Is email dead? Not according to Statista, which calculates the global email user base at four billion people in 2020 and projects it to grow to 4.6 billion users by 2025. Even in an era of omnipresent social media, email remains a strong go-to option for communications.
Public figures, in particular, receive an extreme volume of email and must have effective strategies for responding, especially if the email is critical. Our advice for responding to angry emails: Stay calm and consistent and keep the lines of communication open.
Take it from Dr. Anthony Fauci — physician, immunologist and chief medical advisor to seven U.S. presidents and counting. Over the decades, he has received the full range of emails, from sociable to scalding. He’s likely seen it all since he became the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, Dr. Fauci predates the everyday use of email. In 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a global health crisis, however, his email inbox began to overflow.
NPR reported that Dr. Fauci received 1,000 emails a day in the early months of the pandemic. By March, he told a friend he was receiving more than 2,000 emails a day. Yet he still made a point of replying. As he told the Washington Post, “I have a reputation that I respond to people when they ask for help, even if it takes a long time. And it’s very time-consuming, but I do.”
The NPR story goes into more depth, and it’s noteworthy that Dr. Fauci received very specific questions and in many cases replied in equal detail. In other cases — when angry emails provided advice on how he should do his job — he simply thanked the sender for the note. The point is he and his staff took the time to respond, further reinforcing the public perception that he was accessible, open and responsive to inquiries.