Monday, October 21, 2013

Thanks from the Community

by Ann Abbott

Students work in the community and don't always know just how much others appreciated their work. 

Here is a note from Ronnie Kahn at La Casa about students who participated in the event for Latino families.

Hi Beth and Anne, I want to thank you for putting out the call for background checks for students to work with the younger siblings for Latina/o Family Visit Day.  A separate sibling track allows us to create programming that they enjoy, while relieving child care duties from parents or older siblings.  Your call for volunteers allowed us to have enough people to hold the younger sibling program throughout the day.
 Thanks for your support of this important retention program; I am sure the committee will outreach to you in future years, Ronnie 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tutorials in Spanish about Pinterest and Social Media Marketing

by Ann Abbott

In yesterday´s blog post I shared what students want to do in my Business Spanish class which is also a social media marketing consulting workshop. One student indicated that he-she would like to learn more about Pinterest. Since I have a limited amount of time in class, I want to share these tutorials with students and let them access them if they want and when they want.

Tutoriales en SlideShare

"Guía rápida de Pinterest
"Uso colaborativo de Pinterest"  

¨Pinterest para empresas¨

¨Pinterest para marcas¨

Tutoriales en YouTube

¨Caso de éxito¨

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Giving Students a Voice in a Service Learning Course

One student team at work during class.
by Ann Abbott

In a previous post I explained how I allowed students to choose the chapters of the textbook that we would study this semester. That is one way to give students voice in the course.

Yesterday I walked into class and said (in Spanish), "Pull out a piece of paper and a pen. Write down what you want to do during today's class. In other words, what do you need at this point in the semester and at this point with your consulting projects?"

These were the results, in descending order of frequency:
  1. Spend time working with their team.
  2. Discuss their posts. Specifically, some people wanted to inject more variety in their posts and get new ideas.
  3. Manage client relationships. Specifically, one person wanted to change the frequency with which the team sent posts to the client (from every week to every two weeks), and another simply wanted to work out a better process for communicating with the client.
  4. See the work that other teams have done for their clients.
  5. Do work from our textbook.
  6. Learn more about how to work within Twitter and Pinterest--not just Facebook.
  7. Talk about strategies for gaining new followers.
  8. Discuss grammar.
  9. Discuss culture. 
Numbers 1, 2, parts of 3 and 4 are easy for me to accommodate.

Managing client relationships is extremely complex, and I'm not fully aware of all the issues. I do know that this is extremely important, and something that I definitely need to work out better--for the benefit of all involved. This needs some real thought on my part--to define the issues, locate resources that address those issues, and think about the best way to teach them.

The fact that two students wanted to do work from our textbook suggests to me that some students might feel uncomfortable with the split we have in this course. On the one hand, we are still dedicating time to covering five chapters from the traditional Business Spanish textbook. On the other hand, we are running a consulting business. I'm not surprised that students might find that unsettling.

I will develop lessons and activities for numbers 6 and 7.

I'm not sure what to do about numbers 8 and 9. We do discuss culture. For each chapter of the textbook, we dedicate one full day to the "Lectura cultural." And "culture" is such a slippery word that I'm not even sure that I know what that student meant by culture. And grammar. Well, it's absolutely necessary, but how to work it in? How can students be resourceful about using grammar tutorials that are on-line, such as Prof. Jason Jolley's YouTube channel?

Frankly, I'm kind of reeling from the variety of needs and wishes that students have. There is a limit to what you can accomplish in one single course. I can satisfy most, but not all of the students' requests. I need to be very thoughtful about how and where I do this.
  • During class, I can give them time to work together.
  • Outside of class, I can create some video tutorials about the specific subjects students want to know more about.
  • In general, I can provide students with on-line resources that can help them help themselves (i.e., grammar).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Volunteer Opportunities Abound for Current and Past Students of "Spanish in the Community"

Latina/o Family Visit Day: Sunday, October 13

Contact: Ronnie Kann,, 217-244-5941

I am reaching out to you personally and to your organization to volunteer for Latina/o Family Visit Day on Sunday, October 13th.   We are in need of people to work two hour or more timeslots.  We are in dire need of people who have been background checked to work with the younger children.  If you are able to work, can you indicate hours that you are free (between 8:00 and 4:00). Every little bit helps. I have attached an excel chart for your name, contact information, hours you would like to work and whether you have been background checked or not.  Those students who have been background checked (Education majors; America Reads, America Counts; volunteer activity in school) will be assigned to work with the little kid. Please share this excel with members of your org and  other students who might be willing to help us out (they don’t have to speak Spanish).

