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A Brand Called You

Lesson 20 of 22

Email Best and Worst Practices

Debbie Millman

A Brand Called You

Debbie Millman

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Lesson Info

20. Email Best and Worst Practices


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1 Class Introduction Duration:12:41
2 Defining Brand Duration:09:34
3 Finding Your Mindset Duration:04:57
5 Busy Is A Decision Duration:02:45
6 Honing your Mindset Duration:07:35
7 Generators vs. Drains Duration:19:39

Lesson Info

Email Best and Worst Practices

So, the big question that must be remaining is, what about email? What about email? Email is the easy way out to reach people. Because you could always blame the other person for not responding. Well, I tried but they never got back to me. I don't buy that for a second. Email is the easy way out because we don't want to do the harder work that makes us potentially feel scared about being rejected. I don't know about you but I get a lot of email. I get a lot of crap. For some reason, I got caught on some solar panel email list and I must get 50 emails a day about putting solar panels on my house. Add to that everybody else that's asking me for something for work, add to that everybody that's asking me something for school. And we all have email overload. So, it's very, very unlikely that you are going to get responses from your email requests. It's also really, really unlikely that anybody, if indeed they open your email, is going to take the time to open an attachment that might be 10 ...

mg big and clogging up all their email or take three minutes to download because three minutes is a really, really long time. So, you can try your hand at email, and if you do I'm gonna give you some best practices about email that I have collected, best and worst practices but, email at your own risk. It takes an awful lot of time to write something that's really memorable and the odds are no one is going to read it. And I hate to see all that effort put into something that generally doesn't work. So, I'm gonna talk about some email best practices and worst practices. So, how many people here read Brain Pickings. So good a lot of people here read Brain Pickings. It's an amazing website run by Maria Popova. And Maria Popova, because it's this super popular website that's writing about people's work, people's books and so forth, she gets a lot of email. Like crazy amounts of email. So I asked her, as somebody that gets a tremendous amount of email, what are some of the best and worst practices? And so she's given me this list of things to read to you today about email best practices. So here are the no's. These are the don'ts, these are the worst practices. Don't address your email to whom it may concern. It is guaranteed to concern no one. If you're going to write an email, please investigate who to write it to and make sure you spell their name correctly. For some reason somebody at Sterling is sending me emails to my sterling address, addressed to Dusty. I have no idea who Dusty is. Certainly not me. Do you think I read beyond the dear Dusty? I don't. Not only that but there's nobody named Dusty at Sterling. So who would know? Okay, spare the bland preamble about the weather, the season or some other irrelevant generality. We're going to get straight to the point. One thing I also want to urge you to never do, is ask someone when you call them, how they are. Because that's not why you're calling and you really don't care and nobody's gonna really tell you. So, don't ask questions that have no real sincere answer. Don't ask somebody when you call them, as well and they pick up the phone, if this is a good time to talk. They will say no and hang up. If they've pick up the phone, assume it's an okay time to talk. You're only gonna be on the phone with them 60 seconds anyway. So you don't want to think about how much time they have or how much time you have. don't use more than two short sentences to introduce yourself and your work. Don't sign off with something overly familiar, which puts people off or overly formal which alienates. So, things like XOXO or love for the overly familiar and sincerely and respectfully, which alienates. You can just say thank you. Don't mix purposes in your email. You're either sending a person a lengthy note of appreciation or asking something specific of them, but not both at once in the same email. Make sure your primary purpose is what you allot the most space too. Don't make multiple different requests in the same email. Remember you are asking somebody for something. You want to be grateful and not overbearing and not ask for too much. Also, things that you should do: write a clear, concise subject line that articulates the gist of the email. May I interview you for my blog, is an example. Or I love your work and would appreciate a meeting. Busy people navigate their inboxes by subject line alone, particularly when the senders are strangers. So, a really clear, concise, sincere subject line is key to getting anybody to open it. Begin with a sincere and sincere here is in caps with an exclamation point. A sincere compliment about why you appreciate the person you're reaching out to. Make your request clear in the first two sentences, and be patient. Remember that you are, by far, not the only person making demands on your recipients time and thoughts. If you don't hear back within a week, and no sooner, you may follow up, always forwarding the original email and adding a simple short sentence noting that you're following up. These are the only ways in which you should consider sending emails. But again, remember, I think that emails, while they can be helpful in following up with people, are often not the best way to make a first impression. It's too easy to ignore. Now, when you meet with somebody and you are in their offices, you can certainly follow up occasionally with a promotion or another email, once they recognize your name. But I also really prefer the handmade, the handwritten or the limited-edition prints, that you can send to people with a reminder of who you are. You want to be doing things that delight people, that surprise people, that show that you are different from everybody else and you want that work to be good. You do letterpress, make 50 copies or 100 copies of something and send it to your list of 100. What are the benefits that you can provide in an email? Is there some bit of information that you think would be helpful to their business. Did you just read a white paper that might be inspiring to them. That's the kind of thing you do in an email, as follow-up, but email is not good as a first impression.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...


a Creativelive Student

B R I LLIANNNNNNT !!!! I love the such solid human being that she is and her grandiosity of holding our shoulder and say : go head! Dare to be your best self, own it. Here are some tips .... !!!! Uhuuuuuuuuu!! So inspiring! Thank you so much, Debbie. For couple of days you were my very BEST FRIEND :) Thanks Creative Live!! This is NOT a live "manual" on technical skills. If that is what you are looking for go some steps down and there are plenty of people teaching that, like traditional schools do. You will only learn what is "there" for you to learn if you are open TO HEAR with sincerity. Debbie tells several things that works and that doesn't in professional field besides showing what successful business look for in the people, or partners. Out standing!! I would love to watch another class with her.


I loved this course. Five Stars. I was initially drawn to this course because of the title. I had read Tom Peter's article (with the same name) in Fast Company magazine many years ago, and found it really inspiring. This was before 'brand' was a household word. Anyway, the course is geared more towards designers looking for their dream job than a typical branding course, but as it happens, I am a designer, so it was quite informative. I can also use much of the advice and lessons and apply them to my own business. From contacting potential employers or clients to creative self promotion, there's valuable lesson to be had. I watched and listened to this course in one day, almost straight through. I highly recommend it. Great insight, great advice - whether you're a design student or not. If you're the creative type, I think you'll find this both enlightening and very enjoyable.