Author Archives: jodee14

The New Professional’s Guide to Interoffice Email Etiquette

In chapter nine of Digital Literacy, Rachel Spilka discusses the changes email has had on the workplace and the interactions between the people employed by them. Spilka explains (p. 241),

So pervasive and necessary are the uses of digital technology, that organizations and the people within them can be understood to exist almost literally in the digital realm… where our social and business interactions are carried out via email, video, podcasts, smartphones, Web sites and webinars, social media, listservs, wikis, and blogs.

With this phenomena the new standard, it is surprising that newly-hired professional’s aren’t given a guide of sorts on the intricacies of interoffice communications: most specifically the office email. I am not speaking of the entry-level basics of writing respectful, on-topic, spell-checked emails though. I am referring to the more nuanced happenings that we experience within email communication. And, more specifically, especially when we are emailing in an attempt to elicit a response from someone – most especially when that someone happens to be your superior.

I first noticed my dependence on the simplified, professional email approximately seven years ago. I was a newly-hired creative director working for a rapidly-growing company. The general manager, my direct supervisor, was the man with the answers… for everyone. He enjoyed this function, but as such was constantly bombarded with emails and unwelcome office drop-ins. To avoid being lost in his email inbox or shooed from his door, I utilized a very simplified email writing technique. The following rules will be of no surprise to tenured professionals, but let’s just consider this a quick overview of Interoffice Email 101.

The precursor to this email technique begins with a few simple rules:

  1. Always send an email if you can.
  2. Only call if the matter is urgent and incorporates multiple employees, and if you must call…
  3. Never leave a voicemail.
  4. Only drop-in the office if it is an emergency set to adversely effect the company budget.

When a question has lesser importance it moves down this hierarchy of communication techniques, with the least intrusive being the email. Email holds this place of honor due to this ability to be handled at the recipient’s convenience, rather than the requestor’s demand, as is true with a phone call or office visit. Once email has been determined as the communication medium of choice, other rules come into play:

  1. Only send one to two emails to your supervisor per day.
  2. Fully analyze the situation prior to sending the email and even then…
  3. Only ask the most important questions.
  4. Questions of highest importance are listed first
  5. Ask no more than a total of three questions.
  6. For each question provide the least amount of back-story possible.

More than likely this technique was not thoughtfully contrived for any professional, but rather achieved bit by bit through small successes and failures in communicating with overwhelmed supervisors. In my experience, following these self-imposed rules meant that my emails received a quick response, while other managers were not as fortunate. The higher-stake here, of course, is that without answers other managers could not move their departments efficiently toward the next task… and we all know what happens to managers of inefficient departments.

Social Media Strategy: Working within your Client’s Culture

I was at a conference on Thursday and was fortunate enough to hear Scott Jameson, Marketing Director for Realityworks, speak on the company’s social media strategy. The interesting part of this particular strategy is that it only loosely involves social media.

In chapter seven of Digital Literacy, Rachel Spilka delves into the intricacies of cross-cultural communications: namely the different social sensitivities across continents. This is a very important and nuanced topic. While I am not comparing this lofty topic to the development of Realityworks’ social media plan, they certainly do have some similarities. Not only does every country have a culture, but every region also. Even every little town and suburb have their own mojo. Why wouldn’t we think that every company and client isn’t just as dynamically unique – even if it is true only in the minutia? But there are times when that minutia changes how a region, town, or client base functions at a base level. This is where we, as communicators, need to be in the know.

A high school student holds a Realityworks’ baby-simulation doll.

If you are not familiar, Realityworks is best known for their baby simulation doll. Schools all over the nation and world are purchasing these life-like dolls and their accompanying software to aid in teaching high schoolers, in a very memorable fashion, what types of life-changes can occur post-baby. Really doesn’t this type of unique and interesting product make for the perfect marriage with social media? So what is the problem? Where is the culture issue? Well, if you didn’t pick it up yet, you are missing the point – just like I did. Mr. Jameson explained how while listening to their clients they learned that most schools block access to social media sites. (And crash goes the social media strategy.) This is a culture issue that is critical for Realityworks to be aware of: It changes how their clients’ function and deeply effects how they browse online.

