Away from the keyboard: Keeping in touch when you’re not around

By Mark G. Auerbach

So, you’re planning to go on vacation. Or, you’re traveling out of town for work, or on a daylong photo shoot or at a conference, or perhaps at a meeting without internet access. Perhaps you’re home sick, or out of the office on medical leave, or at your kid’s soccer game. Since most clients and customers assume you’re available or on-call 24/7, it’s essential to keep in touch. Because, if you’re not available, the client or customer may take the business somewhere else.

First of all, if you’re going to be away, determine who can step in if you’re not available, especially if it’s longer than a day or two. And make sure that someone on your team can triage the problem and find you if it’s a real emergency.

Just about every email program has a setting where you can post an away message. My current one states: “I’m traveling for work and only have access to email intermittently. I’ll respond as soon a possible. If it’s urgent, call me on my cell at _____. I’ll be back in the office on _____.”

When I was out on extended medical leave, my away message stated. “I’m recovering from an injury, and I won’t be back to work until approximately July 1. I do check emails and respond every other day. So, I’ll respond as soon a possible. If it’s urgent, call me on my cell at _____, and I’ll have one of my team work with you.”

Do the same with your voice mail.

Don’t forget quick updates when you return

And, when you’re back, refresh your voice mail and turn off your auto-reply on your email. Nothing shows a lack of attention more than receiving an auto reply that says “I’ll be back in the office on August 21,” to an email sent on August 28.

Be pro-active. If you know you’ll be on vacation or leave or at a conference, let your clients know in advance. I email them when I’ll be away, and let them know when I intend to return, and who can handle their issues while I’m away.

If I’m away for an extended period, I have posted it to social media. Sometimes, I’ll post that “I’m presenting at the ABC Conference on such and such a date. Hope to see you there.”

What info to share

Just how much information do you want to share? Be careful about posting too much information online, because your “away from home” may be of interest to those who might want to rob your house or office. On the other hand, be truthful about where you are. Vacation is vacation, and most people understand that. But, illness or family medical leave will make your absence more understanding. I was upfront with being out of work due to surgery, and in-patient rehab. I didn’t want clients to think I was taking an extended spring break, even though my femur and wrist were.

Good public relations requires a proactive communications strategy with your clients and customers. Responding to their calls, emails, and inquiries promptly is important, because it shows you care. And a good reputation is essential to succeeding in small business.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. Mark is also the ArtsBeat reporter for The Westfield News Group, Pioneer Valley Radio, and producer of ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm-WKSB. You can find more information about Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations on Facebook, and Mark G. Auerbach on LinkedIn or @mgauerbach on Twitter.

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