E-Mail Blunder #4,492: “Look at Me”

Two weeks ago, I delivered the keynote speech at an email conference. I spoke about the significance of the impact your email communications have on the recipient’s brand perception. Though I could have provided lots of examples of large organizations that send creative that doesn’t match the brand, the best example was something I’d personally done the week before.

My office is in New York. One day, I was in a big hurry to leave for a client meeting. As I was about to shut down my computer, I received an email from our office’s managing director requesting some feedback on a client’s current email messages for an upcoming new business presentation. I stopped to read the message and forwarded it to the director of our email practice in San Francisco. The email I intended to send him was: “Look at these, and tell me what you think. Don’t send directly to the MD; send it to me so I can incorporate our thoughts and send one cohesive response.”

Through the loud ticking of the clock (reminding me I was late) and the phone ringing off the hook, what I actually sent was a message that read: “Look at me. Tell me what you think. Don’t send directly to the MD; I may want to edit or add my own thoughts.”

About an hour later as we were taking a five-minute break from the meeting, my cell phone rang. It was the SF email director. I answered the call and was shocked to hear him laughing so hard he could barely talk. When he relayed what my email actually said, I almost melted. I was caught between being totally embarrassed and thinking this was one of the funniest email mistakes I’d ever sent. I hung up with him and thought, “Uh-oh. This is going to spread fast.”

And it did. By the next morning, the entire North American email team, other agency coworkers, and a few clients were all calling or stopping by to tell me how they thought I looked. One client laughingly said, “I wanted to tell you early enough so if you didn’t like my answer you could edit it.” At that moment, I realized my professional brand, within this circle of people, was changed forever.

All with one little sentence in an email.

If that story doesn’t express the power an email has on your company brand, nothing will.

The moral of my story: Anyone in your organization who has any involvement in your email campaigns holds a great deal of power. That power will only grow stronger as digital communications increase. Your brand is at the mercy of your email group, partner, or agency.

How can you take advantage of that?

As you begin planning for 2007, take the time to thoroughly plan strategy around your email programs. Starting at the corporate or enterprise level, build in the following elements: time and funding to improve your email capture process, the impact and type of message you send when someone opts in to your lists, and the creative templates and consistency you use in every email throughout the organization.

If you need some help determining the right questions or want to speak to other email marketers to see how they’ve handled similar challenges, check out the Email Experience Council and sign up for the newsletter.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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