I apologise. I’m having one of my Ally McBeal moments. I know I’m
supposed to talk about marketing communications but I don’t want to. I
want to talk about email.
I want to put email in the dock. Of course, members of the jury, we all
know that email has many good points. Let’s face it, when we need to
contact someone who might put us on the spot with some awkward questions,
it’s so much easier to knock out a quick email than it is to pick up the
But therein lies the crime: it’s too easy. Too easy to send junk emails to
colleagues and contacts, clogging up their in-boxes and wasting their
time. Too easy to rush out unclear, ungrammatical memos that end up being
misunderstood. Too easy to be curt because we are writing into a void
rather than interacting with a human being. In short, it’s too easy to
think of email as a replacement for the good old-fashioned phone.
Come on, admit it, we’re all guilty. How many times have you knocked out a
quick email, got an immediate reply, and gone on to have a full-blown
conversation via your PC? Have you never wondered to yourself at such
moments: ’Why don’t I just pick up the phone?’
We don’t use fax in the same way as email - we know fax machines are
shared with others and therefore feel the need to ensure faxed messages
have actually found the person they were meant for. So what do we do? We
pick up the phone.
But we assume that this is not necessary with PC-to-PC communication. We
are wrong. People go on holiday and forget to enable their Out of Office
function. Or they may have so many emails that they simply don’t open ours
until it is too late. Or they may even choose to just ignore it because
that too, is too easy. But if we ring them, they will almost certainly
pick up the phone.
There is a culture within our industry of reliance on email. So is it any
wonder we are so poor at hitting deadlines, so infamous for our lack of
client service? The answer to our ills has been here all the time. Say it
with me: ”Pick up the phone!”
John Owen is head of Starcom IP.