The Problem with Being Slightly Famous

One of the things that happens when you become slightly famous is that a whole lot of people want a little piece of your time. Sure, it may only be ten minutes, or even two, but multiply that by dozens, or even hundreds, of people, and pretty soon you’re buried in a stack of email, voice mail, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, and so on, most of which will take some time to reply to, and some of them maybe never.

That can be frustrating enough by itself – you want to help everyone and reply to every email in a timely fashion, but it’s simply not possible, or at least not practical. Unfortunately, some people take offense at it, or attribute it to something other than simply information overload. They think you’re either mad, rude or disorganized, when in reality, you’re just very, very busy.

Social media can exacerbate this problem. Besides creating even more channels for people to demand your time, it also can create difficulty when you’re publicly spending time in social media and people who are trying to communicate with you individually see that, as happened to Steve Rubel last night:

image

I can empathize with both sides of this. On the one hand, I totally empathize with Steven in this situation. The smiley face is a small amelioration of the fact that he’s being called out on this issue over an 8-word Facebook post, which I’m sure took far less time than responding to her email would.

[NOTE: Karen’s a friend of Steve’s, not a client, and this post was clearly in fun, but still, it illustrates the point. What follows is stream of thought, not based on this specific example. I’m not accusing Steve of what I describe below, and I realized after the fact that it may have come across that way. Apologies to Steve & Karen for that – not my intention.]

On the other hand, if I were a paying customer of someone, waiting on work from them, it would be very frustrating for me to see them blogging, conversing on Twitter, posting extensively on Facebook, etc. As a service provider, I become pretty scarce in social media when I have clients waiting on work from me. While you’re entitled to use your time as you see fit, and to continue to engage in marketing while you have client work due, I think being really “out there” in public social media is kind of rubbing it in their face.

Always keep in mind that your current customers are far more important relationships to your business than your social media fans and followers. Take care of your existing customers first and foremost, even if that means a brief hiatus from your social media channels.

Email Etiquette and Productivity

For all the popularity of blogging, social networking, Twitter, etc., email is still the killer app (or at least the workhorse app) for building and maintaining relationships virtually.

And yet, so many people use it so ineffectively, or at least so much less effectively than they could.

I was recently interviewed, along with with several other experts on email communications, for Newsday for an article on email etiquette. The consensus of the experts:

  1. Pay attention to the subject line.
  2. Get to the point.
  3. Check spelling and grammar.
  4. Answer emails promptly (although I have to admit I have a hard time with this just due to sheer volume).
  5. Be careful about forwards.
  6. Treat every e-mail as if it’s for public consumption.
  7. Personalize your e-mails.
  8. Account for tone.
  9. Don’t let e-mail replace the human touch.

For more details, see Email Etiquette Tips at Newsday.

On a related but slightly different note, have you ever had this experience:  you send someone an email with two or three questions in it, but they only reply to one of them?  And then you have to email them back, restate the question, so on and so on, and the whole thing takes three times longer than if they had just answered all your questions in the first place?

I have a solution, which I just wrote about over at GTD Times:

There’s a Time and Place for Long Prose – Email Is Rarely It

In it, I share and explain one of the top email communication tips I use myself and with clients, and it’s the first time I’ve shared it publicly. Check it out, and I’d love to hear your feedback if you try it.

For more tips on email etiquette and productivity, see chapters 13 and 14 of The Virtual Handshake, which you can download for free or buy at Amazon or the usual outlets.

NutshellMail Debuts at TechCrunch50, Opens Private Beta

I met the guys from NutshellMail earlier this year at SXSW and immediately knew they were on to something. For all of the social networking, blogging, tweeting, Skyping and so on that I do, email is still the killer app of the internet. I spend the bulk of my day in my email client.

One of the most important productivity tips you’ll learn from systems like Getting Things Done is to minimize your inboxes. In other words, the fewer places you have to go look for new "stuff", the more productive you will be.

That’s why it’s always baffled me in social networking sites when people tell me they were getting too much email, so they turned their email notifications off. That’s not a productivity gain — it’s just the illusion of it by getting it out of your face. If those communications are valuable at all, then the more you can do to consolidate them in one place, the better.

