E-mail management for the PRos

March 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm (development, public relations, strategy) (, , )

E-mail @ imageLet me just share some great news with everyone. I recently was offered a spring internship with Waggener Edstrom, which I ecstatically excepted (yay!). But this is not the point of my post.

During the interviewing process, every person I talked to emphasized the importance being skillful at e-mail in every angle. People probably usually think: E-mail, really? Isn’t it just sending a message? Isn’t it just another communication tool?

Yes, no and no. Yes, it is sending a message and it is another communication tool, but it definitely is not something that gets a “just.” For my generation, e-mail began as a fun way to connect with friends, which it still is. But now, it also is a tool for effectively communicating in a business, an industry and with clients and building relationships, especially for PR.

Brian Zafron’s post on Freelance Switch gives great tips for successfully learning the “art of e-mail.” Some of my favorites include: “brand with a meaningful subject line,” “don’t be a pompous jerk” and “brevity is key.” I’d like to add one to the list – manage your responses.

Here are my tips to managing your responses:

  • Organize your e-mail inbox into folders. You can stick e-mails you’ve responded to and ones you don’t need to respond to in the folders, so you can focus on the e-mails that need action. The uncategorized ones stay within the general inbox as a constant reminder for responding.
  • Flag e-mails by category. Microsoft Outlook and Entourage (not too familiar with Mozilla’s Thunderbird) allow you to color code flag e-mails. Flagging signifies that the e-mail is important, and the color signifies the category or importance (you can choose the one that fits you best – everyone works a little differently) of the e-mail. Plus, you can pull up all the flagged e-mails at once.
  • Respond to important e-mails immediately. The business world (and society) is extremely fast-paced, and for anything important, you must respond immediately. Even if you need to do a little more research, a simple – I will research and get back to you within 24 hours – will go a long way. Just don’t forget to actually get back to the person. It keeps the person informed and helps him or her know what is going on. It’s active communication.
  • Respond to not-as-important e-mails eventually. I would say the rule of thumb for responding to an e-mail is within 24 hours (probably 48-72 hours, if you get at least 200 e-mails a day). But this is only for e-mails that can be given some time before you respond.
  • Learn your e-mailers preferences. If he or she says – get back to me in the next day or two – you better get back within a day or two. Once you begin building relationships with the people you constantly e-mail, you’ll get to know how they work.
  • ALWAYS set up an automated response when you are out-of-town or out-of-commission and give another contact for immediate needs. It helps the person on the other side to know that they need to contact someone else, in the case of emergency.

These tips and Zafron’s tips are great starting points to writing and managing e-mails. Everyone works a little differently when it comes to organizing and writing. Start here and begin finding your ways to being a successful e-mailer.

Do you have any other tips for the PRos?

* Image courtesy of Flickr: labanderadeadiosayer.



  1. Stephen Davies said,


    That’s excellent news! An internship with a global PR agency, huh? Congratulations. It’s a pretty amazing start for your transition from student to professional. I have a friend that works at Wag Ed’s London office. They’re a great agency.

    Oh, yeah, email. I have issues with email. My main issue is I receive too many of them! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, though, with blogging and other social networks I belong to I’m inundated with email not just with work communication but personal communication too. It can get a little out of hand.

    You’re right though, you have to develop some kind of system that works best for you. Have you read the book, Getting Things Done?


    This supposed to be the killer book in productivity and time management. I actually bought a copy for myself but, well…um, I haven’t had the time to read it yet.

  2. Ged Carroll said,

    Eileen, welcome, drop me a mail when you land at Wagged. I work out of the LDN office.

  3. Eileen Chang said,

    Stephen – Thanks for the book tip. I’ll add it to my reading list. I’m sure my tips for e-mail management will evolve a little more once I begin working, but I’m still optimistic in believing that it is completely manageable =)

    Ged – I will definitely contact you when I start. It’ll be about three weeks from now. Thanks for the welcome!

  4. Andrea Nowack said,

    Hi Eileen,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog; I am so excited for you to start at WE! You will love it here; WE is a great agency to work for (and OSB is a great team!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I am glad you are already taking first steps in learning e-mail management, because you will need it here! (not to scare you or anything…) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    See you March 31st, and good luck finishing up spring term. Shout if you have any questions in the meantime.


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