What You Need to Know About Your OOO Message

Autoresponder email messages, or Out of Office messages (OOOs), typically provide three important pieces of information: how long the person you are contacting will be unavailable, who to contact while they are gone, and when that person will return. If you’re the one writing the message, there’s no need to mention why you’re out, when your first day out of the office was, where you’re going, or to give an excuse for why you’re not available. 

There is one instance where you may want to tell people where you are, and that is when you are attending a work-related event or activity like a conference, retreat, or business trip. In this case you should consider writing a “slow to respond” out of office reply that lets people know you’re still working but that you won’t be able to reply to email as reliably as usual. It’s not for when you’re on vacation, but only when you want to let folks know you’re still working but not as available as usual. 

Depending on your workplace protocols and established communications etiquette, there may be some leeway with respect to creating unique, humorous, and even work-related autoresponder messages. With some flexibility, autoresponders are both art, based on wordsmithing, and an evolving science, because they can be analyzed for complaints, drops in email count, and other forms of analysis. Think emojis, GIFs, or image templates. Karsten Kohler of HubSpot Marketing in Germany, uses third person commentary from a recurring fictional cartoon character from The Simpsons animated sitcom to deliver his out of office messages. The character Troy McClure, who speaks on behalf of Kohler, makes mention of his own unique previous auto-responses, and drops cultural references in hopes of giving Kohler’s contacts something to laugh at. 

Other ways to catch the attention of whoever has sent you an email can be through emojis, considered an official language all of their own, or by dropping in a GIF into your message. For example, “Here’s a snapshot of my last day in the office.” There are also templates available from free resources like Venngage that can be used for extended out of office periods like maternity leaves or long vacations. Again, depending on your own office protocols, these templates can add humor and impact when people contact you. 

Finally, there may be an opportunity to generate a lead or to promote an activity or event within the content of your autoresponder message. Research has shown that there is a 50-50 chance that your out of office message will be read by someone who already knows you and who also wants something from you. Letting them know about a promotion, a sale, a special event, or a unique opportunity within your message can be seen a trust builder and a sign of commitment.

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