As a book publicist, I often correspond with journalists and bloggers, via email as likely as not, these days. If I’m reaching out to someone with an unsolicited email, I want to make it as easy as possible for the recipient to get back to me — either by email or by phone — or, if they forward on my message to another, for that person to respond. The reverse should also be true … but you’d be surprised at the number of bloggers and journalists who ask for review copies of books but who fail to provide mailing addresses. Enter the esignature.
There is lots of information that you can include in an esignature (Twitter handles, forthcoming books), but here are some features that I consider “must haves,” in order of priority:
- Include your full name in your esignature. Contemporary business etiquette allows us to sign off with just our first names. (And of course you get those folks who sign off with their initials.) Which is all well and good, but it means that unless your full first and last names appear in your email address, recipients won’t know you from Adam.
- Include your email address. A lot of people assume that the email address pops up in the message itself. Usually it does — but not always. Even if it does show up, many people copy and paste an esignature into their address books — if the email address isn’t in the signature, it means having to copy-and-paste the information twice.
- Include a phone number in your esignature. While voicemail may be an inefficient way to do business — the jury’s in on this one — the phone still has its uses and if you use an email address for business purposes, it’s only professional to include a phone number in your corresponding esignature.
- Include a URL. Either for your company or, if you are self-employed, include your personal website. If I’m going to provide a (complimentary) review copy of a book, I need to know that the recipient is a legitimate journalist or blogger.
- Don’t include a logo in an esignature — if you can help it. Some companies require employees to use a standardized esignature with a logo; if you are not required to do so, don’t. The logos — no matter how small — are read as attachments by the recipient’s system and that makes it more likely for the message to land in a spam filter. Messages with attachments also take longer to load.
- Set an esignature for Replies and Forwards. If you have a long esignature, set a different, shorter, one for Replies and Forwards that includes just the vital information — full name, email address, phone number. Messages are frequently forwarded to people not on the original recipient list and if you jump in with a reply but do not include your contact information, you might as well be Jane Doe.
- Set an esignature on your mobile device. Do you use your iPhone / iPad / Blackberry for business purposes? Then you need to take two minutes to adjust the settings and add an esignature. If you can’t be bothered to include your full esignature, at least include your full name, your email address and your phone number.
- Use proper punctuation and capitalization. Unless you’re five years old (which maybe you are — kids these days are pretty tech savvy), you need to use capital letters. (Again, if people copy and paste your esignature into an address book, you don’t want them to have to correct all your information.)
What are your must-haves, likes and pet peeves in esignatures?
This weekend, literary agent Janet Reid posted some of her email rules, which reminded me I’d been working on a post about PDAs. While these devices are incredibly handy, they have their limitations, so it’s worthwhile keeping these points in mind (whether you’re using a Blackberry / other PDA or simply writing messages that may be read on them):
Writing messages for Blackberry / PDA users:
— Messages can only be downloaded in full when the user has service, so make sure all the vital information is at the top of your message.
— PDAs hyperlink email addresses (and smart phones “recognize” phone numbers) which means you can email / call with the click of a button. This also means that it can’t hurt to repeat both an email address and phone number within the body of a message (like in your electronic signature) so the user can quickly respond.
— My Blackberry, which dates back to the Civil War, cannot display HTML (the computer language that allows you to view pictures and formatting and all the “pretty” stuff). Since you may be contacting journalists who are similarly handicapped, make sure your pitch isn’t dependent on fonts, colors, etc.
— The other thing I can’t see on Berry messages is email addresses. (I can see that an email message is from John Doe, but I can’t see that his address is firstname.lastname@example.org.) So make sure you always use an email signature (both with new messages as well as with replies and forwards).
Using Blackberries / PDAS:
— Make sure to set an email signature on your PDA. Users often neglect to do this (even if they have set an e-signature for their desktop account) which means a sizeable number of your messages are being sent with only your email address to identify you.
— You have the option of removing the “Sent from my Blackberry / iPhone / etc.” signature from your messages. Some heavy users deliberately use it as a “disclaimer” to excuse the occasional typo resulting from thumbing an email message, which is fine, but don’t leave it there simply because you didn’t know how to / couldn’t be bothered to remove it. You can always replace it with … your esignature!