Communication skills for communications professionals

Posted on: 2012-09-24 in How To   |   Tagged: account management email etiquette phone etiquette pr account management pr account manager professional email communication


This post is an excerpt from the PR Account Manager's Handbook. Click here to download the entire series as an ebook.  By @TopLineFounder.

You might be surprised to hear that when I was a kid I had buckteeth. In fact, they pretty much stuck horizontally out of the front of my face. Luckily, by the time I was ten, my parents were so sick of the sight of me that they decided to invest in a set of braces. When you consider that by that time, I had already been wearing thick glasses for three years, and was clinging with (unprecedented for me) determination to my puppy fat, you can no doubt imagine that my early teenage years were pretty uneventful.

Back to the teeth-at-right-angles-to-my-mouth story: I was always baffled by their choice of orthodontist. Not because of the quality of his work (my teeth now point neatly down like gravity would have wanted), or by the state of his office (airy with its own fish pond), but by the fact that his teeth were nothing short of squiff! Why am I regaling you with stories of my sad and lonely childhood? Because people expect professionals to practice what they preach, and they remember (for more than 10 years in some cases! – actually it’s 20, but let’s say 10) when they do not! So if you want to be an industry-leading communications professional, you need to be able to communicate properly! So that means no smiley faces and xoxos, and time to do away with: “sorry, I’m a bit slow today – I have a massive hangover!”

Here is my guide to communicating like a communications professional:

 

Email etiquette

All emails sent should be:

  • Free from grammatical / spelling errors and typos
  • Clear on why you are sending the email, and what action is required
  • Written in a professional style

Salutations

  • Use ‘Dear’ or ‘First Name’ instead of ‘Hi’.
  • Use first names instead of Mr xxx (unless the person is a Sir, Lord, General etc).

Referring to a previous email

  • Use ‘Further to my colleague Heather’s email’ to make it clear that there is a connection.
  • Make sure you cover ALL points from a previous email (e.g. if a client has asked two questions, answer both by return, not just the first one).

Content

  • Make sure it is clear and easy to understand what you are trying to say.
  • Be clear on what the next actions are, e.g. ‘I will wait to hear from you before proceeding’.

Responding to emails

  • Do so quickly – that impresses people and is a great way to show that you’re pretty damn good at your job.
  • Always acknowledge that you have received and understood an email – this is important for colleagues as well as external comms, e.g. ‘Thanks for your email, I have made a note to xxx,’ or ‘Thank-you’.

Ending emails

  • Finish with ‘Kind Regards’ or ‘Sincerely’, not ‘Ciao’ or ‘Love’

If you are ever unsure that an email meets acceptable professional standards, then ask a colleague to read it through and check.

Phone etiquette

It can be very intimidating speaking to people on the phone, particularly when you are new to doing so in a business context. But there are some ways in which you can overcome this. Simply follow the steps below:

Prepare

It may seem cumbersome, but this is a great way to improve your professional phone manner. Before you speak to someone on the phone, do your research:

  • Look them up on LinkedIn, Google and Facebook and try to get a picture of the person you will be speaking to.
  • Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand how they would respond to what you are saying to them.
  • Write out exactly what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Read through it a few times, then chuck it and have just a few keywords in front of you before you proceed. This is really important as it should NOT feel like you are reading a script and you need to be flexible enough to have a conversation and react to what they say. 

Keep your language formal

Try to stick to professional vocabulary.

Follow up with an email.

You can start this with:

  • ‘Thanks for the chat earlier’ OR ‘Good speaking to you this morning’ etc.
  • ‘As I mentioned.....’
  • Action required.

Remember that while it is important to get communications right, you will make mistakes, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them. Everyone you deal with in business is ultimately a person too – with problems and vulnerabilities and insecurities just like you. Learning from every mistake, is more important than getting it 100% right first time.

Hungry for more? Download the Account Manager's Handbook in its entirety by clicking here.


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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.

 

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