Anyplace is an Opportunity for Personality
I got the best compliment from one of my contractors the other day. She told me that my out of office messages make her laugh so hard that she saves them so she can look back at them and laugh another day. Mind. Blown. I mean, don't get me wrong, I know I'm funny, but even that level of adulation made me blush.
Where Did It All Begin?
No really? Where? I honestly can't remember when I first thought to make my out of office messages entertaining. But I do know that ever since, I get countless people writing me back to tell me I have the best out of office messages they've ever seen. More blushing. One person on LinkedIn even posted that he can't wait until the weekend to see what I write. (It had never even occurred to me to do an OOO for a weekend, because of course I'm not working, but I might just start implementing it.) Anyway, perhaps the reason this resonates with so many people, and gets noticed, is because almost no one does this. Most people's OOO are the standard, "I'm not here from date to date. Please contact so-and-so in an emergency. I'll return your message when I get back."
You Get One Life
I think some of the reason for the boring messages is that when you work for a company, you represent that company. But once you take vacation, you represent yourself. And apparently Fun Sally can't let her clients know she has a life. Because then they'd realize, what? She's human? She doesn't live and breathe Company Blah? Now, I'm not saying your OOO messages need to be salacious or sometimes naughty like mine. But what would happen if you used that prime real estate —which gets sent to EVERYONE who emails you (hint: FREE ADVERTISING!) — to be slightly humorous and dare I say, yourself? I guarantee that if you mention where you're going (even if that where is nowhere but your home), when you get back, people will take a genuine interest. "Hey, Sally, I saw you were in the Caribbean. How cool. I love [Island Name here.]" Or "Sally, how was your staycation? I'm sure it was much needed. Hope you got some rest."
If you've ever been on a Zoom call with me, you probably noticed that I've changed the waiting room screen message. Instead of "the host will be with you shortly" (snooze) it says "Loading Personality. Sit tight." Again, free advertising. People see the screen voluntarily and it's another place to add humanity. And people notice, believe me.
You might be thinking, yes, this is all fun and frivolous but so what? Can these little things really make an impact? I could get James Clear on the phone (I'm currently reading Atomic Habits, but I didn't need a book to tell me that small changes make ALL the difference), but the obvious answer is yes. Because in the world of branding, of which we are all brands, everything matters. Every place is an opportunity to remind people of your own Personality Brand and more importantly, your humanity. Every time we take a platform where everyone has the same messages and make it our own, we disrupt the norms, get attention and maybe even make someone smile. And isn't that what life is all about? (not the attention but the smiling) :)