Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Email Is Not Dead

Posted by B2W on February 24, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

While there is a lot of talk online about the death of email – given the number of items to read in my inbox, I am not so sure. There seems to be a growing challenge with the use of email. We may have become so used to quickly sending or replying to emails, that we forget—especially in a business context—that this a form of communication. As quick and easy as it is, we should still be thoughtful about it.

We’ve all heard of the embarrassing emails that get sent to the whole company instead of just that one special person that the risqué message or picture was intended to surprise and delight. And there are lots of stories online and in traditional media about emails that were meant to be kept confidential within an organization but were leaked. It’s important to think before you hit send, that’s a fact.

This blog is a little reminder about those daily emails that we all send – to colleagues, clients, contractors, suppliers and to other stakeholders. The instant reply syndrome seems to have taken a little out of the thought process that should go into these pieces of communication.

I was looking to see if there were others that were feeling this challenged and came across an interesting article in O, The Oprah Magazine online. Mirabai Bush, a senior fellow at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in Northampton, Massachusetts, teaches a mindful email exercise to employees of corporations like Google. The goal is to make their exchanges more thoughtful and less likely to misfire. It’s worth a read.

Using email correctly is important – it showcases that you are a professional and it increases efficiency. Used properly, it can also help to reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings.

We did a quick outreach to a few friends and colleagues – from CEOs to journalists to customer service reps to ask them what they think. Below are a few of the tips to help you create effective email: 

  • Use spell check.
  • Keep your email short (if it is longer than two paragraphs, call the person and send a follow up email).
  • Understand how to use To: (the person that will respond), Cc: (those that should be kept apprised), Bcc: (the person you send it to in order to cover your butt).
  • Use a signature with your name, email and phone number on it.
  • Limit your use of smiley faces unless it is a personal email.
  • Remember that a person can’t hear your tone of voice in an email. What may seem funny, witty or smart to you as you write it, may come across as arrogant, sarcastic or just plain mean when read.
  • Use the subject line to reflect the content so that people can find the specific email again, if they need it. (This is one of the biggest pet peeves we heard!)
  • If you are emailing back and forth about a topic – use numbers. (For example: Corporate retreat, Corporate retreat – 2, Corporate retreat – 3 – change in venue.)
  • Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t say in person.
  • Don’t put anything in an email that you would be embarrassed about if it was forwarded to your boss, your staff, the board of directors, the CEO or the media.
  • Don’t forward jokes or chain emails.
  • Respond to emails within one business day (or sooner, if possible).
  • If you are out of town and will not be responding, set up an out of town automatic reply so people are aware of this.
  • Don’t write an email when you are angry.
  • Think before you hit send.

 

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