Communications A resource pack for helping staff to improve internal communications
Compliled by: J. Ingle, Thinking Writing, 2014
Introduction The word cluster on the front page shows key words that come from a survey by Queen Mary’s communications team, who asked a range of people about what they thought of Queen Mary. If you’re thinking about communicating with students, staff or the outside world, it’s worth checking the guidelines they’ve produced: (LINK). Alternatively, you could give them a ring (CONTACT DETAILS).
Communicating by email: The majority of communication with colleagues is by email. As a means of communication, the main functions of email are: • To exchange information • To request information • To participate in shared information exchanges Think about the effect your email has on the reader. If you need to write more than half a page, or your email is urgent, then it’s probably better to reach for the phone. This is because the reader may not read everything carefully, or may not access their emails every day. We read differently on a screen than on a printed page and this is reflected in the ways we write emails. For example, it’s easier for your reader if you use short paragraphs (one or two sentences) or bullet points. Have you included the key information? Is there anything unnecessary or irrelevant?
Automated email responses Look at the three examples of automated email responses: 1. What do you think the effect of these emails would be on the student receiving them? 2. Which do you think is the best and why?
3. What do your colleagues think and why? 4. How could they be improved?
Email and letter templates Here are three examples of templates: one an email and two letters. Activity: Rank them from best to weakest in terms of how effective they are at communicating their content to students
Activity: 1. Look at the one you identified as the weakest and note down what you think the problems might be. 2. None of them are perfect. How could you improve the other two?
3. Sometimes we have to write longer emails and letter. Look at the one below and see how it could be improved:
And finally …
Activity: Go to your email application or templates and choose either a couple of templates or emails from your sent box and see how you can improve them
Top tips for email etiquette: 1. Choose the right tool Email is not always the most appropriate way to convey your message, especially in sensitive or political situations. Consider whether a phone call, face-‐to-‐face meeting or letter would be more effective. Don't use e-‐mail as an excuse to avoid personal contact. 2. Start with a salutation Your email should open by addressing the person you’re writing to. Messages should begin with: • Dear Mr Jones, or Dear Professor Smith, (for someone you don’t know well) • Dear Joe, or Dear Mandy, (if you have a working relationship with the person) It’s fine to use Hi Joe, Hello Joe or just the name followed by a comma (Joe,) if you know the person well. 3. Stick to one topic If you need to write to someone about several different issues then don’t put them all in the same email. It’s hard for people to keep track of different email threads and conversations if topics are jumbled up. 4. Be concise Reading an overlong email is daunting. Get the main points onto the first screen. Use a logical structure, keep points brief, and use attachments, links to more information online, sub-‐headings, spaces and bullet points to present information in easily digestible chunks. Make sure to state action points clearly and near the top. 5. Sign off the email For internal emails, you can just put a double space after your last paragraph then type your name. If you’re writing a more formal email you should sign off appropriately. • Use Yours sincerely, (when you know the name of your addressee) and Yours faithfully, (when a specific person is not identified, e.g. when writing Dear Sir/Madam,) for very formal emails. • Use Best regards, or Kind regards, in most other situations. • Even when writing to people you know well, it’s polite to sign off with something such as All the best, or Best wishes, before typing your name. • Add a signature block with appropriate contact information.
Signature example: Catriona Heaton Full name (include salutation if appropriate, eg Office Manager Dr) Marketing and Communications Job title Queen Mary University of London Directorate, School, Institute or Faculty Institution Tel: +44(0) 20 7882 7428 email: email@example.com Contact details: put them in order of how E107, Queens' Building, 327 Mile End useful they are -‐ if you want people to call you, Road, London, E1 4NS put that first. Use the international code. www.qmul.ac.uk Add your work mobile. Twitter: www.twitter.com/QMUL Central website Facebook: www.facebook.com/OfficialQMUL Useful links – may vary YouTube: www.qmul.ac.uk/about/youtube Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/qmul 6. Be sparing with group email Send group email only when it's useful to every recipient. Use the ‘Reply All’ button only when compiling results requiring collective input and only if you have something to add. 7. Use CC and BCC appropriately Don't use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied. Do use BCC when sending to a large distribution list, so recipients won't have to see a long list of names. Be cautious with your use of CC. Only copy people who are directly involved. Try not to use CC unless the recipient in the CC field knows why they are receiving a copy of the message. CCing can sometimes be confusing as the recipients might not know who is supposed to act on the message. 8. Use the spell-‐checker and double-‐check recipient details Edit and proofread before hitting ‘Send’. 9. Use Out of Office Remember to activate the Out of Office Assistant facility before going on holiday or if you know you will not have regular access to email. Include alternative contact details – either your own or a colleague’s – and your planned return date in your message. Information on how to set your Out of Office can be found here. 10. Respond promptly Reply promptly to serious messages. If you need more than 24 hours to collect information or make a decision, send a brief response explaining the delay. Consider whether it might be better to call or meet to discuss things.