Emails to Faculty: Are they read?

Here’s an example of an email I sent last week:

From: Laura Gekeler
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 12:51 PM
To: ‘concourse@listserv.nd.edu’
Subject: Service maintenance on Concourse

Good Afternoon All,

I wouldn’t expect this information to be of great importance to many of you, nor to your students -given that it’s the Sunday before spring break, but it’s my duty to tell you. So I will. 😉

This Sunday, March 13th, from 5am to 11am,  yours truly will be awake, alert and patching the Concourse application. Those of you wishing to rise early, forego family, spiritual or meditative activities, and login to Concourse will have to find other occupation as it will be unavailable during that time. Enjoy your Sunday morning and check back after 11am.

Take care and have a good spring break!

Laura

Many Instructors tell me they read my emails because they like my writing style or my sense of humor. After the email above I even got an invitation to face time at lunch with an Instructor. It was terrific. (And she bought!).

I know, I know, the opening sentence is counter-intuitive… the practice should NOT be to begin with an apology or disclaimer, and I don’t begin that way as a matter of course. (But it was the weekend before spring break – a great time to patch the application!).

How many emails does a college instructor get in a day? What is their relative importance?

We in central IT or Academic IT centers tend to think our emails are of maximum importance because faculty are using our services and we want them to know that we’re offering workshops, we have new online tutorials, there will be a service outage, a software defect has been identified for which we have a workaround (or we don’t have a workaround and want to say: “Don’t Press that button!”), ETC. In other words, reading our emails are supposed to reduce pain.

So what have we tried? (All things I agree we want to do)

  • Limiting distribution lists to those whom we can specifically identify as users of the service in question
  • Using fancy HTML to make our messages pretty
  • Keeping the messaging short and to the point, with a link to further information (the scheduled outage page, for instance)
  • Using descriptive subjects that notify those who may scan email without opening
  • Sending the email at the right time for faculty

What else could be done? Here are my suggestions…

  • See your readers face to face when writing
  • Be friendly (if you’re a service organization, you want everything you do and say to make yourselves approachable to your customers)
  • Use humor appropriately
  • Make it fun
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2 responses to “Emails to Faculty: Are they read?

  1. ahem… I failed to mention I also was reprimmanded by my boss, not because he disagrees with my strategy, but because his superiors received one or two complaints from highly placed faculty/administrators who feel its the wrong ‘tone’ for emails from the OIT.

  2. What is the right tone for emails from OIT? Totally factual and emotionless in my experience leads to complaints about sounding superior, which to hear some faculty describe it is a crime against humanity for them not be superior to everyone else.

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