I used to work on a busy newsdesk at a national newspaper and it is no exaggeration to say that many hundreds, of not thousands of emails would come in every day. You must know what your audience wants or you won’t get them to take the correct action.
It was a full time job in itself just reading through all the information which came through the newsroom each day to find ones we would want to follow up for publication.
The fact is that only a tiny percentage of the information which poured into the newsroom ever got to come out of the other side as an article in the next day’s publication – the rest was just deleted.
But at least everything got read before it got deleted right? Wrong.
There were not enough hours in the day to read everything so this is what would typically happen:
- not a look in – some people or organizations who had gained a reputation of sending absolute rubbish would have their emails immediately deleted – unread.
- you’ve got to be joking – some emails were just too long and boring to read and as a result, they did not get read at all. If the email went on for six or seven pages and looked boring then it would not even get read. Yes we may have missed some good stories by ignoring this source of content but that is what happened.
- you have ten seconds starting from now – If I didn’t know who an email was from then I would look at it…for all of about ten seconds (or less) Basically if the first paragraph didn’t grab my attention then I stopped reading and moved on to the next one.
- I know you and I like you – Some people sent in emails that were timely, relevant, interesting and right up our street. These were always given the most attention as they were most likely to contain material we could use as content for the next day’s paper.
- Please stop annoying me – At the opposite end of the spectrum were emails from PR companies which were nothing short of marketing drivel. You could judge the levels of desperation by the amount of times they would send the same email and follow them up with maddening phone calls.
You don’t have to work for a newspaper to learn lessons from these examples because they can apply to anyone who sends an email to anyone ever.
Basically know what your audience wants and send emails that will actually want to read. You won’t get it right all the time but if around eight out of ten of your emails are on target then you should be doing very well indeed.