This is what I think when you send me a stroppy email (and why it’s a PR issue)

While I get tons of lovely emails from people thanking me for the content I share on my blog, podcast, webinars, social media and other free channels, I get at least one real stinker of an email every day.

Some senders are complaining about me sending too many emails (or even not enough). Others have taken umbrage at a word or phrase I’ve used in an email or on a sales page. It might be that they have a gripe about one of my products/services (perhaps justifiably so – nobody’s perfect).

But what they all have in common is this: the sender has clearly not thought about the impact of their email on their own business.

I’m only human. So when someone sends me an email that’s rude – or passive aggressive – I can’t help but go and check them out. I visit their website, their social media channels and anywhere else they appear online. And their name gets lodged in my brain…for all the wrong reasons. Which means the next time someone asks me to recommend a legal expert, a personal stylist, a jewellery designer (or whatever they happen to do for a living), I’m unlikely to recommend them.

In fact, if their email is really spiteful, I may share their website with a friend/colleague. However much I might want to be the bigger person, emails like this hurt and I might need to vent. 

I share this because when you run your own business, it’s easy to forget that you’re representing your brand at all times. It’s also easy to forget there is a real person reading your words – who might make a snap judgment about you and your business on the basis of your email – one that doesn’t really represent who you are. And is it really worth damaging your reputation unnecessarily?

With that in mind, here’s my tips for better email communication.

1.Use the unsubscribe button

If you’ve signed up to someone’s email list, then find the content is no longer relevant to you, there’s no need to email them and tell them they stink. Why not just vote with your feet and unsubscribe?

And if you think you’re getting too many emails, do you really need to send a stroppy email demanding to be taken off the list? Either unsubscribe or send a polite email along the lines of ‘I noticed I’d been getting a lot more emails from you than usual recently and I’m finding it a bit overwhelming.’ We often find that people sign up under more than one email address, for example, which means they end up getting everything twice (or more) – something that is easily resolved.

2.Leave your email in draft for a few hours (and/or get a friend to read it)

Writing a ranty email can be a great way to get your frustration out, but once you’ve hit ‘send’ you can’t take your words back. So leave your email in drafts for a few hours and come back to it when you feel a bit calmer (you may find you no longer want to send it at all). You might also want to send your email to a trusted friend to give you objective feedback before you hit ‘send’. If I have a difficult email to write I usually ask my assistant Jo to read it and give me her honest opinion – before I hit send.  

3. Remember you’re writing to a real person

It’s easy to be offhand with a stranger – particularly someone you’ve never met face to face (although you might – see point 5!). But remember that a real person will pick up that email – someone with feelings, just like you. Treat them with respect and compassion and you’re far more likely to get what you want.

4.Keep things in perspective

So you ordered a book and it hasn’t arrived. Your appointment was changed. You didn’t receive email instructions for the event. Yes, it’s annoying but is it worth damaging your business reputation over? 

Of course you should speak up when you don’t receive the kind of service you were expecting, but sending a stroppy email isn’t going to get the situation resolved any quicker. A polite ‘I ordered my book last week but it hasn’t arrived – please could you look into it?’ can get you the same outcome – without damaging your business reputation. 

And do try to establish the facts before you go in guns blazing. We recently had a very angry email from a fellow small business owner insisting we cancel their order for my Media Diary. It turned out they hadn’t even ordered one!

5. Be nice to everyone

You’ve heard the phrase about being nice to people on the way up as you might meet them on the way down….? There’s so much truth in that. And in an online world that’s getting smaller and smaller, you never know who might be connected to who – which means sending stroppy emails can come back and bite you on the bum. Much easier to be nice to everyone. 

6. Apologise when you’re wrong

I’d be the first to admit I’ve lost my cool and send the odd email I wish I hadn’t. But I’ve soon as I’ve realised my mistake, I’ve emailed the person and apologised.  When you take responsibility for your actions and apologise people generally admire you for it.