Mr. Jameson explained that Realityworks does still maintain active presences on most social media sites. He explained that they aid in building public awareness and media interest. However, the purchasers of their product needed more. After some focus group sessions it was learned the clients were begging for information. More information. Detailed information. They had questions like: “How do other schools do xyz?” and “Are grants available for such purchases?” Mr. Jameson felt the perfect solution was a Realityworks’ forum that allows users to talk about their purchases and the programs they build around them. This solution allows for:

  • all potential buyers to be able to access information, even while they are in the school building itself
  • social-media-style sharing of information
  • users to share details about how they manage the programs
  • users to share their opinions and related stories
  • potential buyers to see others’ experiences

For Realityworks a forum serves them and their clients better than any Facebook page or Pinterest post ever could. (Of course the forum really is a type of social media, but one I have not personally considered previously.) The important thing here is that Mr. Jameson really listened to his clients, learned their culture, and adjusted the company’s social media strategy to best serve them.

“I love Walgreen’s!”: Referral-based Marketing

Just this week I was fortunate enough to run across a prime example of referral-based marketing: There was a glowing review for Walgreen’s Pharmacy from an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook. In true social media form, her review was commented on and expanded by several other friends: Said one female, “I [love] Walgreen’s!”

Now, it just so happens that not two weeks earlier I had a horrible experience at the very same Walgreen’s: After nearly giving the customer in front of me the incorrect dosage of her prescription, the pharmacist asked me for information about a new type of antibiotic I was picking up for my son’s ear infection. (Seriously!) In addition my also-sick five-year-old and I were fortunate enough to get to wait 45 minutes to experience these exchanges. I was unimpressed to say the least. I told my husband about it, I complained to my mother, I even told a few friends, but (prior to today) I did not rant online. I never thought to.

Even with my terrible experience my friends’ exuberant posts made me think twice about my local Walgreen’s. Considering my initial reaction was to never step foot back in d**n store, I am forced to come to terms with persuasive power of the opinions of those in my social network! This leads me to wonder what type of power a negative comment has on a business’s reputation. In Socialnomics, Erik Qualman states (p. 205), “Heck, if there isn’t 5 to 10 percent negative noise around your brand, then your brand is either irrelevant or not being aggressive enough in the space. The quickest death in this new Socialnomic world is deliberating rather than doing.”

I have to say I see Qualman’s point here. There are so many things in process online, that a few negative comments are unlikely to be able to reverse all of the positives that happen with socially-connected marketing efforts. Case in point is the example Dr. Pignetti has shared that involves a poorly handled online interaction by Progressive Insurance. Although the negative press is rather intense (and understandably so), the largest initial problem with the occurrence was Progressive’s canned response. Had Progressive been monitoring their Twitter feed more closely and responded in a prompt way to dispel the idea of their lawyer representing the defendant in the accident trial, they may have even been able to shine as a caring and connected company. (I am extending the benefit of the doubt here in hopes that Progressive indeed did not have the defendant’s lawyer on payroll.) No matter how you view this terrible incident, for better or worse it is likely that Progressive (and other companies like them) will see far greater benefits in social media marketing than the sum of most negative press.

The Planet Re-wiring Itself

Geoffrey Moore’s article, Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT, was an eye opening read. The article starts by explaining (p. 1),

Over the past decade, there has been a fundamental change in the axis of IT innovation… consumers, students and children [are] leading the way, with early adopting adults and nimble small to medium size businesses following, and it is the larger institutions who are, frankly, the laggards…

And then adding (p. 1),

Our initial response might be to dismiss this trend as not really relevant to the issues of business… [The answer is] [i]n a word, No. In two words, emphatically No. What is transpiring is momentous, nothing less than the planet wiring itself a new nervous system.

