Posted on 27 February 2013
Yesterday, after perusing my work email, I tweeted the following:
I will never understand why PR people attach files to emails, rather than just putting the information in the email where I can read it.
— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) February 26, 2013
This is something that cuts across all areas: political parties, non-profits, municipalities, arts groups. I will own up to doing it myself, before working on the other side of things and realizing how terrible it is. I don’t know where and when it was decided that attachments (be they .doc, .docx, .pdf or anything else) are the gold standard for getting information out to the media, but it’s time to put a stop to it. Here are some reasons:
1. There’s a good chance I won’t read it now
If I am scanning through dozens of emails that I’ve received since yesterday- and yes, dozens is not an exaggeration when it comes to the number of things in the average media person’s inbox- the one that requires me to take an extra step to get to the information is going to come low on the priority list.
2. There’s a good chance I won’t be ABLE to read it at all
Believe it or not, many corporate computers are still locked down in a number of ways, including the software available. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a pdf that is too big to load and crashed my email client or the number of times I’ve had to forward a .docx to a different email address just so I could read it. And if I’m having a particularly busy day, maybe I won’t take that extra step after I’ve already had to reboot my computer once.
3. It seems like you don’t really care
This is counter-intuitive because you’ve taken the time to make this beautiful attachment and upload it. But you know what? It just seems impersonal. “Dear sir/ma’am. Attached is a story you will be interested in. I’m not going to say anything more about it now, but here’s the same generic pdf I’ve sent to everyone on my mailing list.” If you’re actually emailing me- me, Andrew, personally about something you think I’ll care about, you’d probably say so in the first paragraph or so. Not in the attachment.
4. You’re burying your lede
I’ve sort of skirted around this issue in my previous points, but you are trying to get my attention. Think about how you do that in real life. Do you have some generic greeting and go on about how you have something to say, and it is something I may be interested in, and if I just wait around and maybe step through this door you’ll tell me about it? No- you say “hey, check this out” and then go into it. You’re taking the most interesting and important part of your email and making it the last and most difficult thing to read.
Really, why? What advantage is there to doing this? It was suggested to me on Twitter it’s because PR people are proud of their formatting and images and don’t want them to be lost, but I want you to ask yourself- is keeping that sweet corporate logo really worth the cost? I’m talking the cost to the people you are emailing who are encountering this extra difficulty, and the cost to yourself based on the number of eyeballs you are potentially losing. I never, ever decide to pick up a story based on awesome formatting. It’s all about content. If you want, include an awesome-looking attachment, but if you actually want to be HEARD, put all the key information in the body of the email.
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