If you work in an office, you probably use email as your primary form of communication.
While this is a convenient way of avoiding unnecessary meetings and lengthy phone calls, writing persuasive emails can be tricky. Without the added context of body language or vocal inflection, it can be difficult to convey tone and easy to get your wires crossed.
To have a meaningful impact at work, you will need to learn how to influence and persuade those around you so that you can get buy-in for your ideas.
Learning to write persuasive emails will be a key part of your skillset.
Let’s look at how and when to use email for maximum advantage and avoid a few of the common pitfalls of communicating via email.
The first thing to consider is, “Is email the right way to communicate this?”.
Every method of communication has its benefits and drawbacks.
Think about what you want to communicate, to how many people and the nature of the discussion you wish to have. This will help you determine whether writing an email is the best course of action.
For non-urgent, everyday issues that don’t require discussion, email is likely to be the ideal choice.
Quick, simple and efficient for getting your message across, it can save you time that can be spent on more pressing matters.
On the other hand, if the issue requires detailed discussion and listening to others views, a meeting is a better choice.
The difficulty in conveying tone and empathy in an email is also worth considering.
If a work issue has an emotional element, your words are much less likely to be misinterpreted or misunderstood in a meeting compared to an email.
Finally, remember that emails can be pretty ‘cold’ ways to communicate.
Phone calls and face-to-face meetings are better for forming close relationships with your colleagues, so if you are dealing with people you are still getting to know, then a call or meeting may be a better choice.
Once you’ve decided to write an email, you should think about how best to present what you wish to write to achieve the desired effect in the recipient(s).
Here are six tips to make sure that your emails have maximum impact.
Your subject line should convey as much meaningful information as possible in as few words as possible. It should be short and make clear what the email is about.
The average person receives over 100 emails a day (Source: Campaign Monitor), so you need to make sure your subject line stands out.
If there is a call to action, try to include it in the subject line.
Whether you are asking a question or relaying an instruction, you should clearly explain what you expect from the recipient so that they understand the specific outcome you have in mind.
Wherever possible, mention this outcome at the start of your email so that the reader doesn’t miss it if they skim-read the email.
Alternatively, highlight this key section using bold or italics to make it hard to miss.
Avoid extraneous information.
Long-winded emails are likely to be skimmed or even ignored entirely.
Write emails that are as short as possible while still covering all the key information.
If you have to write a longer email, make sure to keep it interesting.
If you know the recipient of your email, tailor your style to their style.
Some people like formal emails. Others are much more relaxed.
Matching your recipient’s style will get their attention and make your email more persuasive.
If you’re making a request, use social proof to your advantage by highlighting the positive responses others have given to the idea. We look at the basis for this in our book review of “Influence: The Principles Of Persusasion” by Robert Cialdini.
If the recipient knows that others within the company see the benefits of your proposal, they are more likely to believe in it and agree.
Providing evidence to back up your words is a simple way to ensure that your emails are persuasive.
This will back up your argument and give the impression that you have a firm grip on the details of the subject, allowing you to answer any questions.
As with all communication, there are also some basics that you must avoid to make sure your emails have an impact.
Get the basics right.
Make sure your punctuation and spelling (especially the recipient’s name!) are correct.
Getting this wrong distracts from your main message and damages your credibility.
74% of people say these types of errors damage an authors credibility (Source: Investment Writing).
Everyone experiences frustration or anger while at work sometimes.
This may or may not be work-related. Regardless it will come across in your emails, just as it would in your voice.
If you’re having a frustrating time, go for a walk or try another way to shift the feeling before emailing.
Sending emails when you’re in a negative frame of mind will only reduce their impact.
Criticising, gossiping and moaning should all be avoided and doubly so in emails that can be forwarded and are stored.
People can fall into the trap of writing things that they’d never say out loud.
Keep your emails professional.
If you’re unsure whether to send an email sleep on it. Review it in the morning to see if you still think it would be a good idea to send it.
Email is overused.
However, its prevalence means that mastering it will be important for you when learning to influence colleagues.
Next time you sit down to write an email, take a few extra minutes to think through the steps above. The results will more than justify the time it takes.