Texting–sending messages on your phone to individuals and groups–has become a prime form of daily communication. We text our kids, our neighbors, our co-workers and even our clients. It has become one of the fastest ways to communicate and recent survey information shows that text messages are frequently answered faster than emails. In essence, texting is the modern day primary form of quick communication. With a background in the traditional PR and marketing environment, my “old school” experience still yearns for more face-to-face communication where you can see body language, clarify points and ensure better outcomes in communication. Nothing trumps face-to-face communication, but that’s another post. Without further trips down memory lane….here are some practical tips for texting to ensure better responses and outcomes:
1. State your name when you are texting someone who may or may not have your phone number. How many times have you replied: “Who is this?” Instead, reply: “I’m sorry. I don’t seem to have you in my phone. Kindly tell me who you are.” This sets a tone for a more positive outcome because you are apologizing for not having that person in your phone thus eliminating the risk for that person taking offense.
2. Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. In this day of what I call “auto-texting”, we are losing the art of proper communication. I use texting for communicating with clients and how would it look for a PR pro to use anything less than proper form? Additionally, remember that the recipient can screen shot your text and post it anywhere or forward it to someone else.
3. Do not use texting to solve a problem, communicate a problem or send shocking news. Recently, I received a text about a person who had died tragically. Think about this for a minute. Do you really want to be the bearer of bad news in a text? Instead, you should text something like this: “Hi, It’s me Amy Howell. I have some sad news that I need to tell you about so call me when you can.” Receiving a text that says, “Did you hear about John Doe who died last weekend?” is not the best way to communicate this kind of news. In our rush to be the first to tell it all, we have lost the art of sensitivity and more civil, proper ways to communicate.
4. Assume your text messages will be read by other people. Teenagers screen shot texts and share them which I would discourage. Our youth need to learn the art of communication and sharing messages intended to be private should stay that way. Texting is a two-way street!
5. Do not use profanity in text messages. My Dad once told me that only less intelligent people use profanity because they aren’t creative enough to find better words. He also said that he believed people who used profanity weren’t equipped with a very large vocabulary. Pretty great advice that I try and follow.
6. Don’t send partial text messages. Fully explain something so the recipient doesn’t think you sent it to the wrong person. For example, often people will text me about something going on in city hall that they assume I know about. A text can read like this: “can you believe the council discussion on (whatever matter)?” This cryptic question calls for my response: “I’m sorry but I’ve been in meetings and don’t know what you are talking about.” A better way to text would be to text: “When you get a chance, you should read the news on recent issues that were discussed in today’s city hall meeting.”
7. Avoid texts that may excite or worry someone such as “Where are you?” I get these from my teenagers and each time I get this–as a mom–my heart races a bit. Why not text instead: “Hey Mom. I’m hungry and wondering what is for dinner. Where are you and what is your ETA?” Of course I don’t expect a teenager to actually be that practical but as adults, we should!
8. When texting busy people, don’t expect immediate reply and in fact, qualify your text as “not urgent” when you need something. For example, when I text a CEO, CFO, business owner or anyone else who is under daily time constraints, I will say something like this: “Hi Frank. It’s me, Amy Howell. When you have time, I need to discuss project XYZ but it’s not urgent.” And, when you do have an urgent need, then you need to state it. This would be a familiar text I would send in this case: “Hi Frank. It’s me Amy Howell. A reporter on deadline has inquired about project XYZ and I need to get you on the phone ASAP.” If you will be considerate of people’s time and use this type of texting style, you will get a prompt response when needed.
9. Do not share or forward screen shots of other people’s texts unless it is a police matter. Some people use texts to harass and stalk and when this happens, it would be important to save and archive such texts. Additionally, if an adult or unknown person is texting a minor, parents should be informed and the police should be contacted.
10. Text messages can be used in a court of law and are deemed a written form of communication. Remember this and apply the same principals to texting as you would any other form of written communication.
I’m sure you can add to this list so please feel free to chime in here and keep the information going! I am also sure if you have teenagers, you could add some humorous examples to this list. Thank you for reading!