27 communication templates every business needs

Ampelmann gingerbread
Barof is the God of Gingerbread. At this time he is slumping moodily at the bar of The Broken Divinity, moodily regarding the mind-twisting selection of bottles behind the bar and drinking a celestrial wine spritzer with a peach-of-immortality garnish.

Gharine, God of Clouds, strides in through the crowd. (If you were expecting the goddess of clouds to be a wispy and ethereal being you will be disappointed. She has the sturdy calves and thick shoulders of a woman who can comfortably carry an entire side of beef through a snowstorm.)

Gharine sits next to the piteous melt of Barof and slaps him heartily on the back. (It’s lucky he’s a god, that would have snapped a mortal clean in two.) She booms, “What’s up, goodbuddy?”

He sighs through five different languages. “It’s the gingerbread, of course. I’m having all sorts of problems.”

“Like what?”

“Firstly, it’s taking me far too long to make the horsies come out right. They’ve got so many damn legs. Thin thin legs! One tiny mistake and poof! three-legged horsie.

And that’s not to mention the damn octopi. If I do their legs thin enough to look right then they burn. Do them thick enough to survive the oven and they look crap.

Half my men look cross-eyed due to raisin-wrangling issues.

And I went in today anyway, because I am an artist, but I wasn’t in the best of moods and every single piece I made came out hilly. Every single one!”

“Wow, that sure does suck, goodbuddy. Not having any compromises in your ingredients?”

“No, everything there is fine.”

“The weights and measures are accurate?”

“Yep, got ’em double-checked yesterday.”

“Your cookie cutters still sharp?”

“What? I don’t use cookie cutters.”

Gharine stares disbelievingly. “You don’t? Are you deranged?”

Barof huffs, “Pay attention. I am an artist. I don’t use… [in tones of deepest loathing] a template. I make every single piece by hand, of course!”

“Holy me, you are deranged. Look buddy, you know I’ve been in clouds forever, literally.”

“Yes, that’s why I’ve always enjoyed your company. You’re an artist, too.”

“Yeah, and for that whole time I’ve been reusing the same four basic cloud types in different combinations.”

Barof gasps and grabs the bar. “What? But the variety! Herringbone striations, puffy pillows, sunset wisps, ominous thunderheads!”

Gharine grins widely. “Cirrus. Cumulus. Nimbus. Stratus. That’s it. I do ’em all with templates.”

It took five shots of ambrosia for Barof to calm down from that revelation, but the gingerbread improved dramatically soon after.

The moral of the story

Communication templates (like cookie cutters) are awesome, and you should use them.

Many people resist, thinking that they suck the spontaneity from your messages, but they don’t have to. Used well they can make your communications more personal, more profound, more effective, and less likely to lead to long and apologetic “What I meant was” conversations.

Your templates can be abstract and high-level: an affiliate offer might be laid out in sections, like [High-level summary] [What’s in it for them] [More details] [Who I am] [Call to action] [Polite wrap-up].

Or your templates can be very very comprehensive: a scratch file with the phrases and sentences you use in different situations, or a pre-formatted email response you can use by clicking three buttons and adding a Dear So-and-So line.

Here are the must-haves to ponder.

When emotions are high.

Oooh, you are sooooo mad.

Must. Bite. Tongue. And. Send. Email. To. Jerkface. Diplomatically.

What could go wrong? Oh, yeah. Everything. Good thing you have some words all written and ready to go so you don’t have to unclench your fists enough to write much.

Things like:

  • ending a working relationship
  • requesting major changes to submitted work
  • dealing with a breach of confidential information
  • resolving supplier issues
  • responding to a negative review

Example: Hello [Angry Dude], thank you for sharing your thoughts about [Product]. I’m very sorry you had a less-than-great experience. If you would like to discuss this with me further, please send me an email at [address] and I’ll do my best to make amends. Regards, [Me].

When energy is low.

One of the most important lessons I have learned from being a creative sprinter is: write the sales page first. Because trying to write it at the end, when you are completely exhausted, doesn’t work terribly well.

The same idea applies to the rest of your marketing and communication. Create templates for anything that you’re likely to write when you’re not at your best.

