It was an early morning last week, and my 17-month-old son was sitting next to me in bed as I reviewed my email and got ready for the day, which is a regular component of our routine (sometimes followed by an Elmo video). Since it was a Wednesday, I knew that somewhere in my inbox would be my Online Spin, since I write the Wednesday edition.
As I scrolled through the clutter that is my inbox, I looked away while the Spin loaded. Much to my personal joy, my son pointed at the image of me smiling in the preview panel and said "Dadda," then pointed at me and said "Dadda" again with a smile on his little face. That moment was the very first time my son connected the word "Dadda" with me, and my wife and I laughed while we had a moment that I will cherish forever.
How many of you can say that about your email?
I keep hearing pundits talk about how email is a dying vehicle, being replaced with text-messaging and digital forms of chat (like Facebook and Google chat systems). I hear that the "younger generation" doesn't use email to connect with their friends and family as much as they utilize other vehicles for communication, and that Twitter is quickly becoming the source for news and information, replacing email. I hope these pundits are wrong. Email is still a core component of my day -- and even though it has its downside, it's still a fact of life when it comes to business.
Of course, business does tend to over-rely on email. There is a very clear preference in the workplace for people to send email and consider ideas communicated rather than speak face-to-face or on the phone.
This lack of personal day-to-day communication is damaging the ways we do our business, especially in advertising. Advertising and marketing are built on two things: relationships and data. The data part is very black and white, with the numbers saying one thing or the other. The relationship part of the business is deteriorating, with far too many people relying on relationships they've created over email or IM,.
How often do you send an email to someone, asking a question of them, when they are less than 100 feet away from you? Is getting up to walk over a better way to sort out an idea than to engage in a digital round-robin via email? If you hesitate to answer this question, you might need to rethink your methods.
The spoken word goes a long way, and so does the written word. What was the last meeting you were in? When was the last time you received a written thank-you card after a meeting? I'm willing to bet that the written thank-you card left a better impression than whatever meeting you were in last.
Email is a great tool for sharing information, subscribing to information sources and being able to save and catalog contact and discussions. It is a crucial component of business today, and from time to time can even create amazing memories like the one I now have with my son. But it is not a substitute for real communication in a personalized, face-