As always, if you have questions, concerns or want more information, please email me ( or call me at 217-244-5941. 

Thanks and I look forward t hearing from you, Ronnie

Latino Night, Urbana High School, Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30 pm

Contact: Rejane Goncalves Dias 

I also wanted to let you know about another opportunity for volunteering at Urbana High School next week (Wednesday, October 16th) during the Latino Night. Below is the invitation to the families:

We would like to invite you to Latino Night on October 16th at 6:30pm in the high school commons. This night will be all in Spanish and will have a variety of information about UHS and it will be an opportunity to ask questions.  We will also have information about scheduling Parent-Teacher Conferences for Nov 7 or Nov 8.  Tours of the school will also be available if you would like one. Doors will open at 6:15 pm and we will provide food and free childcare.

Rejane wrote this: Our Span 232 students can meet me in front of the high school in the Iowa St. side at 6:15 pm on October, 16th (Wednesday). Please ask them to e-mail me if they are interested, so I know who is going for me to wait for them. The activities they may do during the Latino Night at Urbana High School are:
- Provide information to Spanish-speaking parents on the places where events are taking place around the building of the high school.
-Provide oral translation to them as the school staff speaks throughout the event
-Interact with Spanish-speaking children and family members


Bilingual Classroom Help at Robeson Elementary School

Contact: Jaime M. Reed, information below

Robeson now has both a Kindergarten and 1st grade bilingual class.  We are in need of a few Spanish speaking volunteers to help out in those classes.  
Jaime M. Reed
Volunteer/Mentor Coordinator
Robeson Elementary and Westview Elementary
217-351-3884 (Robeson Office)
217-351-3905 (Westview Office)

Parent-Teacher Conferences at Central High School, October 24 & 25

Click here for vocabulary pertinent to parent-teacher conferences
Click here to read about a former student's experience with these parent-teacher conferences at Central.
Contact: Joan Strater, information below

We are once again in need of volunteers to help with Spanish translating during our parent teacher conferences next month.  Last semester your student’s help was a godsend.

I am hoping you can help us out again this semester?  Our conferences are Thursday, October 24th from 5:00pm to 8:00pm and Friday, October 25th from 8:00am to 12:00pm.  If you know of anyone that might be interested in helping, could you please have them email me

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can send my way.
Joan I. Strater
Main Office Secretary
Champaign Central High School
(217) 351-3911
(217) 351-3919 Fax

Intercambio Cultural Maya

This is an amazing chance to travel to Mexico during the winter break, do important service work in an indigenous community and learn a lot. Click here to read the details about this year's trip.

I had the opportunity to hear about this long-running trip from one of its organizers, Paul Hixson (who also happens to be the UIUC's CIO). I learned things I didn't know about the Guatemalan refugee camps inside Mexico in the 1990s.  

I highly encourage all students to look into this opportunity.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines to Consulting Clients

Image of chalkboard with a sample subject line "Facebook posts for your review and approval," followed by the title of this post How to write subject lines that simplify your clients' busy lives by Ann Abbott
Writing clear, actionable subject lines in your emails to clients can provide real value.
by Ann Abbott

As the semester progresses and my experiment with turning my traditional Business Spanish course into a hands-on social media marketing consulting business continues, this is my top lesson so far:
In this new territory, I need to learn precisely what my students need to learn. So far, I see that they need to learn things I never imagined I needed to teach. 
I'll share the list of things that students need to learn in a future blog post. For now, I want to zoom in on one area of professional communication about which students need explicit instruction: the subject lines of emails to clients.

When looking for some guidance on this issue, most of the information that popped up on Google was about internet marketing; in other words, how to send e-mails with subject lines that make people want to open them so that they will read your email newsletter, sales offer, etc. (Here's an example of "how to get them to click" advice.) Buried in there, I found some advice about subject lines in a general business context. And of course there's a whole book on how to use email better: Send.

I couldn't find anything specifically about how to write subject lines in your emails to clients you already have and that allow you to accomplish your work with them in a way that makes their lives easier. So here is my advice.

