You know, that incessant stream of facts, figures, news, opinion, and, yes, occasional gossip, that coworkers, supervisors, advertisers, influencers, and friends send you on a regular basis. Just miss a few days of tending to your inbox and see how much of an email traffic jam is created.
In fact, findings by the Radicati Group, a company that provides quantitative and qualitative research on business email, security, and social networking, concluded that in 2015 there were 205.6 billion emails sent/received worldwide per day, 112.5 billion of them being business related. They also discovered that the average person received and sent 122 emails per day (88 received/34 sent).
So the question isn’t are you sending out and receiving email—because you are at an ever-increasing rate—but how do you manage and use it to its greatest effectiveness. In this series on effective email strategies, we’ll look at the why’s, when’s, and how’s of this vital form of office communication.
But first things first. Just as not all information is meant to be communicated to all those employed in your organization, not all messages are intended for the medium of email. Knowing when and when not to email can make the difference between a message well sent and received and one misdirected and miscommunicated. Here are some considerations in making your decision:
The frst step in decidng whether to email or not is to determine the overall purpose and importance of your message. These two factors are important in determining the method of communicating your message. In some circumstances, protocol may dictate a formal report or letter—and that protocol will be directed by purpose and importance. When introducing yourself, your product, or your service to a new individual, most people still expect a formal letter or proposal to arrive in hard copy. And if you’re writing to a CEO, he will generally consider an email as a first-time communication from an outsider to be a breach of etiquette. It’s a matter of appropriateness.
Protocol aside, you also need to consider the issue of formality. Because email is commonly used for routine day-to-day business, the recipient doesn’t attach as much importance to an email message as to a formal report, letter, or proposal. The more formal the message, the less likely it should be communicated by email.
Another factor in determining whether email is the best medium to use is the response and responsiveness of your intended audience. Is the nature of your communication so specific and detailed that a thorough explanantion and even an attached document is required? Does it necessitate that the reader take the time to digest and consider your thoughts in greater depth? If so, email will be effective.
If, however, your message is one in which further explanation or back-and-forth dialogue is necessary, or if you’d like to see or hear the recipient’s response to get a better indication of their approval or understanding of your thoughts, maybe a phone call or face-to-face delivery is a better option. These methods minimize clarity or miscommunication issues.
Speed and Distribution
Perhaps the key consideration in getting your message out is one of distribution, logistics, and convenience. If you need to send a message concerning multiple issues and include multiple attachments to several members of your team, email may work ideally for you. Through email, it’s just as easy to send your detailed message to 20 people as to a single person.
Speed and cost are also considerations. The time it takes to transmit an email is a fraction of what is required to prepare documents, hunt down addresses, and mail envelopes. And there’s always the issue of cost. Emails cost next to nothing. Printing, collating, and sending out paper copies require time, money, and energy.
Sensitivity and Privacy
The advances in technology have enabled data to be sent faster and in greater amounts— and even through different means and in different formats. That means sometimes data can “get away from” the sender and end up being forwarded to recipients for whom it was not intended—on purpose or by accident. This can result in personal relationship issues and can also affect areas of sensitive or proprietary corporate information that is meant for internal use only.
When sending an email, always think beyond the initial recipient. Could it be read by those other than your intended readers? Remember that just as speed and efficiency are two of email’s greatest benefits, that same ease and rate of delivery can lead to significant problems.
The intended purpose and priority of your message, the response time and follow-up considerations, the logistical aspects of sending your message, and the issues of privacy and sensitivity are all determining factors in deciding whether email is your optimal medium of communication. Choose wisely and your message will make its greatest impact.
In the next blog, we’ll look at the importance of establishing the right attitude and mindset as you formulate an effective email strategy.
E-Writing: 21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication by Dianna Booher