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Campus to Career Blog Series: Managing Your Professional Brand Via Electronic Communication

When it comes to a tech-savvy workforce, today’s new hires are probably the most adept generation at using the wide array of electronic tools available in the corporate world. Having grown up with mobile phones, tablets, apps, video chat capabilities and more, as you enter the workforce you are often able to embrace all of the technological advancements even quicker than your more seasoned counterparts.

However, there are definitely nuances of professional electronic communication that must be learned and used consistently. As a recent grad, it’s good to take into consideration some tips on how to manage your professional brand when using electronic communication tools within the workplace.

Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. is a long-time leader in training for professionals in corporate communications, public relations, social media and management. The company cites a number of communication errors that can lead to damaging your brand, including: hiding bad news, burning bridges, reacting to a message rather than simply responding to it, messages that lack clarity, non follow-up and relying too much on emails rather than verbal communication.

Written Communication Doesn’t Allow for Tone

“With social media, blogs and emails, you have to be mindful that written communication doesn’t allow for tone. Sarcasm does not translate well and common phrases that we use might not come across,” says René Cintrón, chief education and training officer for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. ”When it comes to emails, you cannot treat them like texts. If you are bolding something or writing something in italics, explain in full why it was bolded — if it’s something like a deadline— show why it’s important.”

Your written communication needs to be professional, use proper grammar and correct spelling. “When sending emails in the workplace, remember, you’re not in college anymore, and you’re not sending a text message,” says Owen Smith, interim dean and director of career services, Northshore Technical Community College. “Don’t type in all caps, and don’t use a lot of colors and bold fonts. Use appropriate and professional subject lines. Make sure you have an introduction — don’t go straight into what you need. Also end your email with a signature line which includes your name, title, department and contact information.”

According to Sandy Summers, technology recruiting manager for the Workforce Talent Initiative at Southeastern Louisiana University, “Many employers often comment on the fact that hires to the workforce have a hard time converting their writing style from text to email, the former of which can be very abbreviated. For email, always offer a short intro, such as, ‘Hey, here’s what I need,’ or, ‘Hi, hope all is well with you…’ A short, yet proper introduction softens the wording and makes the email much more accepting.” Eliminate abbreviations commonly used in texting such as “b/c” “ur” “btw” and others. Also remember, in the business world you may not get an immediate reply to an email, so do not treat this person like your college friend and send them three emails five minutes apart asking the same question. He or she may be in a meeting or working on a time-sensitive project. Give them time to respond.”

Cintrón says “you will also have to learn that different people like being communicated with differently. Some people prefer texts, others email while others would rather have a phone call. It is important you figure this out quickly if you are in a service position dealing with clients or communicating with superiors.”

Verbal Electronic Communication Etiquette

According to Cintrón, for conference calls and video calls, there are a number of items that fall under basic etiquette: “If you are leading the call, you should always have an agenda (give it out ahead of time if possible) and be cognizant of people’s turns and do not speak over them. Try to be concise when delivering the message and be careful not to dominate the conversation. If you are on a video and you can be seen, be aware of your body language. If you are constantly looking down and doing your work, it seems like you are not paying attention. Also, showing up on time is important. This one thing shows that their time is just as important as your time.“

“If you are on a conference call or video chat and you’re not speaking, mute your phone or computer and alleviate all distractions,” says Smith. “Don’t type, check emails, or play on your cell phone during a video conference or any face-to-face meeting. This can be seen as rude. Another general tip: don’t ever go to a meeting without something to write with and write on. Doing so makes you look unprepared and disengaged.”

You are also communicating with your time. “When you are on a conference call or Skype, be prompt. Join the call two to three minutes before start time,” says Summers. “Remember, you are on video so be cognizant how the person on the other end sees you. Look at the camera. Pay attention to each participant when they speak. Look alert and engaged just as you would during a face-to-face meeting.”

Louisiana Economic Development is working with colleges around the state to implement a Campus to Career program targeting the tech industry to help these students combine the proficiencies mastered in college with the essential business skills needed to navigate the workplace. This blog is being produced in conjunction with the debut of the Campus to Career program to share tips and insight from experts on ways to enhance soft skills before entering the workforce. Check out our earlier posts here and here and follow along with us in this series for more tips.

Stay tuned for more tips! In the meantime, don’t forget to use Louisiana Job Connection to find that new career, whether you’re a recent college grad or seasoned professional. Apply for jobs today on Louisiana Job Connection!