Chapter Five Communicating Electronically Introduction The continuous evolution of technology has expanded our communication options. Chapter 5, Communicating Electronically, focuses on the use of email and instant messaging, text messaging, web, and voice and wireless technology in business communication. You also will learn principles for writing effectively for the Web. Finally, the legal and ethical implications of communicating electronically will be discussed. [Your Turn As electronic communication takes over both our personal and business lives, you undoubtedly have heard people remark, “No one in my company writes anymore. We just send emails.” What do you think about this statement? Do you agree or disagree? Do you think that the principles of writing accurate, concise messages apply equally to both written and electronic messages? Can you think of any examples where this might not be the case?] [05-01] Electronic Mail Communication Electronic mail, or email, has replaced the telephone as the most common workplace communication tool. [05-01a] Advantages of Email Email is desirable when a single message needs to reach several recipients in different locations and times zones. It also eliminates “telephone tag” and telephone interruptions and reduces costs associated with long-distance telephone calls, postage, and paper. [05-01b] Guidelines for Preparing Email Messages The principles of style and organization that you learned in Chapters 3 and 4 also apply to email messages. Several additional techniques are specific to email communications. The following guidelines will enable you to use emails efficiently and effectively: Send to single or multiple addresses. Messages can be sent to many recipients at the same time. Provide a useful subject line. Use key words that will encourage your recipient to read the message. Specific subject lines also help recipients sort through overloaded mailboxes and prioritize messages. Restate the subject in the body of the message. Even if the reader skips the subject line, the message must be stated clearly in the body of the email. Limit your message to a single topic. Addressing multiple topics may result in your recipient forgetting to respond to all points. Single topics also allow recipients to file messages by topic for reference at a later date. Organize your ideas based on anticipated reader reaction. Organize good and neutral news deductively, but organize negative news or persuasive information inductively. As a general rule, present the information in the order it is likely to be needed. Use jargon, technical words, and shortened terms selectively. Be sure that your recipient understands them. Use graphic highlighting to add emphasis. Numbered or bulleted lists, tables, graphs, and pictures can strengthen readability. This information can be integrated into the content or attached as supporting material. Revise the email before sending. Every message requires at least one pass to ensure that the message is clear, concise, error-free, and generates goodwill. The number of revisions increases depending on the audience and complexity of the material. [05-01c] Effective Use of Email While email offers advantages in speed and convenience, problems can arise if it is not managed appropriately. Learning Fundamental Netiquette, or proper behavior on the Internet, will ensure your online success. [05-01d] Instant Messaging Instant messaging, also known as IM or chat, is a blending of email and conversation. You can converse in real-time when both you and your colleague are online simultaneously. IM programs are free and require no special hardware or training. Instant messaging has experienced phenomenal growth with an estimated 90% of companies using this new technology. [05-01e] Text Messaging Text messaging on a cell phone or personal digital assistant is a refinement of computer instant messaging. Text messaging, however, has some unique properties related to the sizes of the keypad and the cell phone screen that can display only 160 characters. Although text messaging is generally a social tool, it does have some business applications. Text messages can be sent or retrieved in meetings where a ringing phone is inappropriate. Advertisers also have learned that receivers are more likely to open text messages than emails. [05-01f] Electronic Messages and the Law Remember, you are responsible for the content of any electronic message that you send. Don’t let the speed and informality of your electronic communications lull you into thinking that sending email messages have no legal or ethical ramifications. Electronic communication is subject to subpoena in litigation. Follow these important principles in all your electronic messaging. Assume responsibility for commitments made in electronic communications. Printed copies can serve as verification. Abide by copyright laws when using text and graphics and do not alter messages you are forwarding. Be familiar with the laws that affect technology. [05-02] Web Page Communication and Social Media The World Wide Web is a universal communication medium that reaches a broad audience in diverse locations. The types of web presences include the following: An intranet, which distributes information to employees at various locations and requires a password. An extranet, which provides information and services to vendors, suppliers, and customers and requires a password. [05-02a] Writing for a Web Site Many of the standard rules for writing apply whether the message is for the Web or print. Some important difference, however, exist between readers of paper material and web users. They are Web users usually skim, browse, and hop between sections rather than read the entire document. English-speaking readers typically scan from top to bottom and left to right, beginning at the top left-hand side of the main content area. Users scan items in columns more easily than in rows, especially if they are categorized, grouped, and have headings. Users refer infrequently to directions. They