Customer communication lessons from the Jane Austen Society

The organization celebrates the writer’s life and work. Communicators should also take note of its transparent, proactive and polite messaging tactics.

Writers can find inspiration anywhere—fiction, podcasts, billboards, movie trailers.

Most recently, I joined the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and have reveled in the refinement of its messaging.

As one would expect, notifications from this group have been polite, well written and reflective of the personality of the group. In a world of fake news, spam, and ham-handed marketing techniques, receiving their messages is like feeling the sun on your face on a cold day.

Here are a few examples that can help you add style to your customer communications:

The ‘Welcome’ letter

It is my pleasure to welcome you as a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. You join a community of Austen readers from all parts of the United States and Canada and as far away as London, Lima, Tokyo, and Sydney. In spite of our size, however, I think you will find in JASNA the amiability of “3 or 4 Families in a Country Village.”

The ‘Thanks for your contribution’ letter

For all the charm, grace, and civility that Jane Austen novels convey, each of them also deals with finances and money. Jane Austen knew the financial realities of life, as we all do. We very much appreciate your contribution to JASNA and the causes it supports.

Crisis communications

JASNA recently saw the registration system for its annual meeting go down. Given that its website had experienced more than 18,000 hits in the previous hour, the seriousness of the crash could not be understated. Yet the situation was handled with the transparency, empathy and politeness that every organization should emulate.

Excerpt from email 1—telling members what happened:

We share your deep frustration, as the AGM team, JASNA website manager, and others have spent many weeks preparing for this day. I apologize for the inconvenience, and I would like to let you know what happened and what our next steps are.

Although we had tested the registration system extensively, the unprecedented level of demand affected both the JASNA website and the registration site in ways that we are still assessing. The system is currently inactive while we identify and solve problems.

Excerpt from email 2—telling members, “We’re working on it”:

Our software vendor has been unable, so far, to reproduce those problems and fix them. We want to cause you as little additional annoyance as possible, so we have determined NOT to reactivate the registration system until Monday at the earliest, and to proceed with future registration at a slower pace while we closely monitor system performance.

Excerpt from Email 3—telling members what’s next:

Thank you very much for your patience over the weekend. We have been addressing both technical issues and process considerations and have decided on a path intended to avoid future software problems and give those who have joined the waitlist a fair opportunity to register. Waitlist processing will resume at 6:00 pm EDT this evening.

What do you think PR Daily readers? Can any of these examples be incorporated into your customer or member communication? Please share your thoughts below.

A writer and editor from Austin, Texas, Laura Hale Brockway is also a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her posts on writing with style at impertinentremarks.com.

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