When I started my “big girl” job at a marketing agency after college, I thought I was a strong communicator. But I had a lot to learn.
The key to success in the working world is to build relationships, and that’s really what communication is all about.
On Day 1, it definitely didn’t occur to me to send emails like a receipt of acknowledgement, a recap, or a thank-you to build credibility and develop stronger relationships with clients and coworkers.
It took me over a year to recognize the immense value in these messages (and to make a habit of sending them regularly). I want to short-cut the learning curve for you. This is not what you’re taught in school. And if you can implement these strategies, you’re sure to stand out — because nobody else does it this way.
The Acknowledgement Email
It’s as simple as it sounds: When you receive a message — a text, phone call, or email — acknowledge it immediately with a quick response.
This one may seem like a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised how few people make it a priority to acknowledge a message with an immediate response.
There are a few reasons for this:
- You may not know how to respond appropriately (maybe you need input from a supervisor)
- You may have been asked a question you can’t answer at the moment
- You may not want the client or coworker to think you’re readily available
Any (or all) of these scenarios may be true for you — but it shouldn’t matter. A quick response (even if it isn’t perfect, or you don’t have all the answers) is better than an informative, well-written reply sent days or weeks later.
“Hi [name], Thanks for your message. I need to run this by [fill in the blank], but I’ll get back with you soon. You can expect to hear from me by the end of the day.”
“Hi [name], Received! I’m looking into this for you. I’ll shoot you an update by the end of the day.”
Greeting + Acknowledgement of receipt + Time frame in which you’ll respond
This accomplishes several things:
- First and foremost, it buys you time. By establishing a window in which you’ll get back to them with an answer (or simply more information), there’s no need to worry about being bombarded with additional messages or requests.
- Reassurance that you’re taking action.
- Communicates to the recipient that he or she is a priority; sets appropriate boundaries.
An immediate acknowledgement is respectful and professional.
If it’s been a while and they haven’t heard from you, they might assume the worst — did my email go to spam? (How many times do I wonder the same when I don’t receive a response to an email?) It’s cause for unnecessary anxiety.
The key here is to give this person a time frame in which you’ll respond. Remember, you do not need to have the information by this self-imposed deadline. Even when you don’t have all the answers, provide an update to keep the other party informed.
Ultimately, you’re establishing credibility.
It’s all too easy to say “I’ll get that to you soon” or “I’ll send it over this week,” but these are vague promises that aren’t often kept. And when you forget to “send it over” or even to give them a heads-up that it may take a little more time, you lose credibility. Do what you say you will.
The Recap Email
After every meeting or phone call, recap the conversation in an email. This doesn’t need to be a blow-by-blow account, merely a simple overview of the topics covered and a list of next steps.
Few people remember to do this. It will be incredibly impressive if you take initiative and get into the habit of sending recap emails after every significant conversation with clients or coworkers.
As a “junior” working under two supervisors, I was often the designated notetaker. Even when I wasn’t in a position to reach out to clients myself, I’d tee up recap emails for my supervisors so all they had to do was add their signature and press “send.”
This is what you recap:
- Decisions made
- Changes in direction
- Questions you need answered / info you’ll need in order to move forward
- Action items
- Upcoming deliverables
- Project timeline
“Hi, Thanks again for coming in today / jumping on a phone call. I’m glad we were able to discuss the campaign. Here’s a quick recap: [bulleted list]”
Greeting + Thanks + Project or Topic discussed + Recap in the form of a bulleted list
This accomplishes several things:
- Shows your client (and your team) that you were paying attention.
- Puts everything in writing; presents an opportunity to catch errors or misunderstandings.
- Distributes information to team members who weren’t in the meeting.
Send a few recaps and you’ll have a go-to template… and your template will inform the way you take notes during future meetings. For example, you might organize your notes into subsections: Notes / Action Items / Follow Up.
The key here is timing — ideally, you’ll send recaps within the hour. You want to do this while the meeting is top of mind and your notes are fresh. I began blocking time on my calendar (for about a half hour directly following the meeting) to draft and send my recap emails.
The Thank-You Email
Never underestimate the power of a thank-you message… even when you don’t think it’s necessary. A well-written “thank you” is simply about expressing gratitude or acknowledging someone’s hard work. Again, you’re building a professional relationship.
Here are some example scenarios:
- Following an event
- Upon completion of a difficult team project
- New opportunity / promotion
- When you leave the company / you’re laid off
- In response to negative feedback
We associate “thank yous” with positive experiences. But see the last two scenarios in the list above — it may be difficult, but these are two of the most meaningful opportunities to send a “thank you” (precisely because nobody ever does).
I endured an uncomfortable meeting with my boss during which she gave me negative feedback about a project I’d managed. That evening (following significant distress), my parents suggested I send an email to thank my boss for her feedback.
It was the last thing I wanted to do. Because I was not, in fact, feeling very “thankful” for her feedback that had left me in tears. I knew, however, it would give me some sense of control over the situation, and an elegant way to dispel any awkwardness going into work the next day.
“Hi team, Thank you for your time this afternoon. I appreciate the honest feedback, and I look forward to improving / getting better at [fill in the blank].”
Greeting + Thank you for [fill in the blank] + Commitment to improve
One of my supervisors was impressed with my mature response. She admitted that she would not have been able to do the same if it were her.
This message accomplishes a couple of things:
- [Positive scenario] Communicates gratitude and sincerity.
- [Negative scenario] Showcases your maturity and positive outlook.
The key here is specificity — state clearly what you’re thankful for. If done well, your “thank you” should not require a response from the opposite party (but may elicit one anyway).
It doesn’t take much to separate yourself from the rest. In today’s day and age, it’s impressive simply to respond quickly.
Remember that communication is about building relationships… and when you take the time to send a simple acknowledgement of receipt, a recap of an important conversation, or a “thank you,” you’re establishing credibility.
These 3 messages will really make a difference and get you noticed.
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