And then wrapping with (p. 1),

So at minimum, if you expect [today’s digitally connected consumers] to be your customers, your employees, and your citizens (and, frankly, where else could you look?), then you need to apply THEIR expectations to the next generation of enterprise IT systems.

Wow. This frank description of the trajectory of consumer expectations and businesses requirement to meet it is far-reaching. Moore makes it clear that new and old businesses alike need to not only adapt to this new online world, but become a fluid part of it. It is no longer acceptable for a business to simply have an online presence, they must actually be present online. The new consumer expects to have immediate and personal feedback from the companies they engage with. The business that can meet this expectation will be the one best poised to lead their industries in the next decade.

So what does this look like for marketers and technical communicators in the business world? It takes the exciting shape of merged departments, whose combined talents do more to attract and retain clients than any billboard or online banner ad ever could. This new team, is not only well suited to craft a message for the masses, but to carry a company message and service into the online realm in a way that actually benefits the world’s online community. This team will need to be poised to develop and deliver the benefits that will surely be the next expectation of these growing online consumer relationships.

The online community that demands these relationships and steadily gains knowledge of their collective power, will certainly continue to require more from these businesses. As our worlds become more connected and society more aware of others’ needs and business’ abilities to meet them, the next requirement of these businesses will likely be a form of philanthropy: whether a donation toward a scholarship, the improvement of a local building, or the creation of an aid fund. Is it possible that consumer’s may be on the path to improve society’s “health” with their collective buying power and evolved expectations?

E-mail Newsletter 2.0

In chapter five of Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics, he discusses social media marketing and its value to business. He also discusses the use of email marketing and its useful, but limited service in comparison to a more collaborative medium. Qualman states, “Having 12 million e-mail addresses in your database doesn’t mean much if only 1,000 open and click on your e-mails” (p. 109).


I have recently been applying this very concept to the remake of an e-mail newsletter I am working on for UW-Stout’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The current newsletter is a factual list of events sent to approximately 75 individuals in the Master’s and Education Specialist CTE programs. The newsletter has low open rates at 17 percent, and even lower click-through rates at one percent. The initial plan was to overhaul the format and invite readers to engage with the text, but this has developed into a proposal to instead provide the information via a social media group.


We have selected to best capture the professional nature of the degrees. In addition, we can leverage the Program Director’s current 355 LinkedIn contacts. The majority of these contacts are tied to the CTE program in meaningful ways. Due to LinkedIn’s invite feature, we can easily alert them as to the creation of this new collaborative group. Of course these contacts, in addition to the existing audience will all have social networks of their own that may as a result have CTE information pushed to them.


Qualman writes, “To effectively leverage the social graph, every company needs to understand that they need to make their information easily transferable” (p. 14). In other words, to best utilize the interconnectedness of social media users we must present information in a manner that makes it easy to share. This concept has essentially become the ultimate goal of the CTE e-mail newsletter: To leave the static newsletter format behind completely and transform the content into a collaborative forum that will entertain and educate the CTE audience with frequent updates and relevant information.


The challenge will be in creating content and managing discussions so that the resulting information successfully compels members to share it with others in their network.

Utilizing Search and Browsing History at a Micro-Level

Erik Qualman’s book, “Socialnomics” once again entertained with interesting points in this weeks readings. The most interesting of which to me was the described ability of a search engine to predict phenomena before its occurrence by collecting and reviewing search data for trends (p. 69). One example was Yahoo’s ability to successfully predict the fast and powerful rise of pop star, Brittany Spears prior to the actual realization of her success. Also noted was ability to predict the rise of flu season prior to the Centers for Disease Control’s ability to do so. As Qualman states (p. 71), “[P]owerful stuff.”

MIT Professor, Thomas W. Malone is quoted as saying, “I think we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible with collective intelligence” (p. 71). Although Qualman looks at this available data as a set, it seems as of late I’ve been noticing more and more instances where my searching and browsing tendencies are being utilized in a individualized manner. For example, has this occurred to any of you: An ad pops up on the banner of your email browser that just so happens to be the exact product you browsed the evening before? I know, impressive, but slightly creepy right?

