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If You're Using Email, Here Are 3 Simple Rules
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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Whether constituents or clients, how do you handle sensitive emails? Stream-of-consciousness, carefully constructed messaging, or office consensus?

These are all different styles that can work, but there are a few general rules to keep in mind before you go completely teetotal on emails, as has admitted Sen. John McCain, who told the National Journal:

"I don't email at all," McCain said. "I have other people and I tell them to email because I am just always worried I might say something. I am not the most calm and reserved person, you know? I am afraid I might email something that in retrospect I wish I hadn't."

We all know how a quick-finger tweet can get us into trouble, but email can be just as injurious within your client circles if you’re not careful.

Here are a few simple rules:

Don’t ever say anything that isn’t true. And why would you anyway? Far better to skirt an issue if you have to than to flat out lie. Lying can get you into trouble, as it should; it not only damages your reputation, but also the reputation of the industry as a whole.  

Do not put the blame on other people, even if it is their fault. When you promise to deliver something to the client, you are promising that you are in control of the situation. There are times, however, when accidents and incidents happen that are beyond your control. With foresight, quick thinking, and a bit of luck, you might be able to fix it behind the scenes. But for the times it becomes pretty obvious that something went awry, do not cast aspersions on your colleagues, outside vendors, or, indeed, the client themselves. Chalk it up to a well-learned lesson about that particular person or vendor and then move on.

Learn what to write and not to write in an email (or a text). Some things are best done over the phone. Bad news is particularly unpleasant to deliver and at times must be put into writing. But leave the emotion out of it. Deliver the facts: what happened, the possible consequences, the solution, and the procedures put into place to keep whatever it is from happening again. Follow it up with a phone call, and don’t wait too long. It is always best when the client hears what has happened directly from you, rather than on the street.

What do these three tips have in common?

They take into consideration how you would want to be treated if you were the client.

Client relations can be messy, capricious, and frustrating, as well as organized, predictable, and gratifying, sometimes all in the same week!

But in the end, it is their money, their expectations, and your reputation: three things best nurtured, upheld, and protected.

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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