It is not surprising in a time when everyone has a cell phone that texting has become a common place communications tool. Is it appropriate for use in a professional setting? What are the guidelines?
Each workplace generally has a policy (written or unwritten) about use of texting for personal reasons or between co-workers. This article instead, focuses on how to best use this tool with outside stakeholders (customers, vendors etc…) in the professional sphere.
Here are some tips:
Should you text at all? And if so, how much? It is always safer to ask someone ahead if they mind receiving a text message or to offer your cell phone number and follow their lead if they text you first. Texting is thought of as a more personal form of communication and generally is it safer to avoid texting someone you do not know well. Remember: Not everyone has an unlimited texting plan or a work cell phone. You don’t want to irritate a stakeholder with an unwanted interruption or expense.
Identify yourself. Not everyone will have your cell phone number saved in their phone. Don’t make the receiver feel awkward by having to ask who just messaged.
Use real words and punctuation. This is a professional communication between you and a stakeholder. While LOL, U, TTYL and emoticons may make sense to use with your friends and family, it does not reflect well on your professional reputation.
Proof read. Autocorrecting is a great tool, but can lead to embarrassing mistakes.
Don’t text at meetings. This is generally thought of as disrespectful and sends a signal that you aren’t interested in the conversation happening in the room. If you are waiting for a crucial text message, out of respect let those in the meeting know that up front.
Use the right medium. Texting is an interruption-based technology (unlike email) and should be used with that understanding. It is useful for straight-forward situations where a quick response is important. Texting should be used only to relay a short amount of information. If you are going to need more than a 3-text conversation, consider calling the person on the phone. Never text confidential information or information that requires the right tone.
Think generationally. According to a recent study, Millennials (adults 18-34) spend 14.5 hours a week texting, using social media and talking on their smartphones. A no-texting policy at your company could cut off an important avenue to reaching customers in this age bracket.
Remember boundaries. These are professional communications and should be kept to work hours and not on weekends unless requested.
In general, my recommendation would be to use texting sparingly in the professional sphere. In the right situation and with the right client, it might be perfect. But ask yourself before you text: is there a better, more respectful and appropriate way to communicate this stakeholder?
What are your thoughts? Does your company have a texting policy?
Rebecca Wyhof is the President of Blue Roof Strategies, a boutique communications firm for companies and nonprofit organizations. For more about Blue Roof Strategies and to learn how they can help you achieve your goals, visit: www.blueroofstrategies.com.