5 Business Communication Etiquette Pet Peeves

I frequently work with my children to help them understand the importance of good table manners – elbows off the table, how to set a table, which fork to use, how to hold a fork and knife (and properly use them), which glass to drink from, and to never chew with their mouths open. Let’s just say it is a work in progress.

While these lessons seem obvious, you would be surprised how frequently we get requests for etiquette training for lawyers. But it’s a fact that how we present ourselves has a significant impact on our brand. If you are seated next to a lawyer who slurps his soup, uses the wrong fork and drinks from your water glass, how likely are you to hire him?

Like our table manners, our communication etiquette sometimes needs attention, too. After all, good relationships begin with good communication. As a communications professional, here are my five biggest communication pet peeves:

  1. Email Signatures: It is a best practice to include your telephone number in your email signature, even on the reply. In this day and age, a majority of our business is conducted without ever hearing someone’s voice. Sometimes, though, actually talking is the best way to communicate, and it is terribly frustrating to have to go digging through old emails, files and even paper notebooks to find a phone number.

If your law firm doesn’t already have a standard email signature protocol, now is the time to institute it. Use it as a way to market your law firm, being mindful not to overwhelm readers with too many ways to reach you. If you are including a graphic, make sure recipients can view it on a mobile device and that it does not make an email too large to open. Your clients will thank you!

  1. Grammar & Spelling: They’re/their, who’s/whose, you’re/your, it’s/its. Learn it, live it, love it. Sure, we all can make mistakes when using our smartphones and blame them on autocorrect, but there are some basic grammar rules that we as legal industry professionals should know.

In addition, try to tighten up your sentences. For example, “I thought I would connect with Jane to discuss,” can be rewritten as “I am going to call Jane to discuss,” or “Jane and I are going to discuss.” To put it concisely, be direct.

And take the time to ensure that you do not have any spelling errors. Readers will automatically assume the worst of you – and your intellect – if you misspell words. Spellcheck is not always accurate, so proofread your work. If you are not a great proofreader yourself, enlist the help of a colleague or a professional proofreader before you send documents to clients. With emails, take a few extra seconds before clicking send.

  1. Limit the Word “Just”: In the spirit of being direct, I want to share my dislike of the word “just.” Improper use of the word often weakens what you are communicating and implies an unspoken apology. I am certainly guilty of using it and am consciously trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. For example, “I am just following up” suggests that I am sorry to bother you but have something that I think is important to say. “I just have to say” implies that what you have to say is somehow a side note.

Try eliminating the word “just” when you are asking someone to do something for you as well. “Can you just…” minimizes a person’s contributions. Count how many times you use the word “just” in a day, and see if eliminating it helps you become a stronger communicator.

  1. “At Your Earliest Convenience”: Be careful with this term because, when used the wrong way, it makes you seem lazy and unengaged. It is perfectly fine to ask someone to respond at their earliest convenience, but how do you feel when I tell you that I will call you back at my earliest convenience? Probably like I will get to you after I drink my coffee and check social media. For most law firm marketers, your “clients” are the attorneys in your firm. They are your most important asset. Make them feel that way, and avoid telling them that you will do something when it is convenient for you. Try “as soon as possible” instead. It feels much better!

  2. Emphasize Sparingly: When I receive an email that is filled with bold, underlined and all-caps words, I FEEL LIKE I AM BEING YELLED AT and that whatever isn’t emphasized probably isn’t important! Think about what you are emphasizing. Is it really crucial? As a general rule of thumb, focus on headers and deadlines to make sure that all of the content of your email is properly read and understood. Then think about using the signature at the bottom of the email to give the person a way to call to confirm.

All of the ways we present ourselves and communicate – both directly and indirectly – impact our personal brands. Making yourself available and easy to communicate with will boost your personal brand, make people feel good about doing business with you, and hopefully drive more business.

This post was written by Stephanie Kantor Holtzman of Jaffe Associates.,© Copyright 2008-2017
For more legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

Is Your Email Service Provider the Best?

This week’s Business of Law Guest Bloggers at the National Law Review are from Duo Consulting.  Sonny Cohen of Duo provides some good specifics on what to look for in an emailing service.

We recently received this question from a law firm marketer. I’ve edited it slightly for brevity and anonymity:

“Our email service is earning a big #fail at this point. We’ve used (Name Brand provider) with great success for small jobs and I’m talking with them about an enterprise solution. Do you have a provider you love (or a crappy one I should be warned away from)? What are the pros and cons of the systems you’ve used?”

The question, submitted to a listserv, engendered responses of affiliation with one ESP or another because they liked them, had no problems, or other good indications of service. But email delivery is more complex than you might first imagine and one size does not fit all. It is not (yet) a commodity. Personal recommendations of quality service or indications of being satisfied are a good start of an evaluation but an insufficient qualifier for engaging an email service provider. Like the acquisition of almost any service (legal or technical) it is important to understand requirements.

This is not intended to be comprehensive but merely to illustrate my point. Get this part and you might get there is more to the story. So let’s take a look at these simple factors:

  • What does your email subscriber base look like? gmail.com? or bigcompanyname.com?
  • How big a mailing would you execute at one time?
  • What is your mailing frequency?

If you send a lot of email frequently to corporate email addresses, the email reputation is critical to getting into the inbox of your subscriber. The better email service providers (ESPs) do 2 things. First, they manage the reputation of the email addresses from which they send the email (their IP addresses). The best ESPs offer you the opportunity to set up your own email address on their system. This will look something like email.lawfirm.com and email will come from something like sonny@email.lawfirm.com So while it still looks like your business, it is isolated from your domain (lawfirm.com) and from the email sending behavior or misbehavior of other clients of this ESP. Are you with me?

