How to Avoid Potential Pitfalls with Email Communication during Long-Term Projects
The success of a long-term project, like a web design, could be partially attributed to the email skill levels of your team members and clients. Email communication can either be the grease between the cogs to maintain smooth progression, or the glue that gums up the gears. In the case of the latter, time is lost, confusion occurs and business processes slow down or stop. While never fatal, email could make points in the project painful. To foster a shared understanding and mitigate potential email pitfalls, keep these helpful hints in mind.
- Internal emails to team members need as much attention as those sent to clients.
- A good rule of thumb is that a volley of more than 3 emails is a clear indication that the subject needs to be discussed.
- If misunderstandings happen, and they will, it’s important debrief on what went wrong to have a better sense of a person’s perspective, so the email sent next to the same person would take the past event, and learnings, into consideration. This debrief could happen when you pick up the phone to achieve what you were trying to communicate via email, and as a result improve your email skills by becoming more sensitive, aware, and empathetic to your recipients’ style of understanding.
- The big take away from this call is learning about the recipient’s mindset or frame of mind so you proactively remove future obstacles from surfacing.
Think about your average work day. How many emails do you send? Receive? Then think about the brand-related emails you receive on a daily basis. Email is, by far, the leader in communication both in the work place and as a marketing tool.
How NOT to Miss your Communication Goals with Email
Have an email communication strategy.
Seem obvious? Well, think about it. Who “taught” you how to email? Whether it be in-house or to clients or prospects, email is not a taught skill for most people, and while email etiquette training is available, it is often the culture of your company that drives your email efforts internally. For marketing emails, the content is often driven by sales goals, not what you can show/share with your readers that will engage them with your brand. These are not the right perspectives for effective email. Why?
- Email, by its nature, adds a delayed reaction to any communication not seen with in-person or phone conversations. That delay affects the response potentials, since urgency and even facts are subjective to the recipient’s point of view when they read the email.
- Most email senders work from an “I or we” standpoint. “I need you to do X, I want a response to Y.” That makes the email tone and content subjective to the sender, which is less likely to engage the expected response from the recipient than if the email were created from a standpoint of “I want you to understand X, so here is the supporting detail Y”. Email content has to be geared towards the recipient. Increased sensitivity to your reader’s worldview will require you to self-edit, tweak and adjust your verbiage to garner the best result. Empathy requires an outside perspective, so if you start your next email thinking of how it will be received, you’re on the right path.
- Oftentimes emails are written while multitasking in response to a scanned email whose intent did not fully register or did not register in a way the sender intended. Errors are in writing, and once sent, cannot be edited. This one fact alone is reason enough to really review your content, self-edit and think empathically about the receiver’s perspective. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Explanations to backtrack on any misstatement can be arduous or even useless.
It comes down to this: email is a highly effective tool both internally and externally, but, if used without empathy and diligent self-editing, can also be the bottleneck in communications for your staff and marketing efforts. Nothing happens in a vacuum so always consider the antecedents to and the outcomes of any event that requires email to support it. Slow down, re-read, watch for tone and intent, and your email results will improve as your skills do.