What have the advertiser’s done incorrectly in those too-obvious, banner ad, product placements? Really they are advertising the very product you viewed back to you and in a timely manner. What could go wrong? BUT, what is overlooked is that those advertisers don’t know what you thought of that product. It may be that you felt the product you viewed was sub-par. It may be that you decided it was too expensive. It may be a whole host of things. In addition, their very blatant use of your search history is borderline obnoxious. Not a good first impression for any potential customer. The search history of a potential customer must be useful to companies, but there has to be a better approach! Well, I think I experienced just one such tactic this week…

Wednesday afternoon I viewed a dress coat on (It was a beautiful raspberry color, just gorgeous ladies… but I digress.) I read the coat’s reviews, checked out the details and even found my size. Ultimately though, I left the coat in the cart, deciding that it was too large of a splurge. The following day a coupon arrived in my inbox from Younkers. Now this happens very frequently, but what was unique is that the generic coupon that typically arrived had a unique title: “$50 Coupon for Coats.” Huh. Now THAT I clicked on and browsed their selection with the intention of using that tempting coupon. It wasn’t until I didn’t find anything of interest that I realized I had more-than-likely just been marketed to in a VERY powerful way.

Yes, it is possible that the Younkers’ coupon arrival and tagline was just a coincidence (being Fall anyway), but the lesson remains intact regardless. If a company utilizes search and browse results on a micro-level (as well as a macro-level, as explored by Qualman) they can craft very timely, individually-focused marketing campaigns. As Qualman teaches, by using social media to listen to an audience, a company can stay in constant contact with them. Does this sound familiar to you too? Once again, no matter whether we are discussing rhetoric, marketing, or politics – to be successful in engaging and motivating your audience you must first know them.

What Does Social Media Have to do with a Leaf Blower?

In his book “Socialnomics” Erik Qualman writes, “To effectively leverage the social graph (the interconnectedness of social media users), every company needs to understand that they need to make their information easily transferable” (p. 14). Let’s write this another way: To put to best use the networks of social media, companies need to understand that they must make their information easy to share. Huh, simple, but SMART.

I would say companies are figuring this out. Have you noticed how many opportunities you are offered online to click a button and post that you had an interaction with a company/product/post? It was bizarre, but again my readings this week tied into a recent experience. My husband decided to purchase a gas powered leaf-blower online both for the savings and ease of the purchase. (Read: Fifty bucks cheaper and he didn’t want to leave the recliner.) My husband, who only started on a computer a few short years ago, ventured onto, read the reviews and easily completed the transaction. What shocked him was that after the purchase, he was invited to click a button that would post the following to his Facebook page: “Eric just purchased a Husqvarna, 28cc, 170 MPH, 2-Stroke, Gas-Powered, Handheld Gas Blower from” (I know, holy souped-up leaf blower! FYI: leaves wreak havoc on the job site of a concrete crew.)

The hubs didn’t accept Amazon’s offer to post his purchase to his Facebook page, but how smart that he was given the option. Qualman explains why, “The average person on Facebook has 150 friends – there is a lot of viral potential when one person posts a story or video.” All it takes is one or two friends to hit “like” or comment, and then the post is visible to their approximately 150 connections, and so on and so forth. In the event that no one comments Amazon isn’t out advertising dollars either. It really is a win/win for them.

In my current position I have been producing email newsletters. Newsletters are rather hard to get excited about anyway, but after last week’s Qualman readings that said emails themselves are on the way out, I have had an increasingly difficult time! Is the fact that e-newsletters are so stagnant exactly why? They are too single-sided? They are currently a grocery-list of upcoming events and relevant topics. This may not offer any significant reasons for the reader to even think about passing them on! My new plan is to include a section that has comments provided from the very-connected e-newsletter readership. Possibly if readers are also part-author, the e-newsletters will be more interesting and more “post-worthy.” Oh, if only I can make the e-newsletter as cool as a new, souped-up leaf blower.