Another challenge is web-based email. If you have a personal (or personal business) account at, say, GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., that’s yet another inbox to have to go check. Now, GMail does offer free POP/SMPT service, but many businesses won’t let you access other POP/SMPT services from their network (and besides, you may not want your personal messages coming in on your work computer). Last I checked, Yahoo and Hotmail both charge for POP access (correct me if I’m wrong). But back to the point… do you really want your personal email coming in to your work email client?

Enter NutshellMail.

NutshellMail creates a digest of message headers from your web-based email accounts and popular social networking sites. This has a couple of major benefits:

1. You can keep up with all your social networking and personal email from work without having to constantly go check multiple websites and without accessing them via POP3. You can scan the headers, and if there truly is something urgent and important that you need to respond to or handle, you can go directly to the appropriate inbox and handle it.

2. If you work for yourself, like me, and don’t have some of those concerns, you still have the benefit of consolidating all your social networking messages in one place — still in your inbox for convenience, but without the clutter of having low-priority messages directly in your attention field.

I’ve been using NutshellMail for a couple of months have been very happy with it — definitely a productivity boost in dealing with my social networking, and I see tremendous potential for its application for accessing personal email and social networking in a work environment.

In fact, I liked it so much that I agreed to join their advisory board and have been working with them on their product roadmap, launch strategy, business model, etc. NutshellMail is one of the main components in what I’ve been talking about regarding the need for social web aggregation. I see a strong potential exit strategy for them being acquired as part of a larger social web aggregation play.

The only "sub-optimal" experience I’ve had with it so far has been recurring problems with some of the social networking connectors, particularly MySpace (although given MySpace’s reliability issues, I’m wondering where the problem really lies — I think NM is having to code around MS’s issues). That said, the reliability seems to be improving — I haven’t had a failed connect in about a week.

NutshellMail was a finalist for TechCrunch50, and while they didn’t make the final 50, they were invited to demo in the DemoPit. They’ve also received some great coverage:

Want to check it out? NutshellMail announced the opening of their private beta at TechCrunch50, so you can sign up now (may take a few days or more to get access — be patient). You might also enjoy reading their blog for some great articles on corporate email policy, virtual communication and more.

Best Practices in Writing Emails–Policy for a Multinational Corporation

Our new parent company, Evalueserve, is highly dependent on email for internal and external communications. They also hire every year hundreds of recent graduates (particularly in India, China, and Chile) who are usually not familiar with the protocols of business communication via email. The guidelines below, crafted by my Evalueserve colleague Ramakrishnan M., provide guidelines from which many other companies would likely benefit. All new employees at Evalueserve/Nitron are asked to hold by these rules.

Corporate Email Guidelines

Address

— Ensure that the “To” and “CC” boxes are left blank, while typing the mail content, so that the message is not sent accidentally. Type the client’s mail id the only after the mail has been written, QCed and accepted.

— It is best to avoid BCCs in business mails

— Maintain Protocol for “CCs”, i.e., first mention the Client name, and then CE name.

Subject

— Provide a Subject. The subject should be brief and to the point.

— Ensure that the subject is changed appropriately when replying to old mails

Mention the project charge code in the subject of status updates/deliverables/call summaries etc to the client. This is very important from a tracking perspective. Going forward, please follow the nomenclature given below:

o EVS Deliverable, June 9, 2005 – XYZ-US-B-001 – Brief Project Title

o EVS Call Summary, June 9, 2005 – XYZ-US-B-001 – Brief Project Title

o EVS Status, June 9, 2005 – XYZ-US-B-001 – Brief Project Title

Salutation

— Mails should start with “Hi XYZ,” (including the comma)

o Choose “Hello”, if the client is based in Europe or if the relationship is more formal

o You could also write “Hello Mr. Last Name” if you do not know the person too well and wish to be extra formal

o The best way to decide how to address the client is to follow the way he/she addresses us

Body

— Provide a suitable reference or background/context (This is with reference to your mail dated …)

— Please categorize all the points into appropriate buckets

— Use “bold” , “italics”, etc. to highlight important points or headings/topics . Avoid using CAPITAL LETTERS. This is considered as angry/rude/arrogant.

