There are many ways to communicate these days – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, texts, email, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr… the list goes on and on. But it’s important to understand the protocol, uses and the impact these mediums can have if they are used in an inappropriate or ineffective manner.
Specific tools are good for certain messages. An “I’m at the coffee shop. Where R U?” is a good use of a text. However, texting to inform someone that a meeting has been cancelled, that you are home sick and won’t be into the office, or that you quit is not a good use of this medium. I have seen people share information such as “Grandmother is in the hospital, not expected to make it – please send prayers” – which, while that’s not a place I would share this kind of news, might not be so bad for that person (they are asking for support from their community, after all), except that they had not yet informed all family members of what was going on.
At our PR agency, many of our clients are in different cities, countries – even continents. We often Skype or video conference for meetings because even though the technology isn’t perfect yet – it’s nice to see the person(s) you are speaking with. When we can’t do that, we use the telephone because hearing the person is the next best thing to seeing them. And there is an opportunity to engage in a discussion, to ask questions, to clarify and to connect.
I receive a great deal of emails each day; and because one of our commitments at AHA is immediate response whenever possible, I spend a fair amount of time replying, even if it’s just to say “I received this. I will get back to you tomorrow on it.” I also spend far too much time trying to figure out what people really want or what they are trying to say.
Email can be vague and it is easily misinterpreted. It is challenging to convey tone and humour is a real challenge. I also don’t think that most people read past the first three or four sentences. They are too busy, they are distracted, or they’re reading their email while they are crossing the street, ordering coffee or having lunch with a colleague. It’s very difficult to get their full attention.
That’s where the telephone comes in. While it would be nice to meet in person more often, it’s not always possible. Skype is good, but we shouldn’t forget the convenience and value of a phone call.
With a phone call, you can hear the inflection is someone’s voice, you can hear tone, you can ask questions and clarify, you can get the information you need in a short period of time, and you can clearly understand what is being asked of you, what is being answered or realize there isn’t an answer at this time.
I am not sure why there seems to be a tendency these days to email, text, Facebook or tweet rather than call someone. And I have to admit, I do it myself sometimes. A phone call can be efficient, effective and it can create opportunities that the other forms of communication can’t. I can’t tell you how often I have called a client to ask a question or confirm a date for a meeting and they say: “I meant to call you… we have a new project we’re hoping you can work on…” – which is always nice to hear.
There are times when texts, email and other written forms of communication are good – but before you type, think about it. Would a phone call be better?