Web faux pas not just for Twitter junkies

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Email and the internet have made communicating with different groups of stakeholders much easier. Indeed in the past, cost and production issues were real inhibitors to simultaneous distribution of messages.

Email and the internet have made communicating with different groups of stakeholders much easier. Indeed in the past, cost and production issues were real inhibitors to simultaneous distribution of messages.

Most organisations take advantage of the internet to keep different groups informed in a positive and timely way, with communications that target their audiences and add to the strength of relationships. This enhances the image of an organisation, making it appear open, dynamic, and thoughtful, with an approach that improves understanding among key groups.

However, basic mistakes are often made which can put people offside and undo all the good intent.

One example of this is for a chief executive to send a message to major clients to inform them about a company or product development, but for the email’s “sender field” to show the name of a personal assistant as the sender, not the CEO.

On the one hand the CEO is saying “This is important information we want you to have because of our relationship”, but on the other it is also saying, “Well, you’re not really important enough for me to send the email myself”. No-one really expects a CEO to undertake their own clerical work, but there’s no point in underlining this.

Another “no no” that happens too often is lack of care with email distribution lists. It can cause the same sort of embarrassment and subsequent problems as people unthinkingly putting sensitive information on Facebook, or posting thoughtless “tweets”, that everyone can see.

Email distribution lists should be divided up by recipient type, for example a separate one for clients (perhaps even further segregated by “A Class Clients”; “B Class” etc); prospects; employees; friends; suppliers; etc.

A classic example of the problems that a “one distribution list containing everyone” can cause is when journalists end up on a distribution list and receive information that the organisation didn’t want them to have. Or getting it sooner than intended so that the organisation scoops itself.

There are many things that can go wrong if distribution lists are not broken down into sub lists – not the least of which is that they simply become so large and unwieldy, no-one can accurately or easily check them. By having them in sections – such as “Journalists” – it’s easier to select the groups to get each message, ensuring the right people get the right information.

Regular checking of distribution lists also avoids the embarrassment of sending information to the wrong people, for example to a contact who left their job a year ago, which is not a good look. If the contact is in a new role at the same place they’ll still get the irrelevant email, while the person you want to get it, won’t. Care also needs to be taken in using the right list, and in naming them – there are a number of examples of journalists getting an email intended for internal distribution because of simple keystroke errors.

Another classic example is where an organisation wants to make a big announcement about a particular development – perhaps even at a reception.

But because they were briefed inadequately, the people responsible for the organisation’s website have already loaded up a page about the development, so the information is made public before the ‘launch’.

Making sure the information is appropriate for the audience and co-ordinating its release are key considerations. Once the send button is pressed, the information is out there – and it’s very easy for any recipient to send it on to their own mailing list with an additional comment.