The New Company Website

Chapter three of Socialnomics was a perfectly-timed read for me this week. In this chapter Erik Qualman explains that email is on its way out, referring to the decline in the use of this technology by Generations X and Y (p. 46). He also points out that websites are serving different purposes these days, they should no longer be the sole means of online information about a company:

… [A company] could be in communication with fans and consumers on someone else’s database (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.). Yet, many companies fail to grasp this new concept. They build elaborate YouTube or Flicker pages, placing callouts and click actions that send the user outside the social network, often to their company website (p. 48).

Qualman vividly compares this antiquated strategy to the following…

It’s analogous to meeting a pretty girl in a bar and asking if she would like a drink. When she responds “yet,” rather than ordering a drink from the bartender, you grab her and rush her into your care and drive her back to your place… (p. 49).

Okay, so we all get Qualman’s point, but why was this read well-timed for me you ask? Well I would just love to share… A friend of mine introduced me to her photography business this week. It is a small, hobby business, but growing quickly and earning her a nice supplemental income. Over lunch we were discussing new businesses, marketing them and the-like when she happened to mention she didn’t have a website. (Gasp.) I had to hide my surprise and the inner-dialogue, What is a snazzy little photography business doing without an equally-snazzy website?! Well, as I found out later, the answer is quite a lot.

After lunch we scheduled a time for her to come and take pictures of my kids the following evening. The next afternoon I noticed a Facebook message from her suggesting I “like” her page so that she could “share” with me a sneak-peak album she would post after the shoot. Hmmm, now you have my attention. Absolutely, I will like that page right this minute… task completed.

Painted Iris Photography + Design’s Facebook Page

After an hour of photos and lots of good chatting, my friend headed home. The next morning I checked Facebook, thinking she couldn’t possibly have anything posted already. Yet, there they were, a dozen or so darling shots of my kidlets. And the marketing beauty of it for her little business? All I had to do was hit “share” to post them to my wall along with the link to the original album located on her Facebook page. Twenty-four hours later, dozens of my friends and family had commented about the photos and quite likely browsed her business page. A page that is updated almost daily, unlike most websites, with new sneak-peak albums… all spreading kiddo-cuteness among family and friend networks. THAT, my friends, is brilliant and in this particular scenario MUCH more effective than a static website.

The best way for me to summarize this lesson is to finish with Jack Molisani’s frank comment in Is Social Networking for You?: “Why should your company have a Facebook presence? Because that’s where your audience is” (p.10).

Blogging: This and That and Learning

My past experience with blogging has been limited to reading many, but authoring few. I enjoy the world of blogs very much: whether it be I am in need of a recipe (, a pick-me-up ( or possibly just a laugh ( Okay the last one isn’t a blog, and contains much more than just humor, but you get the gist: I like online content. Period. I like that it is small, bite-sized chunks of information on any topic you can think to enter into the search bar. What isn’t to like?

I also enjoyed learning via blogging with Dr. Pignetti’s Rhetorical Theory class this past spring. For me it was a very engaging way to learn and exercise newly forming thoughts on the subject matter. The interaction between students and their differing points-of-view made it all the more interesting.

This leads me into our reading Learning With Weblogs: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Knowledge Construction. The research preformed by Du and Wagner suggested that blogging enhanced the research subject’s learning in multiple ways. Included below are those I have personally witnessed:

  • Students were more actively participating in their learning, which suggests better retention.
  • The professor was able to more quickly identify students who were in need of additional help understanding subject matter and quickly respond.
  • Students engage with other students via comments and from there grows a social aspect to learning.

Although blogging may not replace classrooms anytime too soon, (despite the predictions of Epic 2020) I certainly feel they have added to my learning experience. In addition, with plans to build on and include social media skills in my professional future, my résumé is also feeling the love.

I’ll end with a picture, just for the sake of saying I posted one… and yes, I found it on Pinterest.

Creative Inspiration.