Friday, November 14, 2008

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

A Guide to 21st Century Workplace Etiquette

I go down to University of Illinois every year for Advertising Career Night and I always get asked to share tips and tricks for getting a job in the digital marketing and media world. No-one ever seems to ask me how to keep that job, though.

After 9 years of working in this space, I've come to the conclusion that there's no one key to success. Rather, it's a collection of little things. So I started keeping a running list of tidbits I've learned (some, the hard way) over the years. They may seem inconsequental (at best) or overly anal (at worst) but I've found that they can make a big difference, especially when they all add up.

I'll try to keep building this list over time. Would love to hear any nuggets others have picked up along the way.


· Always be the first one in the room or on the call.
· Start every call/mtg. with intros followed by agenda -- if you’re running the call, that is. If you’re not, always make sure to tell them who you have on your end if multiple people are present. No-one likes surprises.
· Demonstrate your expertise by asking questions not giving answers.
· If someone calls you and leaves you a voicemail, call them back -- don’t email or IM them back unless it’s to set up time for a call.
· Always tell people when they are on speakerphone -- aka, treat others as you’d like to be treated.
· Always end each mtg/call by recapping next steps.


· Return all emails within 24 hours -- even if it’s just to say, “I got your email and will follow up by ____. Ditto for voicemails.
· Use email subject lines that are reader-centric -- meaning they can be read from the recipient's point of view and easily be understood. Ditto for saving files. Eg, use “Your Company Name report” rather than “Recipient's Company Name report” -- the latter would be from your company’s point of view. This is especially helpful for people when archiving email and saving files as they can easily search and retrieve the info -- imagine if you were Recipient X and every email/file you got was called “Recipient X something.”
· Proofread all emails (even internal!) at least twice before sending and set spellcheck to run automatically.
· Always use please and thank you.
· When following up on an email you sent, reply all to the sent mail – especially when the recipient is delinquent on their response. Keeping the chain intact shows the person that they own the follow up. I know it’s passive aggressive but it’s effective!
· Always reply all when someone emails you with other people cc’d - if they wanted those people to see their email to you, you should want those people to see your reply.
· If you need a high-priority task completed from someone else, cc their manager (and yours).
· When you want to acknowledge someone’s good work, cc their manager (and yours).
· Always double-check who you’re sending to before pressing send -- especially when forwarding, make sure you didn't accidentally hit reply!


· Create decks that tell a story - prologue/intro (aka outline), hook/thesis (aka goals), background (aka strategy), develop characters (aka research), conclusion (aka reco), epilogue (aka next steps).
· Use slide titles that read like newspaper headlines -- reading them alone should tell the story you want to convey.
· Highlight benefits, not features.
· Source every stat.
· When presenting, never read slides verbatim.
· Have each bullet animated to appear one at a time so your audience isn’t reading ahead while you're talking.
· Never say, “This chart shows…” Just make your point.
· When running thru a deck over the phone, always say what slide number you’re on.


· Don't use it! It's a slippery slope that always ends up in you being less productive.
· If you must use it, use it for pinging/status checks not conducting business.
· As a rule of thumb, if the topic is something you’d want/need to forward to anyone else or have documented for auditing purposes, IM is not the place for it.
· Never type anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see -- all IMs are stored on the server.
· Always double-check who you’re sending to before pressing send.


· Never check your bberry during meetings.
· Don’t use a signature that says “Sent from my Blackberry” -- you're not that cool. Everyone has one these days. If you want people to know you're out of the office, then set your out of office auto-responder.
· Just because you’re on your bberry doesn’t mean you’re exempt from please and thank yous.


· “Bitch” up (the chain of command), never down!
· Don’t ask for help solving a problem without bringing at least one potential solution to the table
· Take 15 minutes each day to read the trades.
· Every conversation is an opportunity to create a promoter (internally and externally) -- don’t discount someone or blow them off because you don’t see any immediate business value.
· Always send a thank you note (email is fine) when someone treats you to a meal and/or drinks
· Connect via LinkedIn with every person you meet -- business related, that is.
· Be mindful of your digital footprint. Don't leave a trail on Facebook during work hours -- every action you take carries a timestamp. Ditto for your personal blog.
· Always do your best, learn from your mistakes, and remember everything happens for a reason.
· Keep things in perspective -- at the end of the day, it’s just marketing, we’re not saving lives here.
· Don’t hold others to standards that you don’t hold yourself to. Embody the motto “Do as I do, not as I say.” To that end, if you don’t see my adhering to this list, call me out!

Update 1/29: Here's another one... Don't take notes in meetings on your laptop. It's too distracting and you're the only one who knows you're not multitasking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post Aaron. As a newbie in the Ad world this was very helpful to read.

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