The time when Kathleen Kelly anxiously waited for an email from Joe Fox are long gone. Studies show that we spend anything from 70 to 80 percent of our waking time in communication, and a good part of it is emails. Has it ever happened to you to come back from vacation and find your inbox flooded with invites, presentations, reports, urgent decisions, thick power point decks – an endless array of bolded lines. Or, if you are anything like me, and you probably are, you wake up in the morning to a bunch of new emails wondering when does the person on the other side sleep. Then, the triage begins: recycle bin, the task list, and the ever-so-present “this looks interesting, I’ll read it later” – the black hole of email communications.
When I start an assignment with a client, I always ask them how do they communicate and what is their preferred way to provide updates or inform employees of upcoming changes. In almost 100% of the cases, the response I get is emails, followed by we get so many of them that people don’t read them anymore, but still email is good. McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corp. found that employees use up to 28% of their time either writing or answering an email, adding to that 22% of time linked to other email-related activities like searching, archiving and managing, brings us to the realization that half of our working time is spent on emails. A similar study, published by Harvard Business Review, shows that an employee is receiving an average of 11,680 emails per year, most of them used for exchange of documents and group communications. Despite the increasing footprint that emails have on our personal and professional life, the general satisfaction with the emails is relatively high (70% are very satisfied and satisfied with emails). The duality of email communications as a necessary evil takes shape.
When working with clients and faced with the challenge of building awareness about a new change, I inadvertently revert to emails. Emails come in handy when the intention is to reach out to a large group of people, with a standard message and in a short timeframe. But more often then we hope, these emails end up in the black hole of email communication. Embracing the dual nature of email communication where emails are increasingly becoming a burden, while the lack of alternative maintains it in the top preferred communication channels, I look at alternative ways to use this space and ensure my message reaches its target audience. Here are a few tips from someone who likes to have fun in her work:
1- Write the story you want to tell. I look at change as a journey of discovery and the communication that accompanies the change as the travellers’ journey. Wouldn’t you want to know what’s next?
2- Make it colourful. The concept of videotelling is gaining popularity, alongside the multitude of tools available online to add colour to your training and communication. My personal preference is GoAnimate for the variety of scenery, characters and backdrops it offers.
3 – Who are your travellers? In my recent work, my travellers were two superheroes who embarked on the journey of changing the world, discovering new planets and building a new community by bringing beings from different planets together (you have probably guessed by now that my project was a merger). Who are the heroes of your project, your travellers and why are they best positioned to tell the story?
4 – How do you want to share your story? Although videotelling is a great way to share stories, most email servers will filter out video content. Emails with inserted pictures have more chances of reaching your user’s inbox. I used goanimate to build my superheroes’ world and then collaged screenshots to create a comic strip that takes you through their adventures.