Communication Etiquette in a Digital Age
Let’s face it – we live behind screens. While there are healthy (and necessary!) ways to reduce screen time, the reality is that many of us rely on technology – be it phones, computers, or tablets – for our day-to-day jobs. We run our businesses from websites. We communicate with our customers and contacts through social media and email. We keep our calendars on our phones. So on and so forth. These screens and methods of communication are necessary for us, but in a world where face-to-face conversations are more seemingly and quickly being replaced with automated options and behind-screen conversations, it’s more important than ever to remember the power of etiquette. When you hear the word etiquette, your mind may quickly go to what you learned as a child or are currently teaching your own children. For example, saying please & thank you or holding the door for the person behind you. And while these are important skills, there are also etiquette practices that we should all incorporate in our communication methods – even when they are happening behind a screen or through a phone. The way you communicate can either help or hurt your business. Technology is crucial to our business success, but it’s more important than ever that we utilize it properly. Through our combined more than twenty years in the public relations and communications industry, it’s safe to say we have a lot of different conversations under our belt. Through the countless people – from media and editors to clients and new business accounts – we email each day, to the in-person meetings and phones calls we arrange week after week, we’re constantly presented with situations that shape and mold the communicators we are. Over the years we’ve established our own practices and tips that in turn help us communicate more effectively and efficiently. Read on to learn more about a few of our key tips for mastering communication etiquette in a digital age.
Think before you email
This might seem like a no-brainer because we’re all smart women, but the immediate satisfaction provided by email can sometimes pose an issue. Think about it – in just one minute you can likely crank out around 70 or 80 words. That’s a lot of words in very little time, and it takes even less time to hit “send.” This tip especially comes into play when you disagree with an email you received or perhaps have new ideas or ways of thinking to suggest. In these cases, it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and reply with a brash response that, if you’d taken time to sit back and read and re-read what you wrote, you might adjust or not even send at all. Quick tip: When you type an email, re-read it at least one time. If you at all think it could be misconstrued or taken the wrong way, do not send it. Instead, give yourself time to think, and then pick up the phone and call that person once your mind is clear.
Consider your tone and word choice.
We are supporters of staying true to who you are and being proud of that, but when it comes to communicating – especially for business – checking your tone of voice and being thoughtful with your words are two particularly important habits. Your tone, or the inflection of your voice, along with your word choice are key to communicating efficiently and clearly, ultimately leading to strong and valuable relationships. It may seem dramatic, but a few wrong words paired with a short, brash tone can very quickly – and very negatively – impact a conversation you’re having. When it comes to communicating with media, customers or collaboration partners, you only have a short period of time to catch their attention and / or keep the conversation going. That said, imagine how quickly it could be cut short if you came across the wrong way. Quick tip: Remember that different contacts may require different tones and / or word choices. For example, when you’re communicating with someone for the first time, it’s likely appropriate to be a bit more formal with your approach. As that relationship deepens and evolve, your tone may do the same.
Acknowledge the difference between email and text.
These two communication methods are not the same, therefore should not be treated equally. We are firm believers that texting should often (with a few exceptions) be limited to your family and friends. Typically, business or business-related conversations should not occur over text messages. Yes, texting is quick and easy (and we always have our phones) but it’s not always polite, nor is it the most effective. Texting is significantly more personal than emailing because you are often contacting someone’s personal phone in a way that feels very abrupt and almost pressing. While there are potentially urgent times where it’s important to send a text to quickly get someone’s attention, it should be limited to that and not be used for a means of sharing new ideas, connecting about your client / products, etc. Finally, keep in mind that even when a situation is urgent, it is polite to not send communication when someone might be sleeping (i.e. 8 p.m.-8 a.m.) Quick tip: If your message / idea is important enough that you want this recipient to act on it or remember it for the future, send it via email instead of text. This way, they can easily file it or access it, whereas a text may get lost in the shuffle.
Images by Kelli Boyd Photography