Steal Like an Email Copywriter

Shannan Seely in RIT t-shirt

Get inspiration from your inbox to reignite your enthusiasm for writing emails

This article is filled with gratitude to the office staff at the Parent and Family Programs at Rochester Institute of Technology. Here’s the story …

We moved our oldest daughter, Claire, to the college dorm last month. She’s enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. And I feel like she was prepared, and we were prepared because of the Parent and Family Programs staff.

Well, true, Claire was organized. She kept her parents on track, but RIT was a positive influence.

Let me explain.

Initially, my husband and I scoffed at the emails we were receiving from RIT. Oh, this message is meant for helicopter parents. Adults who monitor their teenagers 24 / 7. Parents who are resisting the transition of their parenting role. Less micromanagement, more shifting responsibilities to their child.

Their boy or girl is a young adult, whether the parents are ready or not. Eventually, their child will need to do his or her own laundry.  

But then we – okay, actually me, because I’m the one who reads the emails – came across information I didn’t know.

The message recommended checking your health insurance to determine what coverage your student will have when they move to Rochester. Some health insurance plans have limited out-of-network coverage. Turned out, she needed in-state health insurance coverage for her out-of-state college student status. And the emails informed us about the options.

Thanks to the emails from RIT Parent and Family Programs, we learned this before she started college. My husband signed her up with the appropriate insurance. Yayy! Peace of mind. For her. For us.

I’m in the Parents of RIT Club

I continued to feel the emails were useful. Stuff I wanted to know. I felt like the emails were written to me personally. But I know I was one of thousands of subscribers.

Write as if you’re emailing one good friend, because that’s how people will get to know you, like you, and trust you. Henneke Duistermaat

How did the staff make me feel like they were writing exclusively to me? And why does this matter? Because you can learn from RIT’s emails. Even if you’re in healthcare, pharma or business-to-business. Because RIT completely looks at the reader experience. (I know, I know, they are a high-tech design school. But bear with me.)

You can do what they do. And your subscribers will be grateful.

At first glance, this email looks basic. And it is. But basic is effective.

RIT Students on Campus newsletter
RIT Prepare Your Student

Have you joined an email list only to be disappointed? The email messages did not align with what you expected. A waste, really. You thought, they say I’ll get this, but I end up receiving junk I don’t want.

RIT emails exceeded my expectations. And that’s why I’m bragging about these emails.

What do Rochester Institute of Technology’s emails do well?

1. The copywriter starts with a purpose and sticks to it

She studied what the parent was trying to accomplish. For me, my objective was to support Claire this summer to successfully start at RIT. And not go crazy.

Then the copywriter collaborated with the marketing team. They discussed how much the parent knows. What do they not know? What level of understanding did they have? And what did they want to know, need to know, to get to their destination? Perhaps the parents’ destination was to become fully aware of RIT programs and resources for their child.

Never underestimate the persuasion of a clear email message. Basic is so fascinating. Shannan Seely

Continue reading Steal Like an Email Copywriter

Three Tips You Can Use Today to Break the “Curse of Knowledge”

Have you been the new kid on the block, so to speak?

If so, you can probably relate to the dilemma we faced when we moved from Kansas to Central New Jersey four years ago. We needed to learn in only three days the ins and outs of attending a New Jersey public school. Our two daughters would be enrolling in an intermediate school and an elementary school.

So we went online. We visited the school district’s website.

This is what we saw:

Where do we navigate first?

The website is not designed for a novice to the New Jersey public school system.

Where’s the Parent’s Handbook? What will I find in the Parent Portal? Where do I find information about how to prepare for the first day of school? How do I know the information I find here is updated? Some of the text states “Updated on Sept. 15, 2010.”

I felt lost.

The website creators did not have me in mind. They were unaware what the customer experience would be for a profile like me: a new parent of the school, new to New Jersey, with two children.

Website creators assumed visitors will have the same level of understanding that the creators have. But we didn’t.

Chip and Dan Heath call this assumption the Curse of Knowledge. In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the New York Times bestselling authors state this natural psychological tendency happens when we assume everyone has the same level of knowledge as we do.

“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind,” wrote Chip and Dan Heath.

Here are three ways business owners and marketing agency directors suffer from the Curse of Knowledge and how to combat it: Continue reading Three Tips You Can Use Today to Break the “Curse of Knowledge”

How to Write Better Email

Efail = When You Send a Poorly Written Email

“Your e-mail messages are often the primary means people use to form their opinions about you.”
Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl

Good communication is my work, but you wouldn’t know it based on my email blunders this past month. I was trying to be quick and efficient, but I goofed. Inserted wrong dates, misspelled words, skewed the text font, placed two periods in a sentence — errors I noticed after I hit “send.” Oops. In one message. the punctuation and grammar were correct, but the message was muddled. The recipient wasn’t going to understand it. Only a phone call will resolve the confusion. Know how hard it is to reach a busy person by phone?

Is an email useful if no one opens and reads it? Or if a person opens the email, reads it, but doesn’t understand it? Then we begin a chain of email volleyball in clarifying the original thought – culminating in time wasted – frustration ensued – and energy consumed in resolving the miscommunication.

I call poorly written emails efails. I’ve done it.

I’ve also received some efails.

Have you committed some efails?

If you want to do better, this post is for you. I dug in and did the research. I started using these tips last week. Let me share what I’ve learned that will help you write better email. Continue reading How to Write Better Email