Tell a Story: Clean-up Your Inbox

by Ashley Pinder

A good communicator knows it’s important to “give the headline” up front to get your point across and tell the story.  In PR we know this fact, yet it hasn’t always been at the forefront of our office interactions. 

Over the past few years, e-mail has eliminated phone activity and inboxes have become unconquerable mazes.

“Our phones used to light up like a Christmas tree with incoming internal and outside calls,” said Roger Pynn.  “Now there are extended period of times where not a single line is lit.  It’s probably safe to assume that time spent on the phone to each other has transferred to e-mail.”

At C&P, we were drowning in e-mail; relying on it; and something had to be done. 

So we did what we know how to do – strategy.  We did some benchmarking with a large corporation to see how it had recently streamlined interoffice e-mailing and we adapted it to fit our firm.  We even made handy rulers with a key to line the bottom of our monitors.


Every single inter-office e-mail now fits into seven categories.  Action requires just that.  FYI is really just to inform.  Decision needs one of those too.  It’s really quite simple.  Every category is followed by a description.  Now, we can tackle the Actions and Decisions right away and let the FYI and Inputs wait until later. In addition to laying out these seven very simple categories, which are used at the beginning of an e-mail subject letting the recipient know exactly what is expected of them, we also laid out a few tips that we’ve come to accept at C&P:

  • If it’s a short thought or question; deliver it in person or on the phone.
  • Even though C&P is a small office always keep a professional tone.
  • Be brief and specific; use bullets as much as possible.
  • Don’t forget that e-mails are not private and can be forwarded.
  • Only include someone as a recipient if they need to be included.
  • Try to avoid using “Reply All.”
  • Don’t send a “Thanks” for everything; appreciation is understood.
  • If possible, put the message in the subject line and then include (EOM) to show that is the end of the message, thereby telling recipients they don’t have to open the message.
  • If you forward a message and it is no longer “Action” required, change the subject.

We’re making a conscious effort to cut down on e-mail when we could just walk down the hall to deliver the message.  It’s even helped foster a few new ideas that may have been missed during electronic exchanges.  Most importantly, it’s helped us to practice one of our biggest goals as communicators – to effectively tell the story.

2 Responses to Tell a Story: Clean-up Your Inbox

  1. Ann Ngo says:

    This is a great idea! Well thought out and well-written.

  2. akeorlando says:

    These are some great points, and I agree with most. One I’d never heard of is the “EOM” trick, and I love that!

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