Saying “No” Is Better Than Saying Nothing

Reply to This E-mail?

A version of this blog post appeared on the Bad Pitch Blog on October 5, 2011.

Practice deftness, not deafness

In a recent blog post, Chris Brogan describes a scenario familiar to anyone not living under a rock: “Today, I sheepishly deleted several e-mails … that were waiting for a quick response … Dozens. Maybe 100 overall. So that means almost 100 people got my attention, got me to read something, got me to think that maybe I should do something,” and then never heard back.

Why does this happen so often to so many? Brogan’s diagnosis is convincing: Because “we don’t fully understand the syntax of saying ‘no.’”

He offers a graceful example of how to construct this elusive sentence: “What you’re doing is important, and I’m very supportive of you, but I’m not able to take on what you’d like me to do because of my own full plate of commitments.”

In other words: Thanks, but no thanks.


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How E-mail Signatures Can Brand and Promote Your Organization

Uniform E-mail Signatures

A version of this blog post appeared on Technorati (June 13, 2011), GovLoop (June 14, 2011), and K Street Cafe (June 14, 2011).

One of the most overlooked opportunities for online marketing also happens to be one of the most ubiquitous: the e-mail “signature”

One of the first things new employees do is create a “signature block” for their e-mails. These half a dozen lines or so, consisting of your contact info, plop themselves at the bottom of every e-mail you send. Yet few people put any thought into their e-signature, let alone alter it after it’s set up.

This modus operandi reflects a 1.0 mindset. Let’s upgrade it.

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E-mail Agonistes


A version of this blog post appeared on on November 23, 2010.

In the current edition of her e-newsletter, Claire Kittle, who runs the Talent Market staffing agency, recounts an anecdote that immediately rang true for me. With Claire’s permission, I’m reprinting the story, which I’ve edited slightly.

I get dozens of applications every day, and you would be amazed to see how many seemingly intelligent candidates do not follow instructions. If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 50% of applicants fail to send me what my clients request.

I used to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt. I would follow-up with them and ask for the information they neglected to send the first time. But I learned that those same candidates often still fail to follow instructions on the second (and third!) attempts, and worse—they frequently get belligerent about being asked for more information!

Here’s a sample scenario:

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The Pros and Cons of Communicating via E-mail


I love e-mail. I think of it as I think of Google: I’d be lost without it. Indeed, with the exception of family and close friends and personal situations, I prefer communicating via my inbox.

I enjoy the challenge of converting my thoughts into words, of committing something to paper. Additionally, this process helps me to stay organized and helps to keep everyone accountable. Finally, e-mail allows me time to think before responding. For example:

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