Gone are the days when if you wanted to speak to someone you had to call or write a letter. There are so many ways to communicate with people these days that communication is increasingly casual and many times on the verge of being downright inappropriate. Let’s review the means of communications we have at our fingertips and their related courtesies to make sure we are portraying ourselves the best way we can.
Memorandums or Random Memos?
If you need to communicate with a client or colleague for official business, use a memorandum. A formal document that is dated and clearly lists the to and from with real names will do more for you and your image than a quickly typed e-mail with abbreviations and cutesy e-mail names. You can attach the memo to an e-mail, fax it or even mail it if you prefer. If this document has to go in a file—paper or electronic form–you’ll want to be remembered for being professional. Your inter-office culture is likely more casual and accepts e-mails as official documentation.
Communicating in the Same Language
Someone recently showed up late to a meeting with me and told me they had sent me an e-mail. I had no such e-mail on my phone and figured she sent it to the wrong person; I didn’t worry about it. Later that day I found that she had sent me a message on Facebook to let me know she was running late. We had set the lunch date via e-mail, that was the standard we were using. A Facebook message is not e-mail and unless you have established that as a means to communicate with someone professionally, don’t assume that everyone sees it the same way.
E-Mail Goes Both Ways
Undoubtedly you receive emails that you can’t respond to properly when you get them, but make it a goal to respond to every email at some point–unless the conversation is over. A quick response that tells the sender you can chat more later will suffice. If you’re like me, you get irritated when people don’t respond to e-mails. Some people don’t check their e-mail on a regular basis. I don’t know how they do that, but I know not to e-mail them with anything urgent. If you use several e-mail addresses and don’t check them all, that is your responsibility not the sender’s. Don’t blame them for sending to the “wrong” address. E-mail addresses are like phone numbers. It’s your responsibility to let people know if you change or disconnect one. If you don’t want e-mail, don’t give out your e-mail address. It’s that simple.
Social Media Sharing
Social media, largely Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, is a great means to broadcast to larger audiences. You can create groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and hashtag topics (#) on Twitter to reach a particular market. Social media is not where you speak of confidential changes in your company or industry. Further, it is not where you complain about those same issues. Using social media to gripe will ruin your image.
It holds true that if you don’t want information forwarded, then don’t put it in an e-mail. If you need to have confidential communications with a individuals or a group of people via e-mail, then set that as a communications guideline with that person or group, and make sure you have established some trust prior to setting this rule.
Texting? We’re not even going to go there. Keep that for quick, casual messages and nothing else.
The best way to set communication standards is to model them. If you don’t communicate properly you lower the expectation of how people will communicate with you. You know what you want your brand to be, communicate accordingly.