How many emails do you think I get a day? 100? Perhaps 200 on a busy day? No. Right now I’m on the receiving end of more than 1,500.
I only have to get up to make tea, and by the time I get back to my desk, another 50 have arrived, like the chatterbox salesman who keep turning up at my front door, unprompted, uninvited – and I’m afraid, mostly unwanted.
None of us can do without email. It’s the tool that has most improved our working lives (and I speak as a journalist who in the 1980s often sent letters – yes, shock, by Snail Post – to people I wanted to interview, to cajole them into talking to me. And that was after finding their address in the phone book.) I won’t go on as it makes me sound like my grandmother, rather than 21st-century, down-with-the-kids woman I like to pretend that I am…
Once upon a time, I would have opened every email that arrived. Now I do two things: a) I scan the subject matter to see whether it sounds relevant and b) I look at the first line to see whether it is personally addressed to me. If it is neither, I delete it.
If this sounds a little harsh, think of the snail mail that comes through your letterbox at home. Those bank statements that arrive in white envelopes, you instantly recognise – and know you can’t chuck. Those smart, thick envelopes with your name in calligraphy go to the top of the pile: a wedding (hurrah!), a dinner (delicious!), a talk at the RGS (brilliant!). But those dozens of pizza flyers? They get scooped up, and instantly dumped, unread, in the recycling.
When you’re sending out a press release to a journalist whom you are really trying to tempt to do a story, please consider: are you sending them a cheap pizza flyer or a lovely thick envelope? You know which you’d rather open.