Technology | 04.16.21
Are you presenting your “best you” through electronic communications?
This world of today is completely driven by electronic communications, and yet so many of us don’t understand the power and opportunities available to us through this media.
The first step in writing effective emails is to determine that an email needs to be sent. Understanding two aspects is critical – how urgently do I need this message to be received and how much content is there to my message. To often in today’s world of immediacy, we think it is ok to expect the receiver of our messages to be ready, willing and able to respond to us right away. Before sending a message through any medium, think about how urgent the message really is and how much context can I get, must I get, into it for it to be effective. Remember that the receivers of your emails probably come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, etc. and that emails are often read very quickly. Take caution when using humor, sarcasm, emojis, and ALL CAPS.
Being too casual in your email communications could be interpreted by the receiver as too familiar or just lazy, or that you are not paying attention to details, not caring about quality. Also, the intent of your message could easily get lost without using proper punctuation or a font that isn’t easily read on a phone these days. Emails are not texts or even instance messages. These mediums of communication are focused on casual conversation. Emails should be used for purposeful sharing of information and should include good grammar and context.
Most companies’ have email systems that support a picture being attached to the sender’s emails. These pictures need to be legible, but they also should provide a first glance impression of you that speaks to your professionalism. Selfie seldom accomplish this, yet glamour shots also don’t usually say someone is competent either. Decide what impression you are striving for, then have someone help you achieve it. In business communications typically the goal is to appear approachable, responsible and capable.
Even more important than an appropriate picture is the effective use of a signature block on your messages, even replies/internal messages. Tell the receiver who you are and how they may reach you via other mediums if they wish (e.g. telephone, street address, etc.). Often a comprehensive signature block may help the receive understand why you are writing to them about a particular subject and give context to your request. That said, most people find it obnoxious if you list more than about three credentials after your name. You should be proud of those accomplishments, but perhaps only list two or three that are relevant to the message at hand.
Make sure your Subject line is clear and useful. Looking back for messages often involves searching through the Subject lines. Filing away of emails is also made more effective by using a common thread in the Subject line (e.g. PTO requested, PTO approved, PTO not taken, etc.).
A very common professional mistake is to forward email messages without carefully reading backwards through all the previous messages. If something negative was said, even off-handedly, way below in an email string, but it gets forwarded for whatever reason, the result could be unfortunate. And, remember instant messages, emails, calendar appointments, notes, etc. sent or maintained on your company’s account are not private and you do not own them. Without your permission or even awareness, your company may access all of your electronic communications, Word documents, files, etc.
With everyone’s workloads these days, the most respectful and appreciated thing a colleague can do is be considerate then sending and receiving emails. Think about why you are including other people in a single message and use the email options appropriately. The “To” line is where you should list the names of people who must know and act on information. The “CC” line should be used when you want people to be aware that certain information was shared but you have no expectation of them to take action or respond.
And the “BCC” line should really be considered carefully. There are two reasons to use this address line. The first is that you don’t want the other addressees to know you are including someone. Why? Is this responsible communicating? It can be appropriate in rare cases, but more often this level non-transparency is used in a negative fashion.
But the other very effective, appropriate and often appreciated reason to use this address line is for sharing information with a vast audience, that don’t need to know every other person the message went to. And, if by some error on the part of one receiver of this email they decide to respond to your message and hit “Reply All” the entire group doesn’t have to receive unnecessary emails. When you are sending a message to a large group and chose to use the “BCC” address line, it is often helpful to identify the group in the body of the email. For instance, “To all Governing Board members, MEC members and Administrators, we want to thank you…” And, always always think twice before hitting Reply All to any email. Does everyone need to hear you say thank you?
Now that the world has changed a professional and effective email from you is the same thing that a firm hand shake was in the past. It could be that lasting impression you have left with someone you may need something from in the future. Make it count!
Bonnie Gutierrez, BHA, CPCS, CPMSM, FMSP is the System Director of Medical Staff Services at Centura Health.