— Ensure that the subject matter is MECE (Mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive)

— Be crisp, and to the point

— Especially be clear about action points due from the client’s side, as well as from EVS side

— Broadly, all project-related mails should cover .

o The objective of the project

o The work done

o Clarifications needed

o Plan of action

o Red Flags (if any)

— Follow the EVS template for guidance on how to categorize sub-sections in the email

— Use standard EVS bullets

— Avoid full stops at the end of bullet-points if it is not a complete sentence

— Avoid contractions, such as “let’s” , "pls" –use full forms “let us” , "please" etc.

— Be extra careful when copy/pasting from multiple mails

o Select all the text, make the font “Arial, 10” with color “automatic” or “black”

o Ensure all signatures (from others) have been removed in the final mail

— Always propose a tentative solution when you need to get the client’s go-ahead; Let him/her get back with an alternative way, if need be

o This way you show that you are thinking on your feet

o You are not sitting idle, waiting for the client to hand-hold you

o This is applicable to time for a conference call as well — always propose a tentative time. Please be sure to add conference bridge details

— Avoid any form of ambiguity. Indicate concrete time (date, time, with time zone) for all deliverables

o If possible, avoid EoD ("End of Day") India Standard Time; this does not tell the client much (especially if he hopes to work on it). Instead, write 09:00 PM IST

o Monday (June 06, 2005) — no “early next week” or “Monday” or anything incomplete

o 06:00 PM CET — Be clear about timeframes. For assistance, use http://www.timeanddate.com/

o Even if the client uses wrong terms (EST instead of EDT, for instance), be sure that you use the appropriate term

— Use your discretion on whether to reply to old mails or start new mails

o If client’s chain/previous comments need to be referred, use the old chain

o If it is a fresh mail/deliverable, start afresh

o Please be very careful that no internal mail exchanges are sent across unless necessary

Complimentary Closing

— Mails should end with “Thanks and regards,” or “Best regards,” (including the comma)

— Ensure that your signature (with updated extension number) is included

— Ensure every aspect of the signature is consistent with the EVS standard

— Mention your first name at the end (even though the signature is right below that)

Last, but not the least

— Ensure that you run a spell-check before delivery – please activate automatic spell check option in your Outlook configuration.

— Ensure that you read the mail twice before sending. Think critically and revise suitably. Check not only the grammar and spelling aspects, but also the tone. Ensure that you don’t sound rude.

— Ensure that you check and confirm that the document attached is the right one . If it is a spreadsheet deliverable, ensure you have brought the cursor to the beginning of each page using ‘Control+Home’ combination. Also, the document should be saved with the cover page active, so that it opens with that page when the client receives it.

Bit Literacy

I’m a longtime fan of the design philosophy and work of CreativeGood. Every time I’ve written a web design spec, I’ve required the designers to look at that site.

Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good and Good Experience, and host of the Gel conference (Good Experience Live), has just released his new book, Bit Literacy. Although I haven’t read it, based on what I’ve seen of his past writings, it should be very worthwhile.

For a sneak preview of his writing style, see his guide to managing the email deluge.

Converting your documents into PDF format

Adobe offers a converter to PDF format on their site (for a fee), but there are countless other options out there that cost zero. Try www.Pdfonline.com or PDF Creator. They’ll convert documents from Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and so on.

Via 101 Fabulous Freebies

Use Gmail to break PDF copy-restrictions

Apparently, Gmail’s built-in ‘View as HTML’ functionality, which allows you to view the content of PDF files (and other types of documents) as if they were classic webpages, works regardless of the files’ usage restrictions (i.e., the functionality doesn’t respect Digital Rights Management).

More…

Via Boingboing

UPDATE: Gmail has just terminated this functionality.

On Elevating Wrists


Via Mark Hurst of GoodExperience and GEL:

Part of learning to type means learning how to position the arms and wrists. (See more on “learn to type!” here:) http://www.goodexperience.com/blog/archives/000576.php

For years, to cut down on wrist pain, I’ve rested my forearms on a dictionary and a thesaurus, each 5 cm thick. That elevates my forearms above the mouse and keyboard and reduces stress on my wrists.