Such as:

  • appointment reschedules
  • follow-ups after a big draining project
  • thank-yous for ditto
  • email auto-replies

Example: I’ve been bitten by the dreadful lurgy and I won’t be looking at my email at all today. If there’s anything urgent, please call [Someone Else] on [Phone number].

When money is involved.

Money makes people crazy. I’ve happily worked on the phones in high-stress tech environments with no issues, but there’s one area I would have fought a wolverine (snickity snickt) to avoid… accounts. I would have fought the entire Australian SAS to avoid making calls in collections. (Shudder.)

I repeat: money makes people crazy. A good mix of fairness and firmness is hard to summon when you really need your client to pay you today so the car doesn’t get repossessed. But if you write it well before it’s needed, while you’re still calm, it won’t come out wrong.

This includes:

  • following-up outstanding accounts
  • asking for donations
  • asking for more time to pay someone else’s account
  • quoting on a large project
  • querying a charge on an invoice

Example: This amazing service runs entirely on donations from the public. If you want to contribute to keeping the [Thingy] doing [The amazing thing it does], please click [here] to donate. Thank you!

When consistency matters.

If people are coming to you for a repeated experience, they have expectations about what that experience will be like. A template allows you to keep the big stuff consistent, while still being able to add delightful touches of your own personality elsewhere.

  • newsletters
  • articles
  • updates

Example: I use an outline in my newsletter template that says This bit goes here for the different sections. It is awesomesauce and saves me plenty of brainmeat each week. (Which you would know if you were signed up for Mo’Cash, Mo’Joy. Which you are, of course. Right?)

When perceived power isn’t equal.

Writing to the God-Emperor of the Known Universe is a challenging task – he has 25,460 GrammarBots at his command to rend those who do not punctuate his 2,647 titles correctly on the envelope.

Writing to your heroes is less tricky, but still hard. How to mix the hey-you-just-put-your-pants-on-in-the-morning-like-me-right casualness with an awareness that this person can buy and sell East European nations and is probably busy buying Lithuania as we speak dear gods just get to the point… it’s much better to have the format and tone set in advance.

And the more famous you become, the more this works the other way around – much to your continued amazement, probably. Then you have to be careful about being appreciative while still keeping your boundaries.

This includes:

  • interview requests
  • thanking them for being amazing
  • small favours
  • “small” favours – don’t do this, actually
  • special offers

Example: Would you be available on [time in their timezone] to be part of the [Totally Amazing Teleclass] that I’m running? You’ll know the other special guests: [Person they know and respect] and [Other person they know and respect] are both taking part. Each participant will have five minutes to talk about their work and their offerings to an audience of 250 people who are interested in [mutually important topic].

When you’re hellaciously busy.

You have sixteen squillion things to do, and the emails keep on coming in. You’ve successfully triaged most into the “Answer next week” pile, but it’d be rude to leave them unloved for all that time.

It’s be much nicer to have something simple to cut-and-paste in for the non-urgent stuff, like:

Thanks for your email. I’m wrassling with a large slew of new orders so I won’t be answering you in full until after the [date you better keep]. This way I can give you a proper response instead of three hasty words. Cheers, [Me].

Things you are very sick of typing over and over.

Because life is just far too short.


  • opening hours
  • links to your calendar
  • instructions
  • FAQs

Examples: “Empire Records, open ’til midnight, this is Mark… MIDNIGHT!”

What do YOU need to template?

Creative Commons License photo credit: goosmurf

The alchemist, the jester, and the marketer talk bestest people

[90/365] Cruel Present
This is a story that happened before the last one.

The alchemist and I are in her shady cool tent as the sand-laden wind gossips about us viciously to the palm trees. I’m admiring an incredible rug; it smells faintly of cinnamon and diesel oil.

The alchemist smiles in fractals and says Hello there, darlingheart. What’s the hippy haps?

I admit to her that I have gotten a wee bit muddy about who my bestest people are.

Have you written down their qualities?


