February 2009

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.

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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There are many resources online to help communicators that would like to learn more about social media. PR News has just launched PR Peeps, an online communicators’ network created to bring together communications professionals across all aspects of the industry including agencies, corporations and non-profits. Membership is free and while the site is pretty new (it only launched a week or so ago), it looks like it might be of value.

One of the best sites online is Ragan.com. While it is U.S.-based and tends to be a little U.S. centric, there is an abundance of great information available here – from case studies to articles to blogs to videos and other resources to help you do your job. There are two levels of membership – free and paid. While the free has some great content, we subscribe to this site and it’s well worth the cost.

There are of course many blogs that focus on communication, PR and social media as well. Some of those are listed on our blogroll and still others are out there waiting to be discovered.

If you know of a good online resource, please let us know!

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A Twestival took place yesterday in Vancouver. It is a strong example of the power of Twitter. More than 20,000 people from around the world came together to raise money for charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean drinking water to people in developing nations.

In one short month—with only volunteer effort—the global charity work is expected to raise $1 million for the 1.1 billion people in the world who cannot access clean drinking water. The event took place in more than 175 cities around the world.

This is a great example of using Twitter – the online world helped people to reach out and share the message on a global basis and then locally, people came together in person. In Vancouver, they met at the Opus Hotel. From all accounts, the event was well organized, fun and it raised money for a good cause.

It’s important to reiterate that the Twestival combined global and local, online and in person. One of the concerns that I hear quite often from clients is about losing the personal, face-to-face time that is so important. Great communication embraces many ways of outreach and, just like we tell clients, nothing can replace the in person component. Online communication is a piece of the communications puzzle, an important and growing piece, but it needs to blend into your overall communications strategy.

On another note, I am always looking for the inside scoop on how Twitter is going to make money. One of the challenges of recommending a free service to clients is that if it’s not making money, you have to wonder how long it can last. Not that I am saying I don’t think Twitter will last, I do think they need to find a way to make money so they can last a long time.  According to a TechCrunch article, Twitter is out raising additional money through the venture capital market. It looks like they have raised more funds, this time with a $250 million valuation.

Twitter is highly popular right now. With this valuation and with about six million people on Twitter, each customer is worth about $40.  In looking at monetizing Twitter, it brings up interesting questions for the six million users. Would you pay for this service? If yes, how much?

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