300 Emails? It was 24 hours!
I would have never thought as a front line manager of a small team that I could receive as much email as I do. It’s so overwhelming, I’ve taken to putting my Out of Office as “Due to the volume of email, I will be deleting all email received in my absence. Please hold important correspondence til my return on 3 January 2024”!
So, how do we communicate to our peers and leaders if they’re also receiving this much email, or multitudes more? I propose a simple solution.
A quick to remember and learn writing template for emails born of years of military correspondence, when seconds mattered, and enough time in the corporate world to know that it’s on me to communicate effectively.
I originally adapted this from a business correspondence course, bolted on some pieces from the Army, and its served me well through out the years. I don’t quite get a 100% response rate, but it’s in the high 90’s.
Take it, modify as it fits your needs and situations and pass it on to those you mentor.
First, the Subject Line:
We’re going to break this down into two parts.
Is an action required?
If not, now’s a great time to let the leader know. If it’s just informational, make that your first point.
What are we talking about?
Provide some context up-front. Don’t make me read the entire email to figure out what you’re talking about.
Here’s an example of some of my most recent subject lines.
Confirmation Requested | Add Bob to Security Group $Name?
Informational | Project A Completed Milestone 2
Action Requested | Approve Paternity Leave
Executive Summary | Meeting with Vendor $ABC, LLC
A well crafted subject line can get the entire point across in less than a sentence and is much more likely to get a response from busy peers and leaders.
BLUF, Or Bottom Line Up Front
After the subject line, the BLUF or TL;DR is a restatement of your Needed Action along with a quick 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How).
Examples might look like this.
BLUF: Before the End of Q1, Junior analysts need to adopt the below email template to communicate more effectively.
BLUF: To prevent threat actors from threat actoring, all users must patch by Tuesday, December 26th.
This should encompass everything that the reader has to know and entice them to read more. If you’ve ever taken a journalism class, you may recognize this as the inverted pyramid format. Consider your Subject line to be a Headline, and the BLUF to be your by-line.
This is where the meat of your email comes into play. Any evidences need to support previous statements, extraneous details, length explanations, etc…
I prefer the below format for End User Notifications, Letters to Executive Teams, Historical briefs, and on and on.
What's Happening?: We're training users to write concise emails.
Why Is It Happening?: User emails are long and rambling and take up excessive time.
When?: Today, at 9p.
Who doing it?: The IT Leadership team, assisted by Corp Comms.
Where?: Virtually, at [Teams Invite](https://example.com)
How?: Instructors will explain inverted pyramid communications to users. Users will practice constructing their own email communications.
What Should I do?: Attend one of the scheduled trainings.
Each section should be its own concise header with a few lines of information for the reader.
We don’t want to give a novel, but this is our opportunity to provide information that aids our audience in their decision making, or supports our recommendation.