Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology
Effective business communication is equal parts art and science.
When used as a conjunction, “but” has the magical power of invalidating whatever clause preceeded it. Consider these two examples that I received recently:
“I don’t want to force the issue on this, but I would hate to have us both miss an opportunity to have a mutually beneficial working relationship.”
Don’t let a big “but” get in the way of your message. Next time, try using “and” instead.
In practice, email communication happens for work. Most office workers would gladly accept less email to deal with every day, unless they're addicted to the dopamine rush of receiving new messages. A shift to dynamic signal moves employee mentalities and behaviors to communicate as work instead.
Luis Suarez offers an alternative to email: activity streams. He offers five reasons why activity streams work better than email:
In a recent IBM poll, 49% of respondents stated that they post status updates on social tools for work purposes either a few times a month or never. The data show that corporate inbox codependency is alive and well. But activity streams have started to flow inside organizations and social businesses are starting to architect the aqueducts that will allow them to flow out to the organizational edge.
The Australian reports “Facebook the first stop for Queensland Police in floods.”
At first glance, there’s little reason why the Queensland Police Service’s traditional modes of communication needed social media. But when you look closely, the structural issues become evident:
The Queensland Police Service had relied on press releases sent to journalists (1-1 private distribution) who in turn broadcast the messages (one-to-many public transmission), with time-dependent engagement – i.e. message recipient had to be listening/watching/reading at the right place at the right time. Moving to Facebook bypassed a step and released content straight to public/all communication, with the added benefit of persistent online presence.
But don’t leave here thinking that social media is a silver bullet as solution or killer of traditional media – QPS realizes that channel integration, content curation, and participation policy are critical to success.
I hope to never encounter the difficulties that Queensland did, but if I do I hope that my local first responders communicate as effectively as this great example of social business design in municipal management.
Thanks to @ej_butler for the tip.
Facebook is social. Twitter is social. Discussion and message boards are social. But more people would say that email is not.
Gartner makes two important distinctions as to why email isn’t social media:
Email isn’t social media. In fact it’s a communications tool that users shouldn’t employ for media consumption at all. However by some accounts email marketing is a $10 billion industry – not that size makes right.
During the Internet’s Democratization Era, my former Forrester colleague Charlene Li guided companies to a simple and powerful distinction when thinking about tools: email is to-do, RSS is to know. Users approach their inboxes with an obligation mindset, which is fine. They just need to keep in mind that oftentimes the problems they create are their own.
Making email work requires that internally, companies train their users on how to make use of an expanded communications toolkit. Externally, email integrates with social media, orchestrated for reach and frequency.
When you receive an email message, do you believe that you have an option regarding whether to respond or not? Or do you have an obligation to take action?
At Dachis Group’s Social Business Summit 2011 in London, Stuart McRae from IBM had this to say: “sending an email does not obligate the recipient to act or even read it.” His colleague Luis Suarez is into his fourth year without email. These are two people employed by an organization much larger than most and somehow they can function with limited to no email. But you and I can’t. Why? Because almost everyone approaches email with a default set to obligation, not option.
Consider these three examples:
All of these examples have obligation at root cause. Users care deeply about their inbox and the content therein. Although social networks, instant messaging, wikis, and other tools have shown promise in handling varied forms of communication, email has 100% adoption in most workplaces. Email is the primary channel for today’s business communication and professionals assume an “obligation mindset” in response.
If we switch to an “option mindset” instead, what happens? Is that even possible…or desirable?
You encounter plenty of unsolicited communication in your life. Unexpected outreach takes many different forms and a combination of manual and automated defense mechanisms protect us from having to engage when we don’t want to. Think about these different modes of contact:
In all of the channels above, consumers firmly exercise the option to bypass engagement. Email is different.
When a message lands in your inbox, it’s gotten past some form of spam filter, thus carrying some level of trust. Commercial email may be easy to ignore, similar to physical junk mail, but for some reason it carries a higher level of annoyance.
I’m going to write about email more than once this week and thought I’d start here. Unlike other communication channels, why do we seem to care so deeply about the content in our inbox?