3 Tips to Avoid Costly Mistakes When Rushing Through Email


Melissa Hurley

Melissa Hurley

As PR pros, we have to work fast. We often have tight deadlines, clients who rely on us to respond quickly and multiple activities that we’re juggling at once.

Unfortunately, when we work quickly, it can often mean that little mistakes get made—and as communications professionals, little mistakes can be costly, especially when we’re speaking with high-profile client contacts, prospects and members of the media.

Before you hit "send" on an email or pick up the phone to call a client or reporter, make sure you follow these three tips to avoid a misstep that could damage your relationship.

1. Be an Email Expert: Accidentally sending an email to the wrong client or a half-baked pitch to a reporter, one that has the wrong name, no subject line, a forgotten attachment or messy formatting (color and font inconsistencies), is embarrassing and will damage your client and journalist relationships. You can avoid the “sent too soon” email trap by following a few simple guidelines.

When you draft an email, enter the recipient’s email address last. If you are replying to an email, remove the address and re-insert it after you’ve drafted the response. If you enter the email address last, you’ll be forced to proofread and won’t risk hitting send by mistake. Also, employ the “undo send” (Gmail) or “email recall” (Outlook) functions on your email platform. That way you still have the option of taking back what you sent as a last resort.

2. Pitch Properly: Don't pitch reporters without having read their work. Pitching the wrong reporter is the fastest way to embarrass yourself and the company you represent. Also, make sure you know the pitch topic inside and out; reporters will often ask questions about your pitch, and while your goal is to get them to ask these questions of your client, you should be able to sound intelligent when speaking with them.

3. Ask Appropriately: Clients (sometimes) love questions because they would prefer projects be completed accurately the first time to minimize any back-and-forth, and to ensure that we’re representing them properly. Before you ask a question, consider the following: Do I already know the answer or can I find it easily on my own? If the answer can easily be found in a document you already have, in an email or via the Internet, try those options before asking your client. It’ll make you look resourceful and demonstrate that you appreciate how valuable their time is.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all hit “send” on an email accidentally and then had that moment of panic when you realize it’s already left your inbox and there’s nothing you can do to take it back. We’ve all pitched the wrong reporters at one time or another without taking the time to research their work, and we’ve all asked questions we could probably find the answers to ourselves but were in a hurry.

As PR pros, however, it’s important to take the time to be thorough and accurate in everything we do without cutting corners—it can make the difference to retaining clients long-term and building good relationships with reporters.

Melissa Hurley is senior director of Affect, a public relations and social media firm located in New York. She can be reached at email: mhurley@affect.com.




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  • Wmecke

    Best way to get me to read an email is to send a recall. It’s just like rubbernecking at a highway accident – you know it’s not helpful, but you just can’t resist.

  • http://www.krisschindler.com Kris Schindler

    You don’t need to be an email “expert” to know a message can’t be recalled a message in Outlook unless both the sender and recipient(s) are on the same Exchange server. Really, I’ve found since I essentially stopped using email three years ago that I no longer need to rush through it because instead of hundreds of messages each day, I now only receive a few dozen per month. The best way to manage email overload is to find alternative- and generally more effective and efficient- methods to communicate.