Accessibility does not mean availability

2020/02/08 2:32:42 PM Author | Jennilee Peremore-Oliver

There are multiple communication platforms out there, but as a professional, simply because ‘that’s what everyone is doing.’ Since I became an experienced communications professional, I did less of what is popular and more of what feels right to me. In business, we are eager to get the answers we want now and especially in public relations with looming deadlines and when you need sign-off from a client on an urgent news release. However, it’s important not to cross any boundaries.

In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some general tips on when to use each communication platform professionally and the rules of communication regarding each.

1. Email 

We use email when we must explain something in greater depth, you need to attach a document, and you need feedback or written approval. However, by using email, you must know that the recipient of your email has 48 hours within which to respond to your email. You cannot send an email and expect an immediate response. You cannot expect urgency from a recipient when sending an email. If urgent, the way to communicate would be to call the recipient. If there is no answer, then leave a voice message or send a formal SMS to request a callback.

2. SMS 

SMS’ing in a professional capacity, whether it be with a client or colleague, should only be used to inform someone that you need to speak to them and that when they have an opportunity, they should contact you. We should never use SMS to provide details of a business deal or determine a contractual agreement. It is not professional.

3. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is being used more and more often in business settings to communicate with individuals quickly. WhatsApp can work well when the person you’re communicating with knows you well, you’ve worked together closely on a couple of projects, or you are working together on a long-term project. However, if you’ve just met someone, it is best to veer away from using this communication platform, unless that person has clearly instructed you that this is their preferred mode of communication. People have different communication preferences. Something acceptable to one person, others could view as unprofessional.

4. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a wonderful professional networking platform, and it is certainly one of my favourite platforms. LinkedIn is a great platform to learn about the challenges and opportunities in your industry from peers. However, do not use LinkedIn to pitch a product or service to one of your connections without knowing whether they would be interested. Doing so could result in you losing an influential connection before having built a solid relationship, and you will miss the opportunity to learn from their insights. It is best to connect personal via LinkedIn messenger if you previously met this person where they were a keynote speaker, or you attended a networking session where you briefly chatted. It would then make sense why you are connecting with them, and they may be more open to your proposal to meet.

5. Twitter

The same goes for Twitter, as per LinkedIn. Twitter is a platform used by millions of people, and therefore I would not recommend inboxing someone on Twitter if you do not know them. There is very little chance you will get a response. Someone with thousands of followers, likely receive spam regularly in their Twitter inbox and have just decided to avoid their inbox altogether.

Final Thoughts

Social media and instant messaging have made it easier for people to connect and the benefits of this are endless; decisions can be made faster, from anywhere in the world. However, there are also disadvantages; new boundaries need to be set by all professionals, and we all must learn the limits of everyone we meet. Every person’s preferences are different, so instead of assuming you know, ask. You could be surprised. With this ease of communication, there is also a new trend that has arisen, the tendency to switch off. No person can be available 24/7. 

Multitasking has proven to reduce productivity, as you cannot give 100% of your attention to multiple projects, the quality won’t be on par with the excellence organisations require and that we as professionals expect from ourselves. Quality always wins over quantity. I would rather complete two important projects excellently then complete ten of them on a subpar level. Therefore, keep your communication professional, and show professional courtesy to your peers by not setting the unreasonable expectation on them to always be available.