By Heather Felt, Project Manager & Copywriter When the subject of first impressions comes up, we tend to think of face-to-face encounters and the importance of a good handshake, direct eye contact and making sure there is no spinach stuck between our teeth. However, first impressions made on paper and via electronic communications are equally important and, in all reality, much more common today. Whether you are presenting yourself to someone for the first time in a LinkedIn connection request, in an email you respond to or by contributing to an online forum or other discussion, taking the time to get things right is extremely important. In our fast-paced world, we feel the need to make ourselves available to clients and colleagues around the clock and we know that speed and efficiency are highly valued. However, it is easy to respond quickly to emails and texts with little attention to grammar, content or spelling. Small errors, however, can be costly when it comes to projecting a professional image and maintaining your professional reputation. Misspelling a client’s name, for example, or inadvertently sending a confidential email to the wrong Kathy on your contact list, can be damaging and embarrassing. Simple spelling and grammar errors can quickly allow message recipients to question your educational background and overall competence.
You Too Can Avoid Rookie Mistakes
One of the most effective strategies you can implement is to commit to raising the bar on your own professional communications. It takes just an extra minute or two to re-read and proof a text, email, or social media post before hitting ‘send’ or ‘post.’ For really high-stakes documents like proposals or reports, ask a co-worker to proof the document before it is finalized.
Make it Easy for Recipients to Call You
You can also polish your professional image by adding an attractive signature block to the end of your electronic communications. Your signature block should include your logo, name, title, phone number(s) and email address, as well as your company website address.
Make it Easy for your Readers
Another effective way to raise the bar on electronic communications is to anticipate what additional information the recipient might need that you can provide. If inviting them to attend an event, add a link to the registration, driving directions or a map. Adding a hyperlink to a website that might provide helpful information is another quick tactic your colleagues will appreciate. By showing that you have taken a little extra time and considered the content of your communication from the recipient’s point of view, you will earn extra points and likely save time down the road in terms of unnecessary and at times frustrating back and forth communications.
The Last Word
The investment in time and effort to make a positive first (or second or third) impression in your written communications is minimal and yet the impact of not doing so can be huge. And the best part is that even if you do have a little spinach stuck between your teeth, when you hit send, no one will ever know!
Heather Felt has recently rejoined PSM after a sabbatical in which she focused her time and energy exclusively on two young clients at home who just happen to share her last name. In her previous work with PSM, Heather was responsible for creation and execution of strategic marketing plans for a wide range of clients. She also helped to create marketing content for the Market Your Law Practice online tool.