Out-of-office Email as a ...


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.


  • Randy

    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

    • hoffman

      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.”

  • Dude Stro

    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.

    • hoffman

      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.

  • DudeStro

    First of all, I stand by my original premise written four years ago: vacation is vacation. I stand even more behind that statement. Secondly, is it really that important that it can’t wait? Are you? Or are you just fooling yourself?

    If you’re going to spend the time and money on vacation, then go and find your garden . . . (http://bit.ly/2lA8wa7 )

    Story / fact time:
    • The most common reason why people don’t take vacation is because they possess what researchers call a “martyr” complex, in which they believe that no one else can do their job as well as they can. Yet more than 20 percent of people who don’t take vacations say they skip out because they are afraid they feel they are easily replaceable.
    • A study done at Erasmus University in Rotterdam found that among about 1,500 Dutch adults in which 974 of them took a vacation, those who took time off were happier than those who did not, mostly because they were excited in anticipation for their vacation.
    • All that happiness could pay off for you in major ways. An internal study done by the Ernst & Young accounting firm found that for each additional 10 hours that an employee took for vacation, his or her performance review was eight percent higher the next year.
    • A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that vacation-related stress caused folks to feel like they had lower energy at work after returning from their supposedly relaxing vacation.
    • Sources: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/09/05/take-a-vacation_n_5701215.html https://www.bustle.com/p/why-you-should-turn-your-phone-off-on-vacation-according-to-science-8500458 https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucekasanoff/2014/07/31/15-reasons-not-to-take-your-phone-on-vacation/#64b44eb322a0

    People respect you if you take a vacation. Frankly, they really are tired of you being around all the time (and some of you being grumpy). They want to see your happy smile. And, even more, they want to be able to function without your presence.

    Story time: Two professional friends just climbed Kilimanjaro. And their main assertion when they got home was that the trip was more fun because they didn’t check in and their phones/email couldn’t be accessed. They enjoyed the ride. 20-days without email. And voicemail. And the workplace survived and went on without them.

    If you empty your brain of incessant trivia and work nonsense, you will make room for great ideas and your true feelings. Plus, your spouse will remember why s/he married you in the first place. And you’ll enjoy the music of life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z26BvHOD_sg

    So, tune out. Turn off your devices. And turn on your brain and eyes to the world around you.

    Hit the road, Jack (and Jill), without your email.

    • Lou Hoffman

      Certainly like the idea of periodically emptying my brain.


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