Writing style, brand, and
email spam

BrandLast week, as some of you already know, my LifeLines email account was hacked.

Many (not all) of my friends, subscribers, and clients—as well as a few people I don’t even know—received an email from me that looked something like this:

spam email

When I realized what had happened, I began working to send a warning to all my contacts. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. I’m not sure if my desktop mail program couldn’t handle sending hundreds of emails at once, or if the spam/virus had affected my outgoing mail server, but it took me an hour or so to finally send that email. Aargh!

Not my style

But something interesting began to happen while I was frantically fiddling with my account settings: I began to receive emails from people who had received the spam. “Is this really from you?” they asked. “It sounds suspicious, so I don’t want to click on the link until I hear that you really sent it.”

One by one I answered these queries (in addition to continuing to work on a mass email to my contacts). “No, I’ve been hacked. Please do not click the link. I’m trying to warn everyone now. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Everyone was very understanding. But what was interesting was the number of replies that referred to my writing style as the reason they questioned the spam in the first place. These are actual quotes from people who responded:

“The email has run-on sentences which is so not you!”

“Had a feeling it wasn’t you :( ”

“The message just didn’t sound like you. Didn’t open the link.”

“I knew that it was not you. I deleted it.”

And my personal favorite:

“I received the email below this morning but I’m not clicking the link. I am skeptical. I’m pretty sure that if YOU wrote the email you would have capitalized ‘i’, put a period after document, and an apostrophe in ‘its’. Have a good day!”

Even the ever-friendly Peter Bowerman (whom I guest-posted for once) sent me a classy response:

“No worries—I KNEW you hadn’t sent it and to NOT open it…. Happens to the best of us!”

Can’t fool the tribe

I’ve written before about how I work to intentionally shape my “digital ID.” I have made a choice to be recognizable online. I want my writing style, my personality, my tone, my grammar choices—I want that to be as recognizable as my handwritten signature. I want people who have never met me in person to know my brand.

Last week, that decision paid off. When technology failed me, writing style served as a signal that “I” wasn’t “me.” When someone unfamiliar with my brand tried to usurp it, he failed to fool the LifeLines tribe.

That’s what brand is all about.

What are you doing to make sure people recognize yours?

6 thoughts on “Writing style, brand, and </br>email spam”

  1. Love it. I didn’t receive the bogus email / link, but am a total freak when it comes to punctuation and grammar, as well. I’m glad folks recognize the difference. Is Melanie or is it Memorex? :-)

  2. I was not one of your clients who received this email. After reading what was supposedly sent by you I had to shudder at that poor grammar. Definitely not the Melanie I know!

  3. Good to hear your people know your work! It’s like looking at a painting & knowing that style is a DaVinci, Picasso or a forgery. You are good at seeing the positive amongst the situation!

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