End-of-the-School-Year Resource Roundup

Yes, indeed, the end of another school year has arrived, and I am already thinking ahead to the next academic year. In planning ahead, I’ve also reflected on the past year and realized I have gathered a LOT of online resources related to business communication. I’m guessing many of you are like me in that you never really leave the classroom and are always thinking about the next semester, class, or lesson.

The articles below appeared in the news feed generated by my Zite app, and I then saved them to Pocket. (Zite and Pocket, by the way, are probably my two favorite apps.) You can also find more resources by following me on Twitter (@pjglentz) or viewing my teaching board on Pinterest. If you have any “must have” resources you’d like to share with us, please do!

Corporate Culture

Design & Typography

Email

Employment

Grammar

Interviews

Leadership & Teamwork

Persuasion

Presentations & Oral Communication

Research

 Rhetoric

 Technology & Communication

 

Submitting Résumés and Cover Letters by Email

A couple of weeks ago, our Business Communication Advisory Board met to discuss various workplace communication topics. We enjoy hearing from these professionals, who represent a variety of business fields—accounting, human resource management, education, local government, health care administration, and many more.

One of the main topics we discussed is what employers really want when they tell applicants to send their materials electronically. Does this mean they want the cover letter and résumé in the body of an email? Should applicants attach Word documents (a cover letter and a résumé) to an email? Should applicants attach PDF files or Word files? Is the email the cover letter, or should a separate cover letter be attached to the email?

Essentially, our board members said that how applicants submit their documents is not as important as the stories they tell within those documents. However, they shared the following thoughts regarding their experiences.

  • PDF files work better as attachments than Word documents, as the PDF file will likely always open and preserve a document’s format.
  • Fewer attachments are better. If both the cover letter and résumé are attached to an email, they should be in one PDF document.
  • Generally, a concise, well-written email will work for a cover letter.
  • Whether a cover letter is sent as an email or as an attachment, it needs to be short and concise and must tell the applicant’s story well—and honestly.
  • Applicants who send a cover letter as an email must be sure to keep the same level of formality that they would in an attached cover letter or printed cover letter. One board member says that applicants who send cover letters via email tend to use a tone and style that are too informal.
  • Applicants should keep in mind that employers use the quality of the writing in application materials—regardless of how they are submitted—as a measure an applicant’s communication skills and overall competence.
  • Applicants should send thank-you notes immediately after the interview and follow up if they have not heard from an employer within two weeks. Interestingly, while board members say email thank-you messages are fine, they prefer a handwritten note. After emails are read, they are likely deleted or lost in the volume of inbox messages. A handwritten thank-you note will likely sit on the interviewer’s desk and continually remind him or her of the applicant. Email messages, they say, work well if the employer has indicated that a hiring decision will be made within a day or two.
  • Board members say it is also fine with them if they receive both the handwritten and email thank-you note. Regardless, the message should thank the interviewer, address a high point or major qualification that was discussed in an interview (not recap the entire interview), and end with a confident expression of interest in the position.

Does all of this advice sound familiar? Sure. We have been sharing a lot of this advice with our students for years. However, it’s nice to tell our students that we know the advice will work because professionals in their (the students’) anticipated careers have told us this is what they look for.

Internship Site Visits: Connecting BCOMM to the Workplace

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of internship sites with the chair of the Information Systems Department. The goal of the visits was for the chair to talk with the site employers and IS interns regarding the goals for the internships and the interns’ progress toward meeting them.

I’ve been looking for ways to help students better connect what they’ve learned in the classroom to what they do in the workplace, specifically those skills related to business writing, so I was thrilled when the IS chair asked if I wanted to accompany him. During my portion of the discussion during the site visit, I asked the employer to (1) assess his or her level of satisfaction with the student’s writing skills and (2) provide suggestions for improvement. While employers gave students helpful feedback, they also shared some general comments:

  • Email remains the primary means of written communication in organizations, and employees really must understand both when an email message is appropriate (as opposed to a face-to-face or phone contact) and how to write clear and concise messages.
  • Many employees struggle to write clearly. That is, they need to do a better job of logically presenting their information in a manner that is easy to follow, presents a clear point and the details relevant for action, and makes clear what type of response (if any) is needed.
  • Interns and new employees, especially, need to find a better balance between confidence and humility. They need to know it is all right not to know an answer and that rather than make something up, be able to ask the right questions. They need to learn how to say “Can you help me understand…?” or “”If I understand you correctly…” or “I don’t know, but I can find out.”
  • Interns need to come to the workplace knowing how to read and respond to the various personalities and audiences they encounter.