Well, that is the lack. If you don’t have a concrete list of criteria to measure your bestest people by, then you will always let wishful thinking have far too much influence in your decisions. Many many people can be made to fit, rather like the bloody-footed tale you told once about Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Oh. I need to get very concrete about them, so I can’t cheat?

Metaphorically, yes.

Can we go through it together?

Of course, my dearest. She smiles algebraically.

Right. Hmm. (I roll up my sleeves.) Well, obvious stuff first, I think.

Very well. To quote yourself, what are the core assumptions that someone would need to have to work beautifully with you? What would they need to believe?

Okay. Well, they’d need to believe that cash and joy are equally important parts of your business. And they want to have oodles of both.

Write that down, then.

Obedientally I find a scraped lionskin and a quill of vermillion ink and I write:

My bestest people believe that cash and joy are equally important and want to run businesses that produce squoodles of both.

Good. I like the use of squoodles. What else?

They want to be magnificent, to do magnificent work.

I’m sure you could be a little more poetical.

Yes. Um. How about this?

My bestest people want to BLAZE. They strive for magnificence in every aspect of their work.

Lovely. Anything else?

World-changers! Watch me go!

My bestest people are unashamed world-changers. They know that the world would be worse off without their work.

I like that you included alchemy. But they are not the only ones who seek transformation.

Oh yeah!

My bestest people constantly challenge me to grow in skills, and in soul.

Are they the only beliefs one needs to have to join you?

Yeah, I think so. They need to be moderately open-minded, but I don’t think that needs to be on the list – the narrow-minded tend to see one cussword and flee. What next?

Tell me the behaviours that inhibit your best work and stop your flow. Then decide if you want the opposite.

Right, okay. Umm… I find it a bit difficult when…

She whipcracks into my ellipses. Do not pule and whine. You have preferences, and you must own them.

Okay, dammit! I, uh, hate having to soft-pedal. So:

My bestest people don’t need a cushion under hard truths. They know that clarity is necessary for greatness, and honesty comes from love.

Do you need that last sentence, or are you justifying yourself?

I don’t know. Hmmm. No, it matters… the first sentence alone says that they’re resilient – and they are – but the second sentences clarifies that their resilience comes from wisdom. The truth still stings, often, but they accept that and don’t shoot the messenger. Or knock out the surgeon.

Excellent. What else disturbs your best work?

I used to think my best work was with people who were still stuck in fear, but I know now that it isn’t. People who can unstuckify themselves get much more amazing stuff done. Right!

My bestest people regard their fears as logistical issues, not roadblocks.

Neatly phrased. She smiles through the unreal numbers.

Thanks! Ooh, and I just thought of another thing that people do right and I always appreciate it when they do…

My bestest people aren’t backward about coming forward. They share their feelings, while always staying responsible for them.

Again, good. But you have forgotten someone.

I have?

Yes. Listen.

From outside I hear the dry sand-laden wind, and… the ringing of tiny bells.

Ohshit! I cry, and open the tent flap. In staggers the jester, her bells muffled with sand but her motley shining as bright as ever. Her hair is a redgold accident in the firework factory and her smile is a tatterdemalion majesty. The jester has seven freckles across her nose and eyes the colour of old Coke bottles.

‘Allo, lovely! she grins. She has a truly improbable number of dimples. Didja forget me?

No! I was just doing rulesy stuff. So yes, actually, I did forget you.

She grins wider; somewhere an angel faints. Well, you know there’s one super-duper important thing to add, babyluv. ME! You’ve done all that tranformational mumbo-jumbo whatsit magoozalah, but what’s the point of alchemy if you’re bored solid?

You’re right. My bad. How’s this?

My bestest people take their work passionately, but not seriously: they bring the funny and love to play.

You’re damn right. Aaaaand?

My bestest people are fast thinkers, fast talkers, and fast to implement.

Heh. The jester and the alchemist hug and compare hair products for a few minutes, along with a recipe that could be a soothing herbal tea or a high-powered demolition charge, or maybe both. (I’m just thrilled that they get along so well.)

Now they turn in eerie unison and speak.

Alchemist: Don’t forget the life water of your business.
Jester: Where’s the fucking cashola, sweetiepants?

Okay. Two parts to this, I think.

