Don’t just press ‘send’

Achieving the desired cut-through for your internal message is always a tricky task with all the graymail and white noise clogging our information pathways. But let me make this clear from the get-go: if your plans include the sending of an organisation-wide email, you’re part of the problem. More than that, you’re helping to kill off the solution.

Never mind the arguments about email as a productivity killer. Ignore the evidence showing that taking a week-long break from office emails actually improves your health. Don’t even worry about the fact that email might be making you stupid.

No. Email’s biggest problem is, when it comes to effective communicating, it just doesn’t work.

This is the age of social collaboration. The vast majority of organisations now have social platforms allowing their people to engage with internal messages in a much more connected and interactive way. Usually, these platforms are bolted on to corporate intranets, allowing internal news and announcements to evolve into conversations. And conversation leads to that holy grail of corporate communication – employee engagement.

The strategy is to create an integrated digital platform where employees can connect, interact and be informed. But because email often lives outside this platform, sending one to the ‘everyone’ list not only chips away at that strategy, it actually defeats its own end; which is to achieve broad and meaningful readership of your message.

But you are not convinced, are you?

I’ll know you still want that ‘Everyone’ email. No worries, but before you press ‘send’ consider these points.

Opening an email isn’t the same as reading one.

Even if you have email tracking statistics (notoriously unreliable as they only track opening clicks) these cannot tell you how actively your audience has engaged with your message. Other channels can and when readership is low, strategies can be developed to increase it.

Email is here today, deleted today.

Intranet news and social collaboration posts live on – they can extend the longevity of your message and are always available for reference or refresh. Your email to ‘Everybody’ will sooner or later (probably sooner) end up in everybody’s deleted folder.

Email is not inherently collaborative.

If you prize a collaborative, connected workplace, show it by crafting your message on platforms that support collaboration.

I hear you say, “But no one reads the intranet”. Even if that were true (and there are plenty of statistics to show whether it is or isn’t) do you really want an organisational culture of unintended ignorance, where people are not interested enough in what they do or why they do it to engage in anything?  I’m sure you’ll agree the alternatives are much more preferable.

So before you press ‘send’ think again – there is probably a much better way of getting your message read.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t just press ‘send’

  1. Nicely put Pat.

    Why do you think people struggle doing this in a work setting, I am connected with some work colleagues on external social networks where they are comfortable posting but not so much in that internally.

    Is it a case of they are more comfortable sending emails where not everyone can see what they are saying or that they want to control the conversation as such, is it simply habit or just easier….or something else?

    1. There is a lot of truth to that I think, Josh. Email communication is also a habit and habits are hard to break. Sometimes emails are the sensible method of communicating but when it comes to broad-based messages or collaborative work, that’s rarely the case. Knowledge workers, intranet managers and comms people need to help their colleagues form new habits around these types of conversations by demonstrating how effective and productive they can be. I’ve generally found that, once people have a level of comfort around the utility of that approach, their conversations on internal collaboration networks etc become more frequent and in-depth, their networks become broader and the information they are connected to becomes more valuable. This, in turn, fuels their enthusiasm engaging in those types of platforms. It’s a healthy cycle but getting people to opt into it in the first place is, of course, the challenge!

    1. Thanks Paul! Technology has enabled a fairly exciting time in the space of collaboration and engagement within organisations. One point I did not address in the post, though, is the need to give these tools a purpose for people in their everyday working lives – why it makes sense to use them, why it saves you time, makes you more productive, gives life to the issues at the heart of your message etc. This is certainly a challenge but successfully demonstrating these aspects of the tools now at our disposal is key to their uptake.

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