My lovely PR lady raised this with me following a client of hers signing their communications, be that text or email, with a ‘x’ or kiss. Yes she has worked with her client for several years and they get on really well, but my PR lady felt it tipped the relationship into a more personal level and blurred the lines between professionalism and friendship. Given the client is very gregarious and fun and great at her job they would probably be friends in another life, but my PR lady had pause to consider and share it with us.
I have some clients I would have to admit I consider whether I ‘x’ or don’t in my communications. Some would be horrified if I were to do so, while another would be devastated the other way if I did not. As a business owner, there is a line you must tread. You want to be all things to all clients so they keep coming back but you must also recognise what is ‘appropriate’ as I have said before.
But let’s not get so hung up about it as Slate writer Matthew JX Malady recently did with his rant about email sign offs being ‘holdovers from a bygone era of letter writing’ and a waste of time causing email writers to agonise over what term is appropriate, or whether a ‘x’ or two was needed in this case! Instead consider what the New York Times tried to explain way back in 2009 when it said a sign off is where the content of the message can be clarified or undermined and is where relationships and hierarchies are established, and so treat them with caution.
Mr Malady’s conclusion and advice? That we should end our emails with the actual last thing we want to say; gosh how novel. But I go back to the statement that some of my clients would expect more, and be upset otherwise. So how can we adapt and satisfy at the same time?
Yes, emails give you more flexibility in terms of how you address people but underpinning that needs to be the image you are trying to portray in that opener or closer.
You wouldn’t greet your client how you greet your mates in a text surely!? ‘Oi we off out tonite?’ springs to mind as my phone has just beeped (or maybe a handful of you would?) It’s all about relationships and balancing the need to get a message across, to be seen to be friendly and supportive and also friendly and welcoming while professional when I send an email – a tough call for an HR professional when I sign off my emails.
So, do you want to be seen as professional? ‘Dear’ every time and ‘kind regards’ works a treat. Want to be friendly? Then try a ‘Hi’ and a ‘thanks’. Know your client as a friend? Then if they are happy with a ‘x’ then leave one for them – if not sure then ask them! How hard can that be if you are as close as you think you are? It’s about knowing when to be formal and when to be casual, as well as following your ‘brand’.
From an HR perspective it’s very simple – don’t offend and be appropriate to the business you are in and portraying, and respect the message you are giving; a ‘x’ would not be good at the end of a disciplinary hearing invite after all!
Yes, informality at the end of an email can blur lines, and it often says more about you than the receiver on how you react to a ‘x’ in a business email and/or text but it’s certainly food for thought. It’s your business image that the email is representing – it’s often useful to remember that. So how do you sign off your emails? Let me have your thoughts please.
Cheers, kind regards and bye x