I’m guessing all of these employer comments sound familiar because they address topics we already teach in our business communication classes. Yet if students in our classes have no sense that they will be accountable in the workplace for what they are learning in the classroom, they have little reason to make sure they retain, further develop, and use their knowledge and skills. And, of course, in many of our programs, a lot of course work happens between the time a student takes business communication classes and the time the student completes an internship, but that is a matter for a blog post later this fall on business writing across the curriculum and in the disciplines.

For now, however, the internship site visits have been just one way to integrate business communication in a student’s educational experience in a meaningful way. Plus, the internship site employers were very receptive to my being there and had a lot to say.

What do you do to integrate business communication throughout your curriculum? Let us know. We’d like to hear from you.

NNTR…No…Wait…

Actually, we do want your response to this post.

I recently led a workshop on writing email messages. After the session, one attendee (we’ll call her “Sue”) asked my thoughts on the use of NNTR (no need to reply) or NRN (no reply needed) at the end of an email. Sue attended another workshop recently where the presenter advised attendees to use NNTR and NRN to reduce the number of emails in their inbox. Sue also said her boss uses NRN and NNTR frequently in emails to office staff.

Sue finds the use of these initialisms rather rude and unsettling. To Sue, their use communicates that her boss does not think Sue or other employees have the sense to know when a response is necessary. In addition, Sue says she and her colleagues see the use of NNTR and NRN as the boss’s attempt to limit and control communication and evade employees’ questions. Sue noted several times when employees had questions regarding an email but were afraid to ask because they did not want to violate their boss’s directive to not respond.

In other words, the use of a simple initialism has created a culture of fear, intimidation, and uncertainty in her office.

Further, Sue says she and her colleagues see no harm in a polite “Thank you for the information” response to acknowledge a message. Wouldn’t a writer want to know that a message was received?

For my part, I agree with Sue. I also think the use of NNTR or NRN seems a bit lazy. Business professionals should write messages so clearly that the reader knows whether a response is needed.

What do you think about the use of NNTR or NRN? Are Sue and I out of touch and overly sensitive? Do I need to rethink my position on this? Should using NNTR and NRN be a standard practice? Are they ever appropriate? What should we advise our students?

We look forward to your thoughts.

Chief Marketer and MailChimp: Two Good Resources for Learning about Email Marketing

I recently received an email article from Chief Marketer entitled “Crafting an Irresistible Email Subject Line.” The advice is helpful, so I thought I’d pass it on to you here.

 But the more I clicked on the links in the article, the more I realized that there’s much more to Chief Marketer than an occasional interesting email. In addition to offering advice about writing compelling email messages, they offer great information about the use of technology to conduct effective email, Web, social, and mobile campaigns. Through extensive research, they’ve gathered statistics about consumer behavior regarding each medium and developed marketing strategies based on that behavior. If you or your students have been wanting to go behind the scenes and see how the pros design electronic messages to sell through different channels, this site is for you.

As I was exploring this resource, one thing led to another, as Web clicking always does, and I came across a second site that is just as good: the Resources page of MailChimp, an email-campaign platform/service. Once you sign in for free, you can access some excellent material, such as their guide to conducting mobile-friendly campaigns, their mobile-friendly templates, their “Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry” report, and their “Subject Line Comparison,” which examined the open rates of 40 million emails and compared the subject lines of the best and worst performers.

Did you know that most smartphone users check their mail first thing in the morning, even before getting out of bed? Many uses their phones as an alarm clock, so when they turn off the alarm, they also go take a look at their messages. The lesson: No garish colors in your mobile messages! This is the kind of interesting factoid you can find on these sites.

Not many of our students are likely to become email promotions specialists. But it can’t be a bad thing to understand how such professionals work, and some of their findings have implications for email that ordinary businesspeople write. And wouldn’t it be cool to have students prepare an informational report on current trends in email marketing, or a recommendation report on whether to contract the services of a provider like MailChimp, or two different email messages, one optimized for PC viewing and one for viewing on a mobile device? I don’t quite know enough yet to design such an assignment, but I’m working on it  . . . .