What’s in your signature? by Matt Holland

The library signature has been gathering pixel dust for a while now.   A refresh is overdue and as it happens it’s near the top of the Summer Holiday to do list.   To boot, lots of graphics laden emails have been dropping into the library email box recently. Jealous? Yes, I am.

Where to start?

Well, for evidence-based signature redesign only a survey will do. So here are the results of a survey of 50 (n=50) eMail signatures from the NWAS LKS Inbox. Actually, it was 70. Following sound research practice the survey proforma was tested with a sample of 20 to iron out the bumps.

What do we learn?

The survey revealed something of the blindingly obvious and a little more besides. The essential three items to included are Job Title, Name and Phone Number.

eMail address is popular, but this is also embedded in the metadata of the message. Do you need it in your signature as well? You can find it in Properties or just click Reply. It may not be an issue unless you are up against a word or space restriction.

There is an overlap between postal address and the name of the organisation / trust you work for. Personally, I very rarely need a postal address but I have on more than one occasion tried to tease out where someone works from their eMail address. The name of my employer is on my required list.

Qualifications aren’t that popular. It could depend on whether you want to convey a “Call me Dave” familiarity or impress with the extent of your qualifications.   You might think that a Job Title with a word as weighty as Librarian in it gets the message across nicely. There may also be something in there about the formal/informal culture of the organisation you work in. Social Media weren’t that popular either. Profile pages (LinkedIn, ORCiD etc.) scored a big fat zero.

Graphics or no Graphics?

For those that did include graphics, Corporate logos were popular as well as logos for resources (Up To Date etc.). The Twitter tweetie put in an appearance as well as a showing for national PR campaigns, A Million Decisions and My Name is …

Despite the opening paragraph I do have reservations about graphics. Yes, they are eye catching and yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, they take up a lot of screen space, cause filtering issues and they don’t always display well. Colorful text, tastefully done might be as effective? Bottom line is using Webmail gives a very inconsistent display. As I use that more than the desktop eMail software I will pass graphics for now.

Missed marketing opportunity?

For the Virtual Library (e.g. NWAS LKS), the eMail signature is the perfect ambient advertising medium.   It is the one thing that goes to all library users at one time or another. However, only a minority of signatures in the survey included promotional messages for resources or library services.

For NWAS LKS it’s a lesson relearned. Working mainly through Webmail with its unreasonably stingy signature word allowance, the promotional message included a few years back was ditched in favour of keeping a full postal address or something less useful. That was a bad decision! The message is back. It might even get squeezed into the as yet unwritten library Marketing Plan. The only challenge is thinking of something short and pithy enough to catch the eye. Suggestions in an eMail please …

Matt Holland
NWAS LKS, supported by HCLU North.

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