Tuesday, April 28, 2009

1 Email = 1 Thing

I follow about thirty RSS feeds, not many, but a mixture of friends and well-known professionals. Add to that about another twenty email newsletters and I think I get a healthy smattering of what people think works best for their readership.

Lately, I've noticed some things that FAIL for me.

My friends in Silicon Valley, the Seminoffs, once said, "You can save a whole lot of money and skip a business education if you just do this... when sending an email, make it about one thing."

Not three things, six things or four things--ONE THING. We like to read in bite-sized nuggets. This concept applies to many forms of communication: email, blog posts, advertising, web site copy. The attention span of multi-tasking humans is very short because we're not reading the paper at the breakfast table anymore. We're skimming the feed reader or checking out the first paragraph of the shared link on Facebook. The USA TODAY is a prime example of bite-sized nugget news, as is the full day's worth of news every half hour that you can find on the various 24-hour news channels.

I've recently started following a blog called "Newspaper Death Watch" because I've been speaking to a fascinating gentleman in the KC area that is working hard to re-invent the dying industry. This blog is making one post per day, great, but the problem is that their solitary post is really 4-5 posts rolled into one post. Unfortunately, I know this, but I still rarely read past the first nugget in my feed reader for their daily post. If they were to cut those additional items out and paste them into multiple posts, then I'd be more apt to read them.

It's not 1 Post = 1 Thing; it's 1 Post = 5 Things.

Why? The problem is that reading their daily post is kinda like reading the bill and then the earmarks added to the bill. A headline captures my eye and prompts me to read more. When I discover that there are additional, unrelated items at the end of the item that captured my attention... well, I get annoyed and I opt out. If you break them up into their own posts, then I can scan the headlines and choose to read the other items that interest me.

The second problem is that if I share this post on a social network, like Facebook, then my friends only see the first paragraph of the lead item. In fact, if I thought a friend was interested in a sub-item I'd have to cut and paste it into an email instead of leveraging the ability to share it because it's buried in the post. Newspaper Death Watch is missing out on an opportunity for me to send specific bite-sized nuggets.

In the business world, I've found that I can get a quick response if I use the 1 Email = 1 Thing philosophy because I also try to make the email short and to the point. Recipients have stated that they like getting short emails even if there are several of them to address. Humans inherently want to check off tasks and they will address the easy ones before the hard ones, so take advantage of that by making your emails quick, understandable and easy to answer.

Move to the top of the pile, 1 Email = 1 Thing.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

Excellent advice! I try to follow this rule with my own blog as I've discovered my attention quickly wanes when reading multi-topic blog entries of others. Thanks for the reinforcement.