The boundaries between personal and business communication are no longer as clear cut as they used to be. With the explosion of texting, instant messaging, social media for business use and general communication, the line between communication for business purposes and more social interaction is becoming increasingly blurred.
Now many of us text clients to let them know when we’re running late for a meeting, blog about our business, email our mums with updates on the kids, and use social media to find work and circulate our CVs etc…
All these different communication methods and styles can lead to confusion and embarrassing blunders. Whatever your personal view might be on text speak and the use of emoticons in emails, your business colleagues and clients may take a different view. It is important to be aware of the conventions and boundaries if you want to avoid coming across as unprofessional.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you navigate the often-tricky path to effective business communication, and hopefully maintain your professional image:
- Do consider your audience before sending any form of communication. Is the person young, old, relaxed or more formal? When it comes to texting and other types of informal conversation, consider what level of formal language the other party uses. Using acronyms and abbreviations may be irritating to more formal or older recipients, but not doing so can also make you seem stuffy in other contexts, particularly if your audience is younger.
- Do consider the medium. Texting and social media allow for a lower level of formality than a full scale business report. Emails generally sit somewhere in between. You probably wouldn’t use dense language in a text, tweet or other social media update, but you might in a policy report or other formal business document.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to possible typos and spelling mistakes. Email may be fairly informal, but anything you write that represents your business to the public, or other business people, needs to be grammatically correct and spell checked. No exceptions!
- Don’t lose sight of the point. What is the message you are trying to get across? The essence of effective communication lies in conveying your intended message, so make sure you haven’t become so bogged down in your mode of communication that you forget why you are doing it!
- Don’t be seduced into making inappropriate or offensive comments, particularly over social media where whatever you write will stay accessible forever. The casualness of texting and email can be misleading, and it is very easy for things to be misconstrued. Re-read, and always think twice before hitting the send button.
With a bit of attention to detail and care, you can hopefully enjoy the ease of communicating with colleagues, customers and clients without making any embarrassing blunders. Remember, how you communicate makes a big difference to how people will see your business, so make sure you convey the message and the image you want people to see.