My bestest people feel heart-swelling gratitude for our work, and can’t wait to recommend it to other amazing people.


My bestest people respect my time, and feel a giddy thrill when they pay for it.

The jester says Cool beans. I can think of one more, though. Riddle me this: when do you want this all to happen?

Uh… yesterday? Riiiight.

My bestest people are impatient to ROCK IT THE FUCK OUT and take massive inspired action. Right now!

Yeah, baby. The jester gives me a high five and a fist bump, flicks a button on her cuff that starts White Zombie’s track El Phantasmo and the Chicken Run Blast-O-Rama playing at Too Freakin Loud, and back-flips out through the closed tent flaps.

The alchemist smiles exponentially at the disappearing jester and turns back to me.

So what will you do with the people who don’t meet all of these criteria?

Umm… well, I want to save my one-on-one work for the bestest people. But I could still make products for the right people: the ones who work at a slower pace than I do, or aren’t quite ready to do the intense scary stuff. They still have to share the beliefs, but they don’t need to work exactly the same way I do – I proved that with DIY Magnificence.

What will you do with the people you’re currently working with one-on-one work who aren’t your bestest people?

I… don’t know. I have to think about that.

Don’t worry, we’ll dream about it tomorrow night. See you then.

And I wake, to scramble fast enough to write all the criteria before I forget them.

I am profoundly unready for the next dream, but luckily I don’t know it.

Who are your bestest people?

DIY Magnificence is indeed there to help you answer that question for yourself. Check it out.

Creative Commons License photo credit: pasukaru76 (out of town)

The alchemist and the marketer

It was one of those dreams that you know are a dream, but it doesn’t matter.

I’m standing in a dark cool tent in the middle of a desert with the simoom wind outside petulantly flinging hot sand against the tent flaps.

The tent is full of fascinating glassware and alembics and crucibles and other things I have no names for. I’m facing the alchemist as she stirs a fiercely glowing metal gloop.

Look into her eyes and you’ll believe those that claim the alchemist is eight hundred and fifty-three years old. Look at her smile and the stories that she’s younger than the morning’s dew become clear. She’s wearing folded robes and rainbow suspenders; I would kill an archangel for her dark hair.

She smiles in twenty-three dimensions and speaks. You know why you’re here.

I sadly admit that I do.

She stirs and says Tell me why you are here.

I clear my throat, both in the dream and in my sleeping body, and I say, “I accept work I know won’t be my best by working with people who aren’t quite right.”

Do you do this for the money?

No! Well, sometimes. But mostly I do it from love.

You love people, so you give them less than your best?

Yes. No. I want to help!

But you also crave magnificence. For yourself and the people you work with.

I do. (My sleeping forehead is crumpled and pinched and rigid. Uncomfortable.)

Do you know how the Elixir of Life is created? How the Philosopher’s Stone is made?

(Resist the Harry Potter joke, Catherine.) They’re made by removing all the impurities from a special mixture until only a liquid and solid remain. The liquid is the Elixir of Life, which grants immortality. The solid part is the Philosopher’s Stone, which will turn any metal into gold.

Do you know how to identify an alchemist?


She smiles across five wavelengths of light and rolls back her sleeves. Her hands and forearms are pitted with burn on top of burn. In a few, I wincingly note, it appears that liquid metal has actually bonded with the skin. My sleeping hands twitch in sympathetic pain.

It is an easy thing to say, to remove all impurities. But what it means is to suffer and to strive and to breathe painful fumes and to burn and to burn and to burn. One of the ingredients in this mixture is a hundred times the mixture’s volume in the tears of its creator.

My sleeping eyes sneak tears onto my red pillow. “So I must suffer to create magnificence. I accept that.”

Oh, it is worse. You must accept that other people will suffer because of your desire for magnificence. I have scars, but I am not in the crucible. It is the metal which suffers most.

O no no. I love my almost-right people. I don’t want to make them suffer.

What, then? Will you continue to work with people who cannot get the most from what you offer? Perhaps now, perhaps forever?

That’s not fair to them either! Or to me. (My sleeping body draws in on itself, knees almost grazing nipples in a tense fetal ring.)

