Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

Why people need to stop hating on reply all emails

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I was dictating the above headline to my phone  in the car with my wife driving who without hesitation groaned and said “oh I hate reply all emails.”

And I do agree with her to an extent. I’ve been part of many crappy and annoying reply all emails. People instead of having a conversation or trying to work with each other are really just sharing political office statements or are positioning themselves or at least were trying to in the company.

How things often go with the written communication – if you have 15 people on an email you probably have 15 different interpretations of what a person actually said or meant.

But when done right reply all emails actually have a place and useful purpose in digital communications. Let me give you an example: every once in a while I’m on an email that was sent to a bunch of people and then somebody along the way decided to remove people on the email string from the next email reply.

Sometimes we don’t notice and many times we do- that’s at least what I do. So instead of catching up on a conversation around the topic at some point I wonder: what happened to such and such topic? Did so-and-so take care of it? Or were the questions answered? Maybe I can learn something from hearing the answers to the questions even.

Maybe it’s the journalist in me to an extent. If your mother says she loves you get two sources to confirm. LOL. But seriously if a piece of communication is not usually accessible than what makes you think it was taken care of? It doesn’t have anything to do with trust either. It has something to do with knowledge.

Of course some conversations are not best  to be had on reply all emails and they’re much better off in face-to-face or phone  conversation. I get it. And sometimes depending on who is on an email some of us are not as comfortable sharing some of the things that we would share when it’s a meeting in person – even with the same group of people.

So what tips come to mind when it comes to reply all emails? Here are some guidelines that I try to follow:

  • Why are some of these people on the email to begin with? Be aware of who you’re adding to an email when you’re starting the festivities.
  • Would any of them feel hurt or left out or whatever it might be if they were taking off at this point?
  • What is our relationship to them? Do we have relational power over them or how do they see us in an organizational setting?
  • What was the initial person’s intent with sending the email? Did they even mean to have a discussion or were they just sharing information? The  kind of reply all emails that can  get a little out of hand is when 14 people reply that they got it or that they’re thankful for the email or something that doesn’t further the discussion.

Group text messages can be very similar.  For example, I know that my wife does not like them. However, our nine-year-old who has her own iPhone messages us frequently and I do appreciate that she does that. She often does that on a group message and I think that’s often important so we’re all on the same page and we can all have the same conversation and discussion. Now, given I know my wife’s opinion about messages like that I make clear at times when I really think it’s important that we both get the same message and other times when I know it’s not as important I decide not to talk about it.

So like anything in digital communications there isn’t a clear-cut answer for everybody involved for every single situation out there but it’s something to keep in mind that reply all emails can have their place when used well and it all depends on the team and the make up and the goals. Something to keep  in mind when sending emails copied to a gazillion people and when you decide whether or not to reply all. 


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Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I'm Christoph Trappe and I'm the Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy, Americas, at ScribbleLive, which is based in Toronto and is a global content marketing software company. Before I started at ScribbleLive I was VP of Content Marketing and Conversion at MedTouch, a Boston-based company that helps healthcare organizations with digital marketing. I've written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs. If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I'm always happy to chat! Thanks for reading! - Christoph ctrappe@christophtrappe.com 319-389-9853

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