This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Shooting e-mails, texts or social messages back and forth is tempting, easy and sometimes necessary, especially for busy editors with large and moving staffs working different shifts. You want your content-gathering staff to be out of the office covering the community and sometimes an email, text or message on Twitter or Facebook is the best way to communicate quickly.
But you should communicate important messages and many lesser ones face to face. If you have criticism, look the staff member in the eye and state the problem. If you have praise, go to the staff member’s desk, smile and deliver your praise.
Never send an email to a staff member when you’re angry. Written messages last longer than your anger. Physical presence, eye contact and a demonstration that you care are important parts of effective communication. The first two are lacking in an email message. And the third is weak (your words may say that you care, but your actions say this one isn’t worth getting out of your chair). You might want to calm down before talking face to face, but a personal conversation about something that made you angry might be the best way to prevent a repeat.
After you communicate face-to-face, maybe you should follow up with an e-mail, to spell out a goal clearly, to reinforce a message or to document your conversation. But deliver the news, good or bad, eyeball to eyeball.
As important as face-to-face communication is, if you keep missing connections, send praise by e-mail rather than risk forgetting to praise. Or better yet, if it’s praise for something really special, send a hand-written note. That’s a form of communication that was always effective for praise and has grown more so as more of our routine communication is digital. In particularly outstanding cases, I know of editors who have rewarded reporters with a handwritten letter or card sent by old-fashioned U.S. mail to home or even with dinner or a bottle of champagne.
If you can’t talk face to face in a timely fashion because of conflicting schedules or because you work in different offices, consider whether a phone call, Skype call or Hangout might be more effective than exchanging written messages.
If you haven’t tried Skype or Hangout yet, and if you have remote staff working in bureaus or sister newsrooms, consider video chats rather than phone calls for your routine and special conversations. And make the time to get to the bureau or remote newsroom now and then for a face-to-face conversation. Even in a Digital First newsroom, you can’t digitally simulate eye contact and a warm handshake.
How have you (or an editor you worked for) used face-to-face communication effectively to convey difficult or pleasant messages?
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is tentative). What other topics should I cover?
- Personal life
- Role models
- The editor’s blog
- Time management
- Developing new leaders
The posts probably will run daily Monday-Friday for the next few weeks. If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools.
I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.