The unanticipated but important memo has a difficult road. It will likely be ignored.
The difficult parts:
a – no one is waiting to hear from you
b – you need to have the clarity to know who it’s for, what’s it for and precisely what you want them to do
c – you have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (b)
Consider a memo that was left outside my door at a hotel recently. The management distributed 1000 of them and perhaps ten people read it and took action.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
1 – Pattern interrupt. When was the last time you listened to the seat belt announcement on an airplane? We ignore it because we’ve been trained to ignore it. When you show up in a place, at a time, with a format that we’ve been trained to ignore, we’ll ignore you.
2 – Write a story. You seek engagement. Talk about me. About you, about yesterday, today and tomorrow. If you earn the first sentence, you’ll need to sell me on reading the second sentence.
3 – Frame the story. Help me compare it to something. Create urgency. Make it about me, my status, my needs.
4 – Chunk the message. How many things are you trying to say? (Hint: two might be too many). Let me scan instead of study.
5 – Include a call to action. Right here, right now.
Here’s a before and after of what inspired me.
(Via Seth’s Blog)
One can easily substitute “email” for “memo” above and still hit most of Seth’s list.
Case in point: Monday and part of Tuesday I was out of the office. I tried keeping up with work via email. I missed an important request that I attend a meeting – not a meeting invitation but in the text of a regular email – where the “Call to Action” was buried near but not at the bottom of a verbose email.