Reclaiming Civilized Communication
Integrating human contact, both internal and external, in the midst of a digital assault.
The phrase, "What we've got here is failure to communicate," from the 1967 film "Cool Hand Luke," is a line that resonates to this day. The fact that many boomers like myself were not even adolescents at the time speaks to the evergreen nature of the message. As “professionals in communication,” we are often the enemy. City & Regional magazines are, for the most part, small businesses—I believe the definition is below the 50 employee threshold with annual gross revenues scaled accordingly below $5 million.
Given the circumstances, one might think we are nimble, close to our markets, small, entrepreneurial, good communicators. Think again. We fall into the same traps of the largest Fortune 500 companies: email hell.
Ryan Dohrn of Brain Swell Media, a sales consulting guru, says that the most underused and effective means of communication with our customers is the archaic concept of a phone call—or better yet, an actual face-to-face conversation! Whether or not you are a fan of "Glengarry Glen Ross," the 1992 Oscar-nominated film about a hapless group in a real estate sales operation lorded over by a young Alec Baldwin, it illustrates the fact that sales is a tough businesses. The digital assault is in full throttle. Emails, videos, and clever pdf’s that never make their way through firewalls are often a lot of effort for nothing.
We have become adept at fishing with no cognizance of what’s landing in the net (okay—Catholic upbringing).
Internal communication is no better. We send emails to people in our small office floorplans to cover our posteriors, who are less than a dozen feet way, with no actual effort to move the agenda forward, just a pass of the "hot potato."
I have started, as someone owning a small organization who gets cc’d on everything, to ask NOT to be included on emails regarding relatively rudimentary matters. I have stopped the email trees, “congrats to Sue on her recent sale….” which is often followed by 30 “way to go” reply all emails. We have monthly gatherings in the conference room we call "Whine & Cheese"—no agenda, just small talk amongst the staff at the end of a designated day. There is no mandate to attend, but often it fosters connections between folks in the various departments not normally interactive in the standard business day.
Larry Levite, the publisher of Buffalo Spree, is a champion of—hold still your hearts cursive fans—hand-written notes. He sends copies of “The Art of the Handwritten Note” to clients who do the same. What a concept: snail mail, hand-written notes, and human contact. As the book jacket suggests, it is “a guide to reclaiming civilized communication.”