Saturday, September 13, 2014

Netiquette IQ Blog of The Day - Replying to Every Email You Receive!

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to reply to every email you are sent. The author below did this and here is his account.

I Read and Replied to Every Single PR Email I Received for a Week
By Zach Schonfeld  Newsweek
Filed: 9/10/14 at 10:20 AM  | Updated: 9/11/14 at 12:14 AM

Zach Schonfeld/Gmail
Like most of the journalists I know, I spend about a third of my workday writing articles, another third making bad jokes on Twitter, and another third deleting press releases. It's not that I’m unappreciative of the PR people who score me interviews and pass along stories—it’s just that there are so frighteningly many of them, and for every inbox blast that’s relevant to me, there are four or five more that may as well be from a Nigerian prince.
But what if I’m missing something? What if I’m turning my back on the next great American cookbook or home appliance chain or photos of LeAnn Rimes’s latest outfit? I resolved to find out. Inspired by New York magazine’s “I Talked to Strangers for a Week, and It Did Not Go Well,” I set about engaging with the digital strangers who pop into my inbox every workday. In brief: I replied to every PR email I received for an entire week, regardless of the subject matter or sender. (The writer Luke O'Neil, I learned after completing the experiment, aired a similar idea on Twitter in July.)
To start, I set some ground rules:
  1. The experiment will begin at midnight on Saturday, August 30 and conclude exactly seven days later.
  2. I will reply to every press release, PR pitch, invite, or other sort of email I receive from a PR professional within 36 hours of receipt (and preferably faster than that).
  3. My replies will be polite, friendly, and professional, though they would not necessarily indicate that I’m able or planning to cover the topic at hand.
  4. I will try to read, or at least skim, the contents of every email I’m replying to.
  5. I am not obligated to reply to subsequent emails responding to my initial reply, though I will try to do so when appropriate.
  6. I’m not responsible for PR emails that get lost in my spam folder.
  7. Voicemails don’t count, either.
  8. When possible, I will try to connect the PR rep with the writer or editor who is better suited to the pitch at hand.
  9. Every time I receive a PR pitch regarding a musical act, I will listen to at least one song by that musical act (preferably one relevant to the pitch). I will keep track of the best song I discover via PR email each day.
  10. No one outside of the Newsweek office may know about this experiment until it’s over.
This is an account of the hellish week that ensued.

Saturday, August 30
My weeklong experiment is off to a quiet start. It’s Saturday, so my inbox is mercifully quiet. I do receive an email titled “Lion who attacked teacher in Peru in care of animal organization helping to enforce circus ban”; attached is a press release that says about the same thing, but in more than 950 words. I reply “Hi, thanks for sending this, will look into Operation Spirit of Freedom rescue mission” and resume my weekend.
Weirdest PR excerpt of the day: “As a result of the stand-off during the rescue, one lioness was separated from her cubs, both of whom were retained by the circus, and a solitary castrated male, Smith was separated from his cage mate and initially put with the cubs.”
Sunday, August 31
Who the hell sends out a press release on a Sunday of a holiday weekend? (Nobody.) I enjoy the day in digital peace. 
Monday, September 1
Ah, yes. Labor Day. Frequently, national holidays are cause for a torrent of press releases loosely relating to that holiday, but I guess that torrent ran its course last week and publicists have the day off, because my inbox is peaceful. I do get a note about Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott throwing a “Lavish, Snackeez-Themed Birthday Party” for their son’s second birthday party, so I reply “Thanks! Sounds like a fun party,” which is a weird thing to write about a birthday party for a stranger’s 2-year-old, but whatever.
I also receive a press release about a new single and video from a band called Girl Band (there don’t seem to be any girls involved). It has sort of a noisy, Liars-y vibe to it and I’m not really feeling it, but I listen to it in bed anyway and muster up a bland “Thanks—I'll give it a listen” in reply and wonder what sort of toll the five days that lay ahead will take.
Weirdest PR excerpt of the day: “Tori, Dean and the kids posed for photos with their favorite Snackeez colors, while Tori and Dean told everyone about their love of the product.”
Best song I discover all day: Girl Band’s “De Bom Bom” by default, I suppose.
Tuesday, September 2
It’s the Tuesday after a three-day weekend, and I’m refreshed and ready for the task at hand. By 10 a.m., the press releases start rolling in, seemingly four or five at a time. By 1 p.m., I’m huddling in my cubicle, terrified of my own inbox.
Over the course of the morning, I respond to a release about a French company specializing in the production of mechanical components with a chirpy “I don't know much about drilling and optronic assembly, but thank you for sharing!” I get an email about a professor who is available to comment on Hong Kong's democracy movement and reply saying I’ll be sure to keep him in mind if I cover Hong Kong’s democracy movement even though I know I probably won’t wind up covering Hong Kong’s democracy movement. I politely decline an invite to a BuzzFeed Brews thing in Los Angeles (I live in New York) and also decline an invite to see an electronic artist called Sneakout in L.A., but I listen to his single, and it’s OK.
At one point I get an email about USA Insulation—“the country’s largest retrofit insulation company”—opening a location in Rockland County, so I reply by telling the publicist that my parents live near Rockland County and that I’ll give them a heads up, and I feel bad not following through on this promise, so I forward the announcement to my parents and my mom just replies, “Why?” That’s it, that’s her entire email, which is probably how I should have replied to the publicist in the first place. The publicist writes back and lets me know that USA Insulation “covers a 60-mile radius” and is “really a top-notch insulation business,” but I don’t share these additional details with my mom.
Then I have to stop replying to press releases because I need to finish a story that’s already past deadline and this isn’t helping me focus, so I just let them pile up for a few hours. This is a terrible strategy. Most days I delete 90 percent of the press releases I receive on impulse, the way you’d unthinkingly swat a fly, but now each one signifies mandatory reading material and oh my god there are so many of them.
By 4 o'clock, there are 17 unopened press releases in my work inbox—a 9/11 Museum event, film screenings, photo gallery invites, a “celebrated NYC realist painter”—and another 10 or so in my personal inbox, and I sigh and realize I won’t be able to get anything else done today. Probably the weirdest thing I receive in the afternoon is an email from “Ira Glass” that says “I hope to see you at Town Hall next week” in the subject line, though Ira Glass probably doesn’t care if he sees me at Town Hall or not. The most exciting PR email I receive all day is an announcement that Faith No More, a band I totally loved in eighth grade, will release its first album in 18 years. I write back asking if the band is available for interviews, but there’s no reply, which is just as well, because my inbox is a disaster.
Weirdest PR excerpt of the day: “Homeowners who live near the Tappan Zee Bridge will really appreciate USA Insulation’s Premium Foam sound-proofing capabilities.”
Best song I discover all day: Black Wasp” by The Bug (feat. Liz Harris). Dreamy! I reply to the publicist and say I like it and might try to make it to the upcoming Brooklyn show, but no promises. I wonder how many times a day publicists receive some variation of “no promises.”
In addition to this blog, I have authored the premiere book on Netiquette, " Netiquette IQ - A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". You can view my profile, reviews of the book and content excerpts at:

 If you would like to listen to experts in all aspects of Netiquette and communication, try my radio show on BlogtalkRadio  and an online newsletter via have established Netiquette discussion groups with Linkedin and  Yahoo I am also a member of the International Business Etiquette and Protocol Group and Minding Manners among others. I regularly consult for the Gerson Lehrman Group, a worldwide network of subject matter experts and I have been contributing to the blogs Everything Email and emailmonday . My work has appeared in numerous publications and I have presented to groups such as The Breakfast Club of NJ Rider University and  PSG of Mercer County, NJ.