Out-of-Office Dissuasion in Action: Please Don’t Leave a Message

I’m encountering an increasing number of auto-respond emails from intended recipients who are out of the office, claiming they will delete all emails sent to them while on vacation. This approach employs a warning system and is a less-than-subtle effort to persuade senders to hold that email until later — or maybe even reconsider whether the message needs to be sent in the first place.

It’s also an effective, if unconventional and arguably offensive, way to let people know you don’t want to be bothered. Which makes it a perfect example of dissuasion — the act or process of trying to persuade someone not to take a particular course of action.

I once worked with a woman who would leave out-of-office messages that sounded like an emergency drill had been activated: “This is a voicemail alert! This is a voicemail alert! I am out of the office and will not be returning calls or answering email until I return on August 1. This has been a voicemail alert.”

Let’s just say the first time you hear that it gets your attention.

Again, unconventional and arguably obnoxious. But it sure was effective at dissuading callers from leaving a message.

A third approach to out-of-office dissuasion is to be brutally honest with whoever deigns to call you when you’re not available: “Hey, this is Kim. If I don’t call you back, you’re the reason I screen my calls.”

Will you bother to be bothered this week?

Click Tricks: How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines

Arguably the most persuasive element of any email is the subject line. You must treat the subject line the same way you would an initial handshake; it may be your only chance to make a first impression.

And just as a handshake can linger a tad too long, keep the subject line brief, indicating why your message is worth the reader’s time.

There are multiple ways to do this. In his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Pink reports on research that determined people open emails based on three factors: utility (opened because the recipient has something to gain or lose), curiosity (opened because the recipient is, well, curious) and specificity (opened because the recipient knows exactly what he or she is getting once the message is opened).

To that end, craft your subject headers to fall into one of the following five categories:

  1. Descriptive: Free Estimates, Free Installation — Throughout 2016!
  2. Fast Fact: More Than 95% of All Adults Don’t Exercise Every Day
  3. Provocative: New Airless Tire Can Take a Bullet
  4. Rhetorical: Are You Tired of Being Left Outside?
  5. Nearly Naughty: Let Us Show You How Much We Love You

Also keep in mind to whom you’re sending the email. The above examples won’t work if you’re crafting internal emails for your colleagues. So try something like this:

Needed: Content Marketing Ideas for Wednesday’s Meeting

Right away, you’re establishing a need that you would like staff members to fill.

Regardless of your intended email recipient, a compelling subject header communicates the bottom line of your message before it’s even opened.