What happens if you send an email to a lot of people at the same domain such asxxxx@client.com where xxxx is lots of different people? When all these emails show up @client.com at one time, they look like spam. It may even look like an attack on the email server. The corporate email server receives these emails so you probably see these emails as being delivered. But they never make it into the inbox of the individual email recipients.

The better ESPs offer the capability to throttle the sending of emails so that they don’t look like a spam attack on an email server. It more closely resembles natural email commerce. Good commercial ESPs can afford to throttle the send of their emails. Spammers cannot because they’ve got way too much email to send. Are we getting esoteric yet?

ESPs are commercial companies and not a part of any website development company’s core competency. We have our favorites but we are not linked at the hip. Email services built into CRM systems such as Interaction, Salesforce, etc. are bulk mailers and do not have these deliverability features and a deliverability desk (personnel) focused on managing IP reputation. This doesn’t make them bad by any stretch. But it does affect deliverability performance.

Finally, the best ESPs are becoming messaging companies capable of delivering text messages and voice messages. If your communication strategy is to be first to market with targeted information, you may find that a text message alert system is a client service you haven’t yet considered. It is unlikely that your “economy” bulk email guy who is “friendly to deal with”  offers these extended and diversified contact capabilities. And maybe you don’t need it and never will.

Being able to track email performance is a common feature but it is not the test of a quality system. And these tools may not even provide accurate or complete information regarding the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. Even the best (i.e. more costly) ESPs come only close to precise. Third party firms like Return Path and Pivotal Veracity might provide this higher level of email evaluation and deliverability improvement.

Price is not always a guarantee that you will get better delivery services like what I’ve identified above. But a low price pretty much guarantees that you will not. For my part, I think reaching targeted contacts for a few pennies is a pretty good deal. If you are driven to cut that penny in half, you should at least know what you are getting and what you aren’t.

Whew! Hope this is helpful. Oh yeah, who do we use? ExactTarget. But remember. One size does not fit all. Think about your requirements.

Email open rate is only one indicator of email success

© 1999-2010 Duo Consulting

About the Author:

Sonny works closely with Duo’s clients to develop their online business and marketing strategy. His tactical responsiblities include: Implementing and managing paid search engine campaigns;  Consulting on and implementing permission-based email; Providing strategic online marketing consultation to law firms and others using web analytics to help drive website and business performance and Conceputalizing and implementing social media marketing.

312-529-3003 / www.duoconsulting.com

Meeting Your Match – Law Firm Publicists as Matchmakers between Law Firms and Media

National Law Review Business of Law contributor Tom Ciesielka of TC Public Relations highlights a legal publicists role in law firm relations with the media.

Everybody hit your buzzers it's the Match Game - (Marcia Wallace with the correct answer)

I sometimes like to promote myself as an expert matchmaker. You want a date with the media? You got it. You want to get to know a certain reporter better? No problem. But PR matchmaking isn’t about dates and getting-to-know-yous, it’s about interviews and background meetings and making valuable connections with key reporters that care about your firm’s story. Consider the following tips to foster strong relationships and woo the media.

Pitch the Right Story to the Right Person at the Right Time

Would you show up to a date late, and then call your date the wrong name? Of course not, so don’t call a morning radio host who talks politics and ask about real estate law. Understand that there are many different titles in the media – reporter, producer, managing editor, columnist, executive producer, staff writer — so going straight to the host or editor in chief may not give you the best response. If you’re contacting a reporter, look for the specific beats and topic specialties to help you connect with someone who is already interested in your industry. Find the right time to contact a media outlet by first understanding its deadlines, and also by looking at editorial calendars and reading its most recent articles or program recaps to see what subjects have been recently covered. Every date is different, and likewise, pitching the media isn’t a one-size-fits-all game.

Don’t Exaggerate the Truth

Don’t tell your date you found the cure to cancer when you really just donate money to the American Cancer Society. Similarly, don’t claim to be an expert on lowering litigation costs if you charge $1,000 an hour. Talking about how wonderful your firm is gets you nowhere fast in the business world, and also can give you and your firm a bad reputation. Instead of using an exaggerated story to puff up your story, use tidbits from the real story in a captivating way. Deliver your message clearly, focusing on the parts your audience cares most about, without going overboard.  Also remember, reporters do their research, so you want to make sure you have all your facts straight.

Keep the Relationship Strong

When a date goes well, what do you do? Call and ask for another. If a story about you or your firm goes well, thank the reporter, and keep him or her on your “Hot Contacts” list. When you have additional information that would interest the same reporter, don’t just sit on it, hoping that the reporter calls you and asks what’s new. Think of it this way: every relationship needs cultivating. Cultivate your status as a credible source by sending reporters information or ideas to help with their stories, or see what they are working on and if you can help. Once you’ve established that relationship, you need to keep it going and keep it strong.

This posting is republished with permission from the Chicago Lawyer Magazine Blog “Around the Watercooler” located at:  http://h20cooler.wordpress.com/2010/

Copyright © 2010 TC Public Relations

About the Author:

Tom Ciesielka, President of TC Public Relations, has worked in public relations, marketing and business development for more than 25 years and has enjoyed working with clients ranging from law firms to distinguished authors to national and local companies. He feels privileged to have established trusting working relationships with these clients and values every opportunity he gets to help businesses grow.  He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.

312-422-1333 / www.tcpr.net