Client's reality: Overwhelmed by e-mail and must make make split-second decisions about whether or not to do the work that each e-mail implies. Part of that work is reading it and interpreting it just so they know what they actually need to do.
Subject Line to the Rescue: Use strong verbs to clarify the actions that are required of the client. If your subject line is absolutely clear about what the client needs to do with the information in the e-mail, you have just saved her time and effort--and after all, that is why she hired you in the first place. I see too many e-mails that are long, vague, and packed with too much tangential information. Your client wonders: What. do. I. actually. need. to. do?! What do you do when you receive an e-mail like that? Here's what I do: I delay. I can't figure out what the person is asking of me. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Argh! But if you send me (and your consulting clients) an e-mail that tells me up front and explicitly exactly what you need from me, I'll take care of it right away.
Example: "Facebook posts for your review and approval." (See picture above. This was an example I told my students to use with their clients.)
It's not rude ("Review and approve these posts!"). Yet I know exactly what this is going to entail. I expect to have to open an attachment, scan the posts, and answer yes or no. That sounds like a  job I can get out of my inbox quickly. Whew! Of course, if your actual posts for me are not appropriate, then you have again created a lot of work for me (I have to comment on each one), and I will probably have to delay my response to you. Your client's job is easy if you do a good job in the first place.

Client's reality: I'm starting to really dislike this very likable person because I can't understand her.
Subject Line to the Rescue: We never want to be rude. But sometimes our desire to be polite creates confusion. In one class period, I told the student groups to write an e-mail to their client reminding them about the first face-to-face meeting. One student drafted an e-mail that was very well composed, polite, and really communicated the team's excitement to finally meet the client. It included the date, time and place of the meeting. She wrote something like "we will be meeting to discuss your social media marketing needs." And that was the problem. Who was "we?" In an effort to avoid saying something rude like, "Be here at 1:00 on Friday," the student actually communicated something like, "My teammates and I (we) are going to meet to discuss your needs." It sounded like the client didn't have to be there. Again, if your e-mail messages cause any confusion for your client, you are creating work for them instead of taking care of work for them. Do not force them to figure out your unclear message.
Example: "Mark you calendar: meeting; Deb and consulting team; Friday, October 11; 1:00-2:00; 312 Davenport Hall."
This subject includes an action verb telling the client exactly what to do. It's to the point, but it's not rude. After the action is clearly described, all the pertinent details are included in the subject line. In fact, imagine this scenario: the client sees the subject line, opens up the calendar app on her smart phone, opens a new appointment, fills in all the details and touches "Done." Whatever information is contained in the body of the e-mail is simply extra; the subject line accomplished everything your client needed.

Client's reality: This person seemed so nice and chatty when we met. Now she's dry and all business!
Subject Line to the Rescue: Yes, this style of writing e-mail subject lines is direct, explicit and concise. It can take people by surprise. If you are a female consultant, it definitely toys with gendered notions of how women (should) communicate. But it's also really effective. So simply bring this up during your initial meetings, when you are already aligning expectations with your client. Just like you will establish work processes, timelines and prices at the beginning, also establish your e-mail style as a part of the process when you initially align expectations and sign agreements. Say something like, "I'd like to let you know about my e-mail communication style. I have found that clients appreciate e-mails that are clear, concise and explicit. They tell me it saves them time. I don't write that way because I am rushing or because I don't care about all the details of your business. I do it to help you. When needed, though, phone calls and face-to-face visits allow us to be more expansive."
Example: "Confirm in-office appointment: Monday, October 14; 1:00-2:00; your office; discuss Facebook ad campaign details."
You know that good consulting work also needs time for free-flowing, back-and-forth dialogue.

Client's reality: Didn't I just take care of this yesterday?
Subject Line to the Rescue: Establish the chronology of work that is cyclical. Every Friday this semester, my students need to send five Facebook posts or tweets to their client. They can't post anything that hasn't been approved. The action required of the client is always the same, but having an identical subject line each week can cause problems. Separate e-mail threads can get confused. The client might get a sense of deja-vu..."I thought I just got this out of my inbox the other day." Find a way to help your client keep track of the chronology of the work.
Example: "Week 2 of 10: Facebook posts for your review and approval."
My students' consultant-client relationship is finite; they will stop posting once the semester ends. You probably want to have a long and lasting relationship with your consulting clients, but try to find a way to put a "time-stamp" on repetitive tasks.

