Out-of-office Email as a Platform for Storytelling

There’s been much discussion including in this forum on the importance of storytelling techniques in social media.

Yet, the opportunity is bigger than just social media,. So many online interactions lend themselves to storytelling and ultimately fortifying the brand, even those that fall under the “mundane” category.

In fact, you could make an argument that the “mundane,” for example the confirmation for an online subscription, represents one of the best opportunities to stand out, since everyone else defaults to the status quo.

Is there any communication more dull than the out-of-office email?: “I am sorry I missed your email, but am currently out of the office (duh). I will get back to you when I return to the office on November XX.”

But author and customer service guru Marsha Collier crafts her out-of-office email with personality and pinch of levity.

A little bit of stage-setting –

Marsha got married last week.

Marsha Collier Wedding

An email trying to reach Marsha post-wedding triggered this note:

I am currently out of the office for my wedding and honeymoon.

I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to email and won’t be able to respond until I return – but you know that’s only partly true. My devices will be with me and I can respond if I need to. And I recognize that I may need to interrupt my honeymoon from time to time to deal with something urgent.

That said, I promised my husband that after the wedding I am going to try to disconnect, get away and enjoy our honeymoon. So, I’m going to experiment with something new. I’m going to leave the decision in your hands:

  • If your email truly is urgent and you need a response while I’m on my honeymoon, please resend it to ********** and I’ll try to respond to it promptly.
  • If you think someone else at The Collier Company might be able to help you, feel free to email my assistant at ********* and she’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Otherwise, I’ll respond when I return …

Warm regards,


In talking to Marsha, she made a point of saying her email was patterned after one crafted by Josh Kopelman. Recognizing storytelling gold is half the battle.

And congratulations to Marsha and Curt on their big day.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Randy November 13th, 2013 5:58 pm

    Love it! There has got to be a disruption in out of office functionality and copy. Perhaps someone should create a mobile app that ties into your Outlook or Gmail and every time someone sends you an email it automatically takes an approved photo from your camera roll and embeds it in your email.

    “I really want to talk with you right now but unfortunately I’m here:

    photo of you walking on the beaches of Maui

  2. hoffman November 13th, 2013 6:32 pm

    Now that would be sweet.

    It’s interesting how photography has moved from capturing memories to replacing words. To your broad point, my wife got a call the other day as we’re relaxing in our back yard with a glass of wine. She simply takes a shot and sends it to the person calling. No words. The photo + context says “busy.”

  3. Dude Stro January 11th, 2014 4:14 pm

    Turn off.
    Tune out.
    Live without voicemail and a cell phone for a while.

    Are you kidding me? This person has a vacation/honeymoon and she’s going to risk having some over-zealous salesperson breathlessly contact her? “This deal . . . couldn’t wait!” the sales rep will say.

    Well we’re not buyin’ it. It’s like the “Guarantee Fairy” in Tommy Boy: “Before you know it, money is missing off your dresser and your daughter’s knocked up. I’ve seen it a hundred times . . . ”

    Don’t let the “guarantee fairies” contact you when you’re on a vacation. Take your vacation and stop working. Believe me, you’re NOT that important.

    If you’re going to tell a story, tell a story. Get to the point. There’s nothing worse than a bad story teller or someone who over embelishes. Simply add some links and even make a special offer in your out of office email. But a)Don’t tell us about your honeymoon (and the fact that you’re willing to ditch your new hubby for work) — leave that for FB; and b) Don’t give me a name of someone else: phishers will add that person to a database. Drive and increase the traffic to the Website.

    As Nancy Reagan coined, “Just say No, thank you.”

    You don’t want to be like Randolph and Mortimer Duke. Turn the machines off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B71HytDmEso

    Even Ishmael goes on vacation now and then.
    Tune out.
    Turn off (your devices).
    Turn (your mind) on.

    P.S. Read a book. A real book with paper.

  4. hoffman January 12th, 2014 11:44 am

    Dude Stro,

    It’s always good hearing your fresh takes and sense of humor.

    But in this case, you got it wrong. In spite of her high public profile, Marsha goes out her way to lend a helping hand to everyone and anyone. As someone who doesn’t exactly shut down during non-biz hours, this seems to be an area of personal choice.

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