Alix Paultre, editorial director, Power Systems Design (on a visit to Bath)
Correspondence to an editor is like the sea to fishers, a wondrous resource of juicy and delectable bits that can also drown you in a minute if you turn your back on it. Emails, (less frequently) letters, phone calls, Skype chats, LinkedIn messages, and other pings of every nature create a symphony (or cacophony) of information networking.
News floods the inbox of an editor in a continuous stream, press releases, article pitches, and other notes from strangers, colleagues, and friends. The best editors deal with them all in their professional communications. Addressing all (or at least most) those who want to send you information will not only give you a powerful information resource, it will improve your standing in the industry you serve.
This is not to say you should spend all day wading through a bunch of spam emails. One must still perform some kind of triage on the swarm of missives; it’s easy to separate the junk mail from that of known contacts, but the middle category is the hardest to select for. There is a very real difference between a piece of junk and an honest but misplaced effort to communicate, but it isn’t always apparent.
One solution is to have a standard response to borderline correspondence, a single sentence that dismisses the sender but still conveys respect. “Interesting, but not in our editorial footprint” or something of that nature can mean everything to the recipient, usually a beleaguered press agent fishing for pickups. Not only does a short reply stop further miss-pitched items, if the PR person does have anything from other clients (or moves up in the industry), they will remember you.
This also applies to your regular contacts. Whenever you post a press release or news item, a simple “posting today” in a reply-all to the people who sent it to you always goes over well. They get a pickup confirmation they didn’t have to fish for, and you cement yourself in their mind as a valuable editorial resource and colleague. This is worth its weight in tantalum when you are missing an article a week before close and have to go fishing.
The key is to be short and efficient with your replies to be successful in inbox management. Those who get lost in the sea, like most who drown, are usually reacting from panic. If they would only calm down and address the situation in simple steps, they would be able to not only get on top of the sea of information but also sail upon it and draw from it the bounties it can provide.