Client's reality: Who in the world is Giuliana and why is she e-mailing me?
Subject Line to the Rescue: If you work in a team, either have one person consistently e-mail or identify the project itself in the subject line. I have seventeen students in my course this semester and five clients. So I divided the students into five teams of 3-4 students. Ideally, one student in the team would be the client communications expert. Other students in the team might take the roles of photographer, picture editor, researcher, etc. (I'll do that next time I teach this course.) Since the "From" line of the e-mail might be inconsistent--some students use multiple e-mail accounts, too--the subject line will have to provide a consistent identity.
Example: "Facebook Team: Please send pictures of fundraiser dinner."
Identifying themselves consistently as "Facebook Team" with the first words in the subject line reduces confusion when the "From" line has a variety of different e-mail addresses and names.

Client's reality: I am swamped! I'm sure that Pradeep or Leslie will take care of this one.
Subject Line to the Rescue: If you send emails to a client team, identify who should do the job. Some of my students have found that working with a team of clients instead of one point person within the organization has been difficult. Remember, your clients are busy. They do the work that is in front of their face and easy to take care of. Don't make the team have an internal conversation about who should answer the e-mail. Make their lives easy and identify one person in your e-mail. I remember learning once that in an emergency, many people don't respond because they think everyone else will. If you see a car injure a pedestrian, for example, you should look at the others nearby, point to individual and say: "You, call 911. You, stand in the street and stop other cars from driving by this person. You, take down the drivers license number. You, put pressure on the bleeding. Etc." It's often the same in work scenarios.
Example: "Ben: Please provide answer to question posed in FB comments by a customer."
Everyone knows that Ben will take care of this.

Client's reality: Let me check my phone and get rid of my e-mails during my commute. I am determined to tackle my big project as soon as I walk into the office.
Subject Line to the Rescue: Consider how your message will look on a smartphone. On mine, I can see about four or five words of a subject line. Make those count. Use a verb. Make it look like something that will be easy to do over the phone, hopefully something that doesn't even require the client to thumb-type a long response.
Example: "Confirm accuracy of post."
Yes. No. But again, this only works if you actually do a very good job so that there are few if any corrections to be made.

Client's reality: Oh, my God. I never replied to the last two e-mails Cristina sent me. I'm behind, and now here comes another one. I can't even open it. I'm so embarrassed that I haven't replied to the others. I don't want to read it. I'll just skip it until I really have time. Tomorrow.
Subject Line to the Rescue: Present each e-mail like a brand new opportunity! No shaming. Even inadvertent shaming is counterproductive. I have been there. Many times. I have received e-mails that I just couldn't bring myself to open because I felt so bad about the previous ones that I hadn't opened. I needed a way to hit a "reset" button. A clean slate. Even when you are frustrated because the client hasn't responded in a while, you absolutely cannot let that come through in your e-mail. Make every subject line sound like a new chance to get caught up or even skip ahead. (Full disclosure: I've felt so ashamed about piled-up e-mails  before, that I'm not sure what subject line would have encouraged me to open up a new e-mail from the same person. In those cases, I don't even look at the subject line because my body goes cold just by seeing the name in the "From" line. So if things are really bad, try having someone else on your team e-mail that client or e-mail them yourself from a different e-mail
Example: "New batch of posts for your approval." or "New topic: ...."
One more thing, if your client feels ashamed about the backed-up e-mails from you, then maybe you are sending too many e-mails! Try sending two weeks worth of posts instead of one. Try having the client reply only if they do not approve the posts. Try other processes that limit the e-mails the client must reply to.

Client's reality: I am going off-line for a while. I have to concentrate on the most urgent things that come at me. I don't have time for this consulting thing that was supposed to make my life easier anyway!
Subject Line to the Rescue: Pick up the phone. Print out the documents, hand address an envelope and drop it in a mailbox! Get in the car and visit. Don't always rely on the e-mail if it isn't working for your client at the moment.
Example: "In your neighborhood this afternoon: I'll drop by with a muffin and coffee for you."

How do you use e-mail subject lines to make your busy clients' lives easier? What other ways have you found to facilitate the consultant-client communication? Let me know in the comments. And contact me at if you are interested social media consulting or in teaching your students to be social media consultants.