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5 Unforgettable out-of-office examples you’ll want to copy

Company Jordan Feise July 14, 2021

Taking time off can be difficult.

In fact, according to a recent study, American workers left a record number of vacation days unused — 768 million of ‘em! 

No matter the number of vacation days you have allotted per year (we’re all looking at you with envy, Europe), people the world over still struggle to use up all their vacation days. 

And when it comes to sales, time off is even harder to come by. I mean, it’s hard to sell (and make $$) when you’re not “in” the office, right?

But here you are. 

You’ve booked your vacation. You’ve received approval for time off from your manager. You’ve prepared for this moment for weeks. You’re caught up on all your accounts. You can almost taste the freedom (and your favorite drink).

But wait… 

There’s one last thing: Your out of office message. 

As sales pros, we know one thing to be true: Every. Email. Counts. Even your out of office (OOO) message. 

You have three options: 

  1. Keep it basic (ya boring).
  2. Go offbeat-funny-unique (wins our vote).
  3. Somewhere in between (meh).

I don’t know about you, but I’m still stuck on “every email counts.” Don’t miss this opportunity to delight your buyers. Go with option #2. 

Here’s what you need to know to leave all your prospects and co-workers talking (along with our fav out-of-office examples to boot).

The OOO message basics 

There are a few elements of an OOO email you absolutely must include:

  • Dates: When will you leave and return?
  • Coverage: Who should they contact if it’s an emergency?
  • Responding to email: Will you be 100% off email or checking “less frequently?” It’s all about setting expectations.

While not required, it’s nice to include where you’re going and what you’ll be doing: Staycation? Hawaii? Silent retreat? Share as much (or as little) as you want.

And bonus points for using humor.

At Gong, we are HUGE advocates of weaving in humor, wit, and general goofiness. See: pretty much every piece of content we produce

Humor — when used tactfully — can be the X-factor in having a standout OOO message. If you’re going to let an autoresponder reply to people for a week while you’re at the beach, you might as well give it some personality. 

No one likes reading boring OOO messages. Sending something with a bit of sizzle lets you continue to build relationships with your prospects and co-workers while you’re out. And it gives them the perfect conversation starter when (if?) you return. 

There are 5 types of out-of-office examples that are sure to have your raving fans talking. Let’s bring you up to speed.

#1. Tell the truth. And make it good.

At Gong, we like to say our Revenue Intelligence platform is like “truth serum for your pipeline.”

Suffice it to say, we are fans of the truth (and data and facts and reality). 

The same can be said about an OOO message. Keep it simple. Tell it straight. Be truthful!

To be clear, you can be truthful AND funny. The two are not mutually exclusive. 

Here’s what a TRUTHFUL and witty out-of-office example looks like: 

Jay Baer, the author of this OOO email and “the world’s most inspirational customer experience and marketing expert,” is a content creator. He’s penned several best-selling books, is a coveted keynote speaker, and more. 

He knows a thing or two about creating memorable moments. Jay subscribes to the “every email counts” (even out-of-office messages) mantra.

Three reasons this type of OOO email works:

✅ It includes two of the “basic” bits of information: dates and who to contact in his absence.

✅ It’s truthful. Jay did go on vacation, and it was his first in more than two years (Thanks, COVID). He will return on 7/7… at least that’s the plan. But who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be a “glamorous, WFH WFMexico” situation. 

✅ It’s creative, witty, relevant, and relatable. Not many of us have taken a “real” vacation since March of 2020. Most of us have forgotten some of the basics of travel (packing, using airplane wifi, ordering a rideshare, etc.).

Well done, Jay. We hope you don’t read this blog post until post-7/7.

#2. Go for straight-up comedy

Sometimes getting a little silly with your OOO email is a winning tactic. But be careful… this is possibly the toughest OOO to pull off!

Below is a gold-standard out-of-office example from Paul Sokol, self-proclaimed “Thought Leader in Automated Experience Design.” 

I’ll give you a minute to read it. 

It’s hard not to read every word, right? This email is not a skimmable OOO. Not at all. I bet you read it all—and maybe even read it a second (or third) time.

You are left with unanswered questions:

  • Who is Troy McClure? (Simpsons fans know him.)
  • Who is Billy? And why is he 8-years old in this scenario?
  • How do you get a copy of the“Going to Disneyland for the first time” OOO?