You wished to be an alchemist. To create money and lasting change, your cash and joy. Money is the province of the Philosopher’s Stone. Lasting change is simply immortality with different pants on, your Elixir of Life.

This is the alchemist’s master work. And it is painful.

But it’s not like they’re bad people. They’re amazing!

Yes, they are. Silver is a beautiful metal, costly and delightful… but if I added it to this crucible, the mixture would fail. This is not a judgement about value, this is a recipe. And with receipes no is much more important than yes.

I say yes a lot.

You do. And so now you must say, “I’m sorry, but…”

(The tears spread across my pillow as I beseech my dream.) Is there any way around this no don’t tell me I know there isn’t. My heart feels like it’s breaking.

That is another ingredient in the alchemist’s master work. Your heart must break so it can regrow larger.

Please, is this worth it?

Only you can tell. But I think it’s pretty kick-ass.

The alchemist crafts a smile that is both a wave and a particle, and I wake to a damp pillow and a dreaded to-do list.

More stories each week when you sign up to Mo’Cash, Mo’Joy. I promise most of them don’t make me cry the way this one did.

Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

Barefoot cobblers and unknown marketers

Give me those prepubescent secret lies, I'll hold them and I promise I won't share.

Bebri made rainbow-coloured glitter.

Understand: I do not mean that she made glitter in every colour of the rainbow. I mean that the glitter she made ran giggling through the spectrum of light, every single tiny flake eye-catching and mesmerising. Each fleck was a red-hot button wired to the inner three-year-old in every soul; an awe-machine the size of a grain of sand.

Bebri took her darkest shirt and pants and shoes and gloves and woollen cap and dipped them all into her glitter. Attired like the Aurora Borealis on disco night, she walked out into the world to sell her glitter.

Her first sale closed even before she left her driveway. Her entire stock was cleaned out within thirty minutes. Pleased and rich, she returned home to make more glitter for tomorrow.

Multi-faceted light-prisming glitter is not easy to create, and she could never make enough to keep up with demand. Every single grain she made was delivered to her buyers, who flocked to her stall every time they saw her glimmering self arrive.

But her attire glimmered a little less every day. Some glitter fell off, and some was slyly picked off her clothes when she wasn’t paying attention. Soon she wasn’t a supernova of light, but a shimmer. And far too quickly, all her glitter had worn off and she was dressed in drab black.

The stall lost its lustre – literally. Business evaporated. And Bebri said, “Oh! If I give all my glitter to others to illuminate themselves, then there is none left for me. And when there is none for me, then no-one can know what I have to offer. By giving all of my work to others, I impoverish myself. Shitballs!

A new container was created in Bebri’s workshop, labelled Me. And this container was always the first to be refilled, so that Bebri could shine brightly at all times.

All the rest is glittering technicolour history.

The moral of the story

It’s far too easy to give all your best and juiciest inspiration to your clients until your work for yourself starves to death. (And then, more literally, so do you.) There are plenty of web designers with outdated sites, VAs with every client’s work 100% complete but three stacks of their own paperwork to go through, and marketers who never promote their own work because they’re too busy putting all their inspiration into their clients.

Congratulations, you now have a new client: it’s called Your Business.

Your Business is your most important client and should be treated accordingly. Your Business is on retainer and requires at least as much time as any of your other clients; book time in your calendar every week – maybe every day – to thoughtfully consider Your Business’s needs and implement amazing work for Your Business on a consistent basis.

Do NOT use the time in your calendar for any other client. You wouldn’t treat any of your other clients so shabbily, because they would leave you. Your Business deserves respect, focus and as much of the zingy amazing best work you deliver to your other clients.

This new addition to your workload may require you to let another client go. Long-term, this is the best solution: Your Business will, if neglected, take the whole client list down in a fit of spite. Treat Your Business well and it will stay with you for many years to come, rewarding you more handsomely than any other client could.

Shine on, my lovelies.

P.S. Are you ready to strap the fuck in and commit to only doing your best work? Because if you are, you need to be signed up to the Mo’Cash Mo’Joy newsletter. It’s here to help!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Julija Felajn