Consider the sheer volume of emails and text messages you send each day. Have you ever considered the impact electronic messages have on your credibility and ability to influence others?
Every message you send provides the chance to separate yourself from others and ultimately grow your influence. Unfortunately, most professionals don’t stop to consider the impact these messages have on their reputation. They assume only verbal interactions have consequences. As a result, they carelessly communicate electronic messages that are easily misinterpreted, thus damaging their influence. Our new world of business requires us to be on top of our game in every interaction, regardless of whether it's face-to-face, over the phone or within every electronic form of communication.
Every professional is overwhelmed in areas of electronic communications. If you want to be heard above the noise, you must consider how your messages will impact the receiver and your influence on their decision making.
Did you know 89 billion business emails are sent each day throughout the world? The average corporate professional sends and receives between 105 and 125 email messages daily. That is an astonishing number of electronic conversations, which surprisingly don’t even include text messages.
When you start to consider the number of business-related text messages sent as well, the number grows exponentially. A survey found that about 80 percent of people use texting for business. Other data suggests that than 33 percent of sales professionals admit to closing a business deal via text. These studies illustrate how electronic communication methods have replaced a tremendous amount of our verbal interactions in the workplace.
Your ability to influence others to respond to your messages is based solely on their past experiences in dealing with your electronic exchanges. Have you stopped to consider if your emails are confusing? Perhaps your text messages are long-winded or written in indecipherable acronyms. Worse still, are you copying people on these messages who don't need to be a part of the electronic dialogue? When you're guilty of these electronic sins, you condition others to ignore your messages or postpone responding until they have time to decipher what you're saying. Poorly written email and text messages put your influence at risk. If your messages aren’t read, you can’t expect others to act upon what you have to say.
It’s natural for people to:
- Assume messages are read, even when a response isn’t received.
- USE ALL CAPS to try to catch readers' attention.
- Repeatedly follow up to ensure the reader received their first message.
Unfortunately, these responses further call your credibility into question and irritate those you're trying to communicate with. To succeed in business, we need influence, which requires our daily commitment, Monday to Monday, to earn it.
Rise above the noise
Before pressing “send,” consider how many emails and texts your reader has received today. Then, begin to craft a message that rises above the noise generated by others.
- Send your message only to those who need to see it. Consider how many times you've received an email that copies you, along with dozens of other people. It’s unprofessional and a waste of time. Do your homework to identify those who really need to receive your message.
- Specify why you’re sending the message and the value your reader will receive.
- Less is more. Keep your message short and clear of filler words. Keep everything within context and on topic. If your receiver is like most professionals, they will appreciate your brief-and-concise messaging.
- Use bullet points to express key points.
- Provide enough white space to avoid overwhelming your reader.
- Only include an attachment when it is necessary and don't repeat the information in the email if the attachment already explains.
Be clear and concise
Respect your reader’s time. Use only bullet points to communicate key ideas, recommendations and action steps. If in doubt, ask a trusted peer to proofread the message and provide feedback on necessary edits.
Create a compelling subject line
Make your subject line the last piece you create before hitting “send.” It needs to grab your receiver's attention and create curiosity that compels your reader to open the message. Consider how effective billboards grab your attention; consider using this same concept.
Refrain from forwarding
Every professional has received emails with so many forwards that they are unable to find the original message. Avoid being someone who takes the easy road by simply hitting “reply to all.” Pinpoint those who really need to see the messages before you reply or forward. When you do respond, consider whether the subject line still applies or if a new one is needed.
Pick up the phone
Few things beat the impact of a face-to-face or voice conversation. Instead of emailing everyone, consider picking up the phone. Even if you must leave a message, you reduce the risk of miscommunication. You can follow up with an email or text for clarification when necessary. If there is any doubt about how your electronic message may be received, refrain from sending it. Pick up the phone instead.
As soon as your message lands in your receiver’s inbox, your reputation is on the line. Take a moment to proofread your messages for grammatical and spelling errors before hitting “send.” If you’re concerned about your message’s tone or possible perception, get someone else to proofread it first.
This week, before you hit "send," ask yourself, "Would I open this message if I received it?" If the answer is “no,” take time to make edits and clarify your message. If you still struggle to compose a message that is clear and concise, pick up the phone instead. These extra steps will increase the likelihood that your reader will respond and act upon what you say.