are more likely to read numbered steps than notes, sidebars, and help files. Understanding the distinctive expectations of web readers will allow you to structure your web messages effectively and efficiently. Keep your readers in mind when you write for the web. Keep it brief and simple. Reduce your printed documents by 50 % for publishing on the web. Consider appropriate jargon if all your users share a common professional language. Use eye-catching headlines. Grab the user’s interest by asking a question, presenting the unusual, or posing a conflict. Break longer documents into small chunks. Provide ways to easily navigate the document and return to the beginning. Use attention-getting devices judiciously. Don’t hide the important ideas by overusing bold fonts, font changes, color, and graphics. Avoid placing critical information in graphic form only. Many users will not bother with slow-loading graphics. Assure accessibility by users with disabilities. Web pages designed for users with disabilities are up to 35% faster for all users to navigate. [05-02b] Social Media A number of organizations are using social media tools to communicate with customers. Web 2.0 encourages online interaction and participation. Web 2.0 technologies include blogs, wikis, video, and social networking sites that enable users to generate their own content. A weblog, or blog, is a type of online journal typically authored by an individual. Users called bloggers can add content, but they cannot change the original posted material. Blogs often serve as scrapbooks, diaries, or soapboxes for airing opinions or commentaries on a topic of interest. Blogging allows average citizens to become publishers. Businesses use wikis to encourage a free flow of ideas within their organizations. Wikis are similar in structure and logic to blogs, but are usually implemented behind a firewall to limit participation to internal use. Contributors simply visit and update a common website. Wikis for business have the following characteristics: Allows anyone to edit, delete or modify the content on a common website in real time. Encourages a free exchange of information that is constantly changing. Posts content that is not necessarily authoritative. Requires the following writing style: Avoid the first-person style used on blogs and conform to the tone and flow of the existing document. Present factual information in clear, concise, neutral language. Wikis are not typically a place for personal opinion and analysis. Social Networking sites are for communities of people who share common interests or activities. Common social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and You Tube. [05-03] Voice and Wireless Communication Voice mail technology allows you to stay in touch without using your computer. [05-03a] Voice Mail Communication Voice mail communication is more effective when you: Update your greeting to reflect your schedule. Leave your full contact information and encourage callers to leave detailed messages. Instruct callers about how to review their messages or be transferred to the operator. Check your voice mail regularly and return messages within 24 hours. Just as email communication can be enhanced by following some basic guidelines, voice mail communication can be more effective if you: Speak slowly and clearly Repeat your name and phone numbers at the beginning and end of the message. Spell your name if needed. Leave a detailed message making your purpose clear. Keep your message brief, typically less than 60 seconds. Ensure clear reception. Don’t call from places with distracting background noise. [05-03b] Cell Phone Communication The popularity of cell phones has outpaced the development of rules for proper cell phone etiquette. Cell phones can be very annoying if used improperly. Your attention to a few guidelines will help ensure that you are not a rude cell phone user: Observe wireless-free quiet zones. Use good judgment about silencing your phone in public places where your phone can disturb others. Respect others in crowded places by using a low conversational tone and considering the content of your conversation. Place safety above cell phone usage while driving. Some states have banned cell phone usage in moving vehicles; others require hands-free devices. Choose a secure communication channel for sending confidential or sensitive information. [05-03c Wireless Communication and the Future] Wireless technology drives many of the significant changes that are affecting today’s businesses. Smartphones offer advanced capabilities beyond a typical mobile phone, with PC-like functionality. The impact of wireless communication will be even more significant as voice-to-text and text-to-voice technology continues to develop. [Your Turn Before sending an electronic message, stop to consider which technology is most appropriate for your specific message. To help you make this decision, consider the following points: What is the purpose of the message? Is the message straightforward and informative? Is a permanent record needed? Is the information personal or confidential? Would this electronic message have a negative impact on human relations? Don’t use electronic communication to avoid dealing with a difficult issue. In general, sensitive messages should be handled in person, not electronically.] [05-04] Appropriate Use of Technology Though technology offers numerous advantages, a technological channel is not always the communication method of choice. The following factors must be taken into account before sending a message. [05-04a] What is the purpose of the message? If a message is straightforward and informative, you might want to consider a technological option. [05-04b] is the information personal or confidential? The contents of an email message could have embarrassing consequences since such documents often become a part of public records. [05-04c] Should positive human relations be sacrificed? Do not use the electronic communication tool as an avoidance mechanism.