From Memo to Email: A CEO’s Experience with Technical Writing


Marla Herndon-DeLatte is the founder and CEO of MedSouth Record Management, LLC. I started working at MedSouth about 5 years ago.  I have always admired Marla’s leadership and skill for composing written communication. Her professional communication skills developed from years of hard work and dedication. She credits much of what she learned from her background in sales, marketing, and client relations. She shared some thoughts on professional communication and offered great advise for young professionals like myself.


Choosing a method of communication:

Marla estimates that 80% of her day involved some form of communications. This may be a phone call, text message, fax, email, in office intercom, professional social media, or a face-to-face meeting. For Marla, choosing a method of communication a crucial step to ensure proper delivery.

She considers many factors when selecting a method of communication. Is the recipient a client, customer, or employee? What level of personal interaction is required? How many people do I need to receive this message? Is the subject of discussion private or public? Will the message benefit from a visual demonstration? She offers some specific advise on tailoring your communication style to suit each individual.

Communicating with Customers / Clients:

  • Always consider the client’s or customer’s expressed and unexpressed preferences.
  • A very social client may benefit from a face-to-face meeting or phone call.
  • A very busy client may prefer a quick and direct email.
  • A customer with limited technological skill may response best to correspondence sent by mail.

Communicating with Employees:

  • Policies and procedures should be communicated via email.
  • Counselling or reprimanding should be communicated face-to-face is a private location.
  • Team meetings are great for obtaining group consensus, gathering opinions, and communicating concepts such as the company’s mission statement.

Internal Communication: Policies and Procedures

Running a business involves decision making, policy creation, and procedure development. Recording  volumes of procedures would be pointless if the message never reached the employees. Marla reminisced on the old school  “memo” method of sending out inter-office communication. A hard copy memo was hand delivered to all employees. A decade ago, “Didn’t you get the memo?” was an earnest and legitimate question, not just a sarcastic way of poking fun of someone not “in-the-know”.  Now, all MedSouth employees have an email address though outlook exchange. Marla always delivers policy and procedure updates via email. She gave several valid reasons for this decision. Composing a written update allows for clear, definitive expression. It also creates a “paper trail”, so employees have no excuse for not complying with the contents of the message.

The Art of Presenting an Argument:

As the CEO, Marla is responsible for responding to customer disputes and dissatisfied clients. I have learned a lot simply by reading email correspondence Marla has send to customers and clients. I am impressed by her eloquent responses to customer disputes, which typically involve irate attorneys.

For Marla, a response shouldn’t never feel like an attack or comeback.  She is able to compose a response that is professional, clear, and definitive. Marla will reference specific federal and state statutes to support her argument. She expresses her opinion without a hint of condescension. The message usually concludes by welcoming additional feedback or response from the recipient.

Such an impressive response doesn’t always come out perfect on the first attempt. Marla usually consults her vice president and husband, Danny, for a second opinion. He has a talent for accessing the overall tone and offers suggestions. There are times when she may type a response in the heat of the moment, but she always chooses to “sleep on it” before sending. A fresh perspective allows her to send her response with confidence.

I realize much of Marla’s communication skills were developed through mindful practice and experience. I will take her advise with me as I continue to grow as a professional.

Leighann DeLatte, guest blogger


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