Three reasons this type of OOO email works:

✅ The aforementioned open questions force you to ponder, pause, think, and maybe share it on Slack, tell a coworker about it, or even write a blog post and include it as an example (guilty). They’re all going to remember it.

✅ It has most of the necessary info, including how long Paul is gone for (the weekend, returning on the 12th), where Paul is off to (California), with whom he is traveling (his girlfriend), and why (GF’s birthday).

✅ Will he reply to emails when he’s back? Maybe. Maybe not. “If it warrants a response.”

Note: I can confirm that Paul made it back home.

#3. Use a fun-fact approach

FUN (4th of July) FACT: Presidents John Adams (#2), Thomas Jefferson (#3), and James Monroe (#5) all died on the 4th of July. Adams and Jefferson died in 1826 on the exact same day, within hours of each other.

Sure, you can share this on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. You could even create a fun TikTok video highlighting this fact, I guess.

Or you could include it in your OOO email. 

[You may even see it featured here]

But the key is using a fun fact that’s relevant to the message you’re sending AND/OR to pop culture AND/OR to your audience.

That’s precisely what Courtney Smith Kramer did with her fun fact, an oldie but a goodie.

Courtney was the ‘Chief creative officer for purematter’ (a digital creative agency she co-owns) when this OOO was active in the mid-2010s. She now rolls as a freelance Creativity and Marketing Consultant and Coach and a published author.

She was about to be overseas when she crafted this memorable out-of-office example.

Three reasons this type of OOO email works:

✅ There’s a fun, relevant fact. Courtney was in Australia and played on one of it’s most popular myths. (Wait … is it a myth? In case you were wondering, let me Google that for you.)

✅ A cute (koala) video. Winning.

✅ She included the basics: She’s gone until 8/11 and told us who to contact in her stead. Check and check. Will Courtney be replying to emails while in Australia? Who knows, but you are so distracted by the toilet flushing and the koala that you don’t even care.

P.S. I know you want to watch that cute koala video, right? Here it is. You are welcome.

#4. Stay simple: Image only

According to Wikipedia (the source of truth for everything #KiddingNotKidding), “Henrik Ibsen first said ‘A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.’ After his death in 1906 this quote was plagiarized and paraphrased into what we know now: A picture’s worth a thousand words.

In 2021-speak “picture” can also refer to a tweet or a screenshot or an animated gif or a meme or a hashtag. Here’s a screenshot of a tweet (a picture within a picture?) which was, in turn, used as an OOO message:

Three reasons this type of OOO email works:

✅ It bends annihilates the rules. Emails are supposed to have text (words!), not screenshots (images!). This “shock” factor means your readers will pause to read it. They may even share it.

✅ It’s funny. You know what we think about funny OOO messages.

✅ It’s so darn accurate! We’ve all lived in this pre-during-post-vacation waffle. The stress and emotional rollercoaster of vacation time is real.

Find a relatable image (or gif) and drop it in as your OOO. And yes, it’s OK to include a little bit of copy above or below the image.

#5. Spit-your-coffee-out funny, but also work appropriate

If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely due to one of these reasons: 

  1. You read every word and are craving the best OOO message of all time.
  2. You’re procrastinating on packing.
  3. You tend to skim blog posts and just happened to land here.

Whatever got you to #5, we’re glad you’re here. 

For the grand finale, we now present you with the Gong out of office email template generator

[Pause for dramatic effect]

Yes, you read that right. All you have to do is pick a meme that speaks to your soul, fill out all the relevant information, and away you go. You get a personalized, customized, memorable OOO email template sent straight to your inbox. (If you know Gong, you know we do templates right in general, especially for sales folks. Check out our 8 Best sales templates of all time if you don’t believe me!)

One unforgettable and totally on-brand email is coming right up. Grab your template now.

Okay, now seriously, it’s time to set your OOO message, go pack, and enjoy your vacation. I know we’ve only spent a few minutes together, but I can confidently say this: You’ve totally earned it. 

PS: Let us know how your colleagues and customers react! Whether you write your own OOO or use Gong’s email template generator, share the reactions it gets… or even the email itself. Can’t wait to hear about your amazing vacays! We’ll be waiting for you on LinkedIn.

Jordan Feise

Senior Content Marketing Manager @ Gong

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