Email communication for business is a curious beast that can feel like a delicate balance at times. Friendly versus formal, comprehensive versus concise – the list of factors that define your approach goes on and on. It becomes especially difficult when your concern as a manager is optimizing communication with your creative team, who will often operate on a different wavelength than the usual company men!
Before you learn how to communicate with your creative team, it’s important to learn the basics of writing an email for business. Let’s take a look at some important tips in this field to get you started off.
The content and style of your email writing is the result of you taking the time to compose your thoughts and communicate your intent as clearly as possible. It’s far removed from the rapid instant message exchanges to which a social media user would be accustomed, as it represents a major change in tone and purpose.
This is the most obvious piece of advice out there, yet, the majority of people fail to realize that they've titled their emails poorly.
Your subject line should immediately convey the purpose of your email. Whether it’s a particular call to action, a request for updates, or informing your team about a meeting, the subject line should either succinctly cover what you want to say – with the body used for further details – or refer to the specific topic you want to talk about.
For example, if you want to talk about a particular meeting, then your subject line shouldn’t just be “About the meeting.” You should be preparing your audience for what they’re going to be reading, and in this case, they need to know exactly what meeting is to be discussed.
A better one would be “Regarding the meeting on <Date>.”
Even better would be to ask your question right off the bat, for example: “Is the meeting on <date> pushing through?”
Also, ensure that you never leave a blank subject line in your email. Not only is it completely unhelpful for your team, but it also risks your email being marked automatically as spam!
Business language tends to be stereotyped as loaded with buzzwords, office jargon, and roundabout ways of saying things, but this actually has long been considered a terrible practice in the business world, and the best way of writing any form of business communication is to be short but sweet, and clear. You shouldn’t have your sentences any longer than necessary, and it should have all the information you need presented front and center without any padding.
This means that instead of:
“It is my deepest regret to inform the team that our previously-discussed convention will not be proceeding as originally planned, and we ask that you await further advice regarding rescheduling,”
Perhaps you’d be better off saying:
“Unfortunately, the meeting on Friday won’t be pushing through. A new schedule will be announced soon.”
Voluminous, circuitous language often belies a lack of confidence in your messaging, camouflaged as it is by the encumbrance of highfalutin verbiage. Phew, what a mouthful.
As with any business communication, you want to be polite and professional with any audience. This means that you want to avoid slang, excessive abbreviations, and other informal language that you may use on social media. Smiley faces, other emoticons, and emojis should also be avoided unless you have a relatively light personal relationship with your recipients.
However, this doesn’t mean that your email should be devoid of emotion or personal connection. Your goal should be to deliver your message politely, but also to demonstrate an appreciation for the time that your recipients take to read the message.
You’ll never be able to eliminate emotion from the equation of communication, but it’s difficult to convey any particular emotional tone in a purely text-based medium like email, and even more difficult to identify if you’re inadvertently delivering the wrong tone.
You should reread your email at least twice after you write it and identify how your email “feels.” Try to recite your message in your head, or even speak it aloud, as though you were talking in person to your recipient. Listen to how it would sound if you put yourself in their shoes and found yourself the recipient of your own message.
The creative process simply can’t be micromanaged or directed the way other aspects of a business can be. Creatives are extremely susceptible to the effects of bad management practices, and the quality of output – whether it’s a pitch, copywriting, illustration, or layouts – suffers if you don’t have a good understanding of how to optimizing communication with your team.
When you present your briefs to your creatives, they’re going to want to have all the information that they need to produce a complete product. This includes direction, desired angle, reference material and examples, and specifications, indicating what they can and cannot do.
Once the production process has started, making amendments to this information is highly disruptive to your creatives! After all, you can’t just ask an artist to change a freehand illustration that they’re halfway done with – unless it’s the most minor of changes that don’t affect the final subject of the work.
This goes hand in hand with not changing the scope of a project while they’re already working. If you continuously expand a project while it’s being worked on, adding more requirements and features while still maintaining the same timelines and deadlines, your creatives are not going to be happy with you!
Marketers and managers are often thought to be terrible at providing feedback to their creatives. This isn’t just because they lack an appreciation of the artistic, creative process, but also because oftentimes they don’t understand the project very well, to begin with.
Creatives often complain that feedback arrives late, incompletely, or inconsistently. On top of that, nearly every creative will be able to tell a story in which a client or a manager provided feedback along the lines of something terribly vague, like “Can you give it more energy?”
You need to understand your project and the creative process behind it so that you can give proper feedback about the work. On top of that, you should provide as much detailed feedback as you can in a single round so that you minimize the number of lengthy and unwieldy back-and-forth revision cycles that occur before you get a satisfactory product.
It’s not just the responsibility of your creative head or project manager to know what the direction is, and what the process is, behind each project. Make sure that creating and responding to requests across the creative workflow has an established production process.
These requests can be filed in the form of standardized creative briefs, or at least an email outline that hits every bullet point that your creatives would find important. This is an important step towards ensuring that everyone is on the same page about the project, and that all targets are met and agreed upon by everyone in the team.
Now that you understand both proper email writing and the creative communication process, let’s take a look at writing emails for your creatives and what they should contain.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s a balance to be found between formal and informal in each kind of business communication. For creative teams, you want your language to be more on the informal side, as you don’t want to reek of that stuffy business atmosphere, which often stifles creativity.
You might be accustomed to the notion that if you do your job right, no one will notice. That just won’t fly with creatives – take the time to praise and acknowledge them for excellent work. Don’t just treat it as a component of “expected” performance in their job.
This will help nurture relationships that will encourage them further. It’s especially meaningful if they know that such praise comes in your team emails, as their recognition is shared with the rest of the team.
Writing effective emails for your creative teams is a more laid-back, conversational affair than the regular business emails that you might be used to. When creating these emails, the objective shouldn’t just be to outline the information you need to provide, but build relationships and improve your synergy with the creative team as their management.
Of course, it still holds that your communication with your creatives must be concise and clear, polite, and tonally appropriate, but it must be colored by creative needs if you want to get the response you want out of them.