Communicating Urgency (with a sense of urgency)

Imagine for a second that you’re on a moving train travelling at 200km/h now imagine that 10km ahead there is another train also travelling at 200km/h heading in the opposite direction and on same track – a collision course!

If you could only communicate with the conductors via email, how would you frame it?

The way you frame emails today is very important, your first goal shouldn’t be to warn them, it should be to ensure that the email gets read!

1) Start off by including the right names in the ‘TO’ block, NOT the ‘Cc’ block.

Suppose you receive a letter in your home mailbox but you don’t find that it is addressed to you, do you open it to figure out whether your name is inside?

2) The subject line needs to communicate this urgency with tags such as URGENT:… or IMPORTANT… you can also mark it as such MUST READ…or YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED.

The first thing a person reads when they get an email is the subject and that determines the likelihood of whether that email gets read, shelved, or not read at all.

3) The body of your email needs to be short, concise, and to the point.

4) The body of your email needs to be short, concise, and to the point.

5) The body of your email needs to be short, concise, and to the point.

6) Make sure that you utilize the font edit tools available to you to make sure that the impact pops out at the reader.  For example,

In looking at track conditions ahead we determined that your train is on a CRASH COURSE with Train B.

Please STOP your train IMMEDIATELY.

Now read only the BLOCK letters.

7) Tag the email as urgent before sending and always follow up the email with a phone call to make sure that the recipient is aware that there is a critical email that should be arriving at their mailbox and it requires immediate attention. Also follow up an hour later to make sure they’ve read it and actioned it.

One mistake that people are caught doing when conveying urgent information is that they attempt to overload the email by providing greater context, some history, their interpretation of why this occurred and some where between the middle to end of that email they will convey any action plans or response strategies (if any).

The reality is, busy executives, directors, even project managers may not get to the bottom of that email after reading the first few sentences (or anything that appears beyond the preview pane), simply because they read emails to spot urgency, action items, decision points or other specific info.  If they can’t gauge this information from the first few lines then the email drops down on their priority list or read at a later point.

REMEMBER, if the situation requires immediate attention, you may want to convey the action plan first and then follow up with another email providing the additional contextual information.