I was trading emails with a nonprofit CEO when the question of newsletters came up. Specifically, who should his organization’s quarterly newsletter come from / be signed by since it’s not written by him?
We’re all busy, there’s a lot to get done, and really what people want is to hear what the organization is up to, right?
Well, no, actually. That’s wrong.
The temptation not to sign and not to write your own communications is huge, but signing emails from “Us” instead of from “Me” is just a way of hiding from real work, real narrative, and real connection. It’s an excuse to strip out all personality and tone and opinion and controversy, to iron out the bumps and smooth over the edges, because it feels safe to do so and you’ll offend no one.
How many times have you seen this one?
Thank you so much for applying for this job/school/prize. We received thousands of applications for this position, and while we were very impressed with your application and experiences, we will not be proceeding with your candidacy at this time.
The Place You Wanna Work / Go to school / Whatever
But a person rejected your application, right? A person made the decision not to grant the interview.
Same story with your newsletter – written by a person, and received by a person (probably an important one to your organization).
You can pretend that it’s somehow OK to impersonalize it because you’re not willing to do the hard work of standing out and speaking in your own voice. You can pretend that people have a box in their lives called “newsletter” or “updates” and somehow by sending this out you’re checking that off for them. But I suspect you’re doing that because on some level you’re not convinced that this thing can be really valuable – for you or for them – or because you’re afraid that it will be worse to stand out and fall on your face than it will be to blend in.
It turns out that all that smoothing out and ironing out only guarantees that you’ll fade into the dull background noise in someone’s inbox, that you’ll never create something worth sharing.
So sign everything you write with your name, with a real return email address to which you will respond (or if that’s not practical, to which another human being will respond signing his name).
I bet that simple act of owning up force you to make a cascade of good decisions.