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Email is more powerful than you think

I don't understand why email isn't more respected. Perhaps it's too ubiquitous, or too simple. Some suggest it's too old.  Social media advocates make the argument that email isn't collaborative. While I'll agree that cc threads can be annoying, so can retweets and lengthy comment chains. The fact is, the majority of my collaboration is accomplished through email, as I suspect it is for many office workers.

I believe email is powerful.  Perhaps the most powerful corporate communications vehicle available.  It’s certainly not the sexiest (Social media may be the waning belle), or the wealthiest (intranets have bigger budgets), but email is the friendliest and has reach and frequency going for it. With email you can immediately and directly communicate to your entire audience, large or small. You can convey thoughts, give instructions, share documents, provide direction, list action items, initiate response, and provoke emotions all while keeping a searchable record of it all.  That’s a communications powerhouse.

Last time we talked about some specific reasons why your email might be getting ignored, so now let’s think about what email can do when actually read.

  • Lead to Action. Some messages are intended to illicit a specific response from an employee. Whether it’s to read a document, perform a task or otherwise respond back— it’s important the call to action be explicit and message brief.  Text heavy explanations or over-written directions tend to limit results, so limiting the email content to focus on one desired action should be your priority when drafting.

  • Alter Perceptions. Just as your tone of voice in conversation will impact someone’s perception of your message, so can the tone that you communicate through your writing.  Certain story writing techniques and tonalities when utilized in email have the ability to alter the way your employees view management and company events.

  • Align Thinking. In the same way an inspirational executive speech can inspire and unite the team, the power of the written word may unite readers around a certain school of thought. You may combine both by using email to deliver an inspirational video link. Email has the benefit of reach and frequency, while being consumed and processed at the receiver’s own convenience.

  • Modify Behavior. For desk workers, email forms the basis for organizing one’s workday. Learning how best to time messages will affect how and when employees take action. As an employer, utilizing this technology in a responsible and organized way can help to promote a healthy working environment and a respect of your employees’ time. Knowing how to effectively manage internal email communications sets an example.

  • Engage Employees. Email is not a one-way street. Broadcast email is rarely used to initiate conversations, and yet regular workday email routinely does. Use tools to ask for and collect employee feedback via email. Instead of sending dense pages of information, try sending a series of witty, engaging tidbits to deliver the same content over the course of several days or weeks.

It’s important to recognize the use of email for internal corporate communications goes beyond delivering rudimentary corporate newsletters.  Email is a communication channel which carries considerable weight when purposefully used, and can be your most powerful tool for communicating internally.

Michael DesRochers is founder and managing director of PoliteMail Software, a provider of email measurement and analytics software for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. A veteran of the online communications industry, Michael spent 15 years as founder...

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