Yeah, I went there.

In a world where our communications are getting less and less personal, shorter and shorter, and have been distilled down to a constant stream of all-but-meaningless chatter, I’ve just suggested that the best way to get someone’s attention may be to say . . . less.

The advice isn’t completely out of left field. “Less is More” is an old axiom that we too often forget, instead prattling on because we think that by spitting out as many words as possible we’ll eventually say something that matters. It can work, but I’m reminded of my time at Verizon Communications.

Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s CEO, has an open e-mail policy. Seriously; if your send him email from an internal Verizon address it gets to him. There’s one rule, though: keep your message under forty words.

A couple of days ago, Steve Rubel, an SVP at Edelman Public Relations, suggested that we handle all our e-mail that way. Mr. Rubel went much further, though. The idea is that you need to write introductions in your email that are less than fifty characters long, so that when people see your email in their mail client they get an idea about its content and can be piqued enough to actually open it.

My first reaction is “Yikes! Has It actually Come To That?”. But, yeah, it has. In fact, I’ll go a couple of steps further.

  • First: your Email SUBJECT has to get the message across. With all respect to Steve Rubel, not everyone even sees that content preview he’s talking about; if your subject doesn’t scream “OPEN ME”, it isn’t getting opened.

Anecdotally, a sub-point of this is that when we send a monthly digest of this web site to people who have asked to receive it, only about twenty percent of what we send out gets opened. AND THAT’S A GOOD RATE. Think about it.

  • Second, If you look at the link to Steve Rubel ‘s comments above, you’ll see that it points to his page on Posterous.com. Posterous, although used primarily as an very-easy-to-set-up blogging platform, is most powerful in its ability to let you write something one time and automatically have it show up in many places. As I pointed out last December, the flaw in Posterous is that using it that way requires that you do exactly what Rubel is suggesting now.

To Steve Rubel’s credit, his use of Posterous is about the best I’ve seen. And his advice, sadly, is spot-on. The question is this:

Are You Ready For Real Business Change? And will you Twitterize your e-mail to make it happen?

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