I did that thing that happened with my other blog a few years ago. I had one post that got a ton of traction right around the time I started a new job, then got too busy with learning the new job to keep writing my blog with any regularity (or in this case – at all). Then there’s also my personal project – every summer I try to do something that I call “Unplugged Summer,” where I turn off my computer for the weekend and do crafts, make jam, and cook, and it really cuts into writing time. I’ve been trying to make that more of a year-round thing, and for the past few months, that’s taken the form of an Etsy shop. I spent all of my weekends in September and October gluing glitter and sequins to shoes, and I totally love it.
Anyway, I’m back. I want to keep writing this blog. Really.
So why do I feel the need to unplug like this? Email is REALLY stressful and causes a lot of anxiety for people like me. I know pretty much everyone says their (non-email) job is really stressful. And everyone is probably right. But email is its own special breed. The moment an email goes out can cause a LOT of anxiety. Here’s how and why.
1. Email mistakes. So public.
In most jobs, if you make a small mistake, you can fix it pretty easily with few people knowing about it (unless you’re a politician or a celebrity). Even marketing jobs – tweets can be deleted, print materials can be re-printed. In email marketing – it’s very, very, easy to instantly share your mistake with your entire company – and thousands or millions of other people. And you can’t always fix it. You can’t un-send a mass email. Some ESPs have ways for you to update a broken link on the backend since they use redirects. Some ESPs even have the capability of pausing an email that’s started to send to allow you to edit the email before the full list receives it. (Thank you. You know who you are. <3)
Most marketing emails go through a pretty rigorous approval process. I’ve never sent an email that wasn’t reviewed – and approved – by at least 3 other people. But mistakes can still happen. And it feels SO TERRIBLE. Because at the end of the day, the person pressing send is ultimately responsible for what is being sent. We’re the last set of eyes that grazes that email before hundreds of thousands of other people do. Even if you’re a fantastic proofreader, mistakes still happen, because you’re often extremely rushed with last minute edits, and on a tight deadline, with pressure from management to get the email out quickly so your company can start making money from it.
And when you’re a person who blogs about email and knows a lot of people in the email industry – there’s always that feeling that your professional peers are watching. I think the people who have this the worst are those who send marketing emails for ESPs and other email vendors. Email marketers can be judgmental about other emails (exhibit A). I’m friends with several of the people who send this kind of email, and I really feel for them every time they hit send. (Even though their emails are always beautiful and interesting).
How to deal with it: The only thing that helps calm down my anxiety about sending emails is to look at the open and click through rates of the email, and then think about how many people actually thoroughly read the entire thing, or actually click on that link. Compared to how many people actually received the email, and it’s really not that bad. Think about how many emails everyone receives on any given day – you should be so lucky to have ANYONE read and click on your entire email. Earlier in my career, I remember being really upset about a typo in the fine print at the bottom of the email. Then I realized that the only people who will read that are those looking for the unsubscribe button, and as long as that button’s working – who cares, right?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don’t mean to be blasé about it, but really – it’s an email. No one is going to die or get hurt because of a typo (probably). Even if people do notice it, chances are they’ll forget about it pretty quickly.
But even when a mistake is fixable or forgettable, it doesn’t stop that thick, pounding feeling I get in my throat a few minutes after an email goes out when my inbox starts filling up with emails with this subject line:
2. FWD: [subject line of the email I just sent]
When I receive an email like this from a co-worker (or worse, one with a FWD:FWD: at the beginning, meaning a customer forwarded it to a co-worker) within a few minutes of my big email going out, my heart starts pounding. There’s a huge lump in my throat and things start to get a little blurry. I have all of the physiological reactions of a panic attack. Multiply this by at least a million if I’ve recently made an email mistake.
There’s a 50/50 chance of what this email is going to say when I open it:
This email is so beautiful! Nice job! I want to buy all of the products in it! You are so utterly talented and deserve a huge raise and promotion! You are the queen of email.
That’s the wrong image, and the link goes to an old page, and why didn’t you catch that typo? You’re an idiot and I’d fire you immediately if I didn’t desperately need you here to send tomorrow’s emails. And the next day’s. Get your shit together and fix this right now. What are we even paying you to do? You are a disgrace, and every problem our company has and ever will have is directly your fault because of this one tiny mistake.
Okay, so both of those are very exaggerated versions of what I’ve actually received — and yes, I’ve gotten variations of both, but that is exactly how I hear them in my head, and how I feel when they happen. When it’s Option 2, I usually receive several versions of this email from various people. So that’s fun.
[If you are the co-worker of an email marketer, and you see a mistake in an email that just went out: It’s okay to tell her, but realize it’s likely there’s nothing she can do to correct it. And that 7 other people have already pointed it out. If your friendly local email nerd looks like she’s about to cry a few minutes after the email went out, or she’s suddenly extremely snippy and mean when you try to talk to her when she’s pausing the email and trying to fix the mistake – chances are she knows about the mistake. Please be nice to her and go get her some chamomile tea. Or a shot.]
3. Gmail Chains and Final Sends
Gmail is wonderful, but it causes me to have an email-induced panic attack every. single. day. My company uses corporate gmail (YAY!). So did my previous company. For this, I am grateful, because Outlook is just the worst.
Before an email goes out, I’ll have an email chain going around internally with “[TEST] Subject line of the email I’m about to send” as the subject line. In this chain, we’re finalizing content for the email and getting approvals.
Because of Gmail’s conversation view (which I really, truly love), when the actual email goes out, it’s added to that chain because Gmail is smart and knows that even with the “[TEST]” at the beginning of the other one, it’s still the same email. It results in a split second panic attack where the Sender of Emails thinks that the ACTUAL email went out to customers with [TEST] at the beginning of the subject line.
The first time this happened to me was when I worked at Warby Parker. It was an email that had taken a long time to go through edits, and I ended up sending it out much later in the day than I had planned (around 5:30 PM). I was just about to head out to an email nerd meetup when the email arrived in my inbox, making my “TEST” chain bold and up at the top of my “Important and Unread” section. My heart started pounding. I got the huge throat lump. I looked at the header of the email and saw that it had been sent with the correct subject line, sans [TEST], but I still wasn’t convinced. I demanded to see the email on the screens of everyone sitting around me. Even once I was sure the email had gone out correctly, the throat lump and heart pounding remained for another 30 minutes. Luckily, the email meetup I was headed to was over drinks, and I had the right audience to commiserate with.
And even though I know that this will probably happen every day, and I know that I’m not going to send an email with [TEST] in the subject line to my whole list, there’s a split second moment of panic every single time an email goes out. Every day.
And yet, despite all this, I still really, really love email marketing.