Last week I spotted in Yahoo News, “Forearm Support May Cut Computer Injuries:

“An “ergonomic board” that provides forearm support may relieve upper body pain and disorders that can develop from spending extended hours on a computer, a new study suggests. The device, a board that attaches to a desk and supports the forearm, lowered the risk of developing shoulder and neck problems by nearly half and significantly reduced neck, shoulder and right arm pain associated with computer work.”

My favorite, though, was this quote:

“The average cost per board is around $100, said Rempel. The study found that employers would recover these costs within about 10 months of purchasing the boards.”

A hundred bucks? Buy a dictionary (from Gel 2006 speaker Erin McKean, please) and a thesaurus for much less than that!

On writing and sending resumes via email

Courtesy of Mike Lorelli, President and CEO of Latex Foam International, the only U.S.-based Talalay latex foam producer, and largest supplier of latex mattress components and pillows in North America. (Full disclosure: I edited the first two bullets.)

13 Little Things About Resumes and Emails

  1. Cover Letter File Names: recruiters prefer: Lastname-Firstname-2006-cover-letter.doc
  2. Your resume file name: recruiters prefer: Lastname-Firstname-2006-resume.doc
  3. NEVER send your resume as ‘resume.doc’ If a recruiter downloads ten emails, and half the people use ‘Resume.doc’. . . you’re dead (and should be!)
  4. Your ‘Subject Line’ must signal that this is not a spam message.

    Use ‘CEO-NJ Fragrance Co- Mike Lorelli’ to concisely signal your purpose.

  5. Don’t use “PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE,” unless you plan to list prostitution or other “NON-PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE.”
  6. Don’t complicate things with the name of the parent corporation, or division name, or whether or not the firm is incorporated. List the parent only if it’s a recognized Fortune company and thereby enhances the Division name.
  7. Don’t waste space explaining that PepsiCo is “A leading food and beverage conglomerate with operations in 97 countries.” If the company is recognized, save the space.
  8. Omit the STATE, if 99% of the readers will know in what state cities like Boston or Atlanta, Indianapolis, Chicago, etc. are. Ditto for Foreign Cities. Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Montreal.
  9. Avoid grid-type fill-in-the-box styles. When viewed electronically, you look like a college senior.
  10. Resumes are two pages in length. Anything longer signals that you have poor summarization skills. Alexander Haig’s resume is one page, and he accomplished more than I have.
  11. Over 50? Don’t make the mistake of leaving off your year of college graduation. You look pretty silly when (100%) of the people figure it out. In fact, do the opposite! On my cover letters I add a ps that says:

    ps: I am 52, have an MBA from NYU, 1973, and am an active outside director and trustee

    It’s my way of signaling “52 and proud of it!”

  12. Have a ‘PERSONAL’ section at the end of your resume. Show some personality and some color. People prefer to work with humans, not machines. Below is my section.

    PERSONAL

    Married. Two precious daughters. Author of childrens’ best-seller, “Traveling Again, Dad with profits donated to childrens’ charities. Have traveled to 44 countries. Avid runner. Active private pilot. Excel at no sport. Member Business Executives for National Security. WPO.

    I get a lot of comments on the “Two precious daughters” and “Excel at no sport” lines.

Check to see if you are email blacklisted

Do your clients and colleagues constantly say your email went into their spam filter? So much that you’re worried your domain might be blacklisted? There’s a quick, easy way to check. Go to http://www.completewhois.com/rbl_search.htm and enter your mail server address. For example, mine is 207.174.139.198 (you can get this from your ISP if you’re unsure). After you press GO, the tool will query ALL the 25 major RBLs (real time blacklists).
Once you confirm you aren’t on any of them, you will feel much better. Better yet, you’ll know it’s actually the receivers of your email who aren’t training their spam-blocking software correctly, and you can ask them to add you to their “safe senders” list.

via Laura Stack, via Speakernetnews