOPs, logistics, operations, etc.), remind (meetings, events, and other activities like server maintenance, holiday closings, etc.), and inform (share news about an opportunity, individual or organization). An acceptable use of an email memo is as a follow-up to a telephone conversation or an in person meeting.
4. Before email, garnering a response to a memo did not occur by issuing another memo. Responding to a memo with memos is dialogue or conversation. When a “paper trail” is not required, conversations should occur by phone or in person because doing so increases productivity.
5. Although being courteous is welcomed in all communication, salutations like “Hi” and “Dear” or “Good morning,” are not required for a memo neither is a complimentary close like “Best,” “Regards,” and “Sincerely.” Salutations and the complimentary close are for formal letters (view business communication styles via The Gregg Reference Manual).
6. For the same reason stated in #5, a signature line is not required for a memo. That is the purpose of the From: line in an email. However, an acceptable practice is to add your signature line to an introductory email. Thereafter, it becomes redundant, and makes an email difficult to follow or even print especially if you include your signature line with each response. Otherwise, your initials suffice. Personal quotes are unnecessary.
7. Use the 5Ws: who, what, when, where and why to write your memo.
8. If your message is long or complex, attach details as a Word, Pages, or PDF file. The same applies to financial reports created in Excel or Numbers (see #1).
9. A memo longer than a half page or “below the fold” is equal to a formal letter or a newsletter. Either simplify your message or provide details in an attachment.
Email Newsletters The purpose of communication is to solicit a response to a CTA. You can also increase awareness or reinforce brand values. Today, many emails end up in spam, or are trashed without ever being opened. Timing is said to limit newsletter open rates, but that is not cured by sending the same message several times per day/week, neither is it cured by sending messages during peak hours like other marketers. In the era of excess, less is more.
Email fatigue is a problem. People naturally tap out right before they tune out even if they opted in. You can temper how quickly your audience taps out by aligning with their communications needs, but also by following proven communications practices. The best way to garner a response to an email newsletter is to send less, i.e., one message at a time less often. Why? The medium (email memo) dictates the message type and purpose.
If possible, ask your audience about their sales, engagement, and awareness preferences then simplify, but also personalize communication. Vary your voice, your content, and your writing style, but also make your message meaningful. Reduce the frequency of your message such that it is a welcomed surprise. If sales or engagement are key performance indicators then reducing the amount and frequency of email newsletters may seem counterproductive. Use analytics to compare the impact of a lean communications strategy.
Did you get the memo? If you found this article useful, please post your initials in the comment section then govern yourself accordingly. You may also discuss this article on Twitter via @EPiC_Isha #writeRIGHT.
To request Business Writing for Professionals training for your company or organization, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isha Edwards (Marketing & Leadership) – an idea catalyst for individuals and organizations across 12 industries including music, media, fashion, film, academia, professional services, nonprofit, and STEM. Through EPiC Measures http://www.epicmeasures.com/, Isha provides brand-driven marketing consultingand business development services.