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  Tom Murphy, Director of Corporate Communications for Cape Clear Software has contributed the following advice for PR professionals when working with e-mail.

 
  Managing E-mail (Personal)

With the vast volume of e-mail, we all need sensible strategies for dealing with it. Here are some pointers to help reduce the clutter:
 
 
Keep your in-box clear A full in-box makes it more difficult to spot important e-mails and can cause stress as you farm through your thousand e-mails. Only keep important e-mails in your in-box
Use directories to link similar material To keep your inbox clear, develop an easily understood directory of e-mail folders inside your e-mail application where you can store and easily find past e-mails
Invest in a Spam filter As you get more and more e-mail the volume of unwanted Spam grows. Anti-Spam software is relatively low cost but invaluable
Invest in anti-virus software You can't afford to send viruses over e-mail. For the sake of EUR60 purchase a virus checker it'll save you the embarrassment and save your computer from a more serious infection
Invest in powerful search software. Managing files and e-mails that grow in number every day becomes a harder and less successful task. Use the powerful search software products that are out in the market to make finding files fast and easy
Filters By using the built in filtering features of your software, e.g. in Microsoft Outlook, go to the Tools menu and select Rules Wizard, you can manage your e-mail without even being there! If you are on e-mail lists, the Rules Wizard will check e-mail when it comes in and automatically file specific e-mail messages into pre-defined folders.
 
   
  Communicating with E-mail (External)  
 
 Attention to detail People seem to have a psychological problem with writing e-mails. E-mails are not prepared with the same meticulous preparation that would accompany a pitch letter or fax, even though bad grammar, spelling and poor preparation is probably more damaging with e-mail than other forms of writing. Ensure that any e-mail you send to third parties are well thought out and proof read. Just because it's on screen doesn't remove the need for attention to detail.
 
Keep it short Everyone is receiving a growing number of e-mails. Keep your e-mail to the point. A nice touch is to remember to keep your key message 'above the fold'. Many people preview their email, i.e. by highlighting the email you can read the top part without having to open the message (see figure 5). Make sure your pitch is up front to avoid the delete key.
 
Tightly target your e-mail The advances in e-mail filters mean you have one chance with a journalist. If you Spam the likelihood that your e-mail address will be filtered is high. What does that mean? Future e-mails you send will go directly to the journalist's deleted folder without them even knowing you sent it - and you won't know either. Any e-mail you send must be personalised.
 
Don't send unrequested attachments Never, never, never. Don't ever send attachments without a specific request. This continues to occur no matter how many times its said. The reason for no attachments is firstly viruses (a sure way to be filtered) and secondly increasingly people collect e-mail on the road, from home, and your press release is taking up valuable space.
 
Simple formatting When communicating on the Internet, I always recommend using the lowest common denominator. When sending e-mail use 'plain text'. Fancy colours and fonts may brighten your day, but if the receiver is using plain text then your email may become a garbled mess and avoid sending HTML e-mails at all cost!
 
E-mail lasts forever The greatest unique benefit of e-mail is also its biggest risk. E-mail can be stored, archived, searched and forwarded. Don't communicate information, thoughts or plans on e-mail that you wouldn't want published. There are two reasons for this. Firstly security experts tell us that you shouldn't include anything in an e-mail, including attachments that you wouldn't write on a postcard and secondly e-mail is increasingly used in litigation cases.
 
Be creative If someone has an immensely busy inbox, they have to make judgements without opening your e-mail. It's your job as a communicator to make sure they open, read and take an action on that e-mail. If your name is unknown to them they move their finger to the delete key, if the subject line doesn't concern them they press it.
 
Don't request notifications There's a disturbing trend among e-mailers (and spammers) of requesting a receipt when someone opens, deletes or moves an e-mail from them. Don't do it. Most e-mail packages open a dialogue box which asks 'sender X has asked for a receipt when you open this e-mail do you want to send one?' - Not only do I always say no. I find it intrusive.
  
Maximize e-mail signatures If you send twenty e-mails a day that is twenty opportunities to promote or inform. Use it! Including e-mail signatures is commonplace but including news and/or links to products, announcements etc, is not. Add news to your signature today! - Keep it simple and short.
 
Avoid viruses like the plague! An everyday part of life on the Internet is viruses. Its unavoidable and you can be sure that the only guaranteed things in life are death and taxes (and viruses). Take precautions against viruses. Ensure your virus checker is up to date. Anti-Virus products are modestly priced but indispensable to someone working in online communications. Make sure you get all the most regular updates.
 
Write for strangers If you're e-mail is communicating bad news, or sensitive news. There is a strong chance that the e-mail will be distributed outside the company. To protect the company from such implications, you should write your e-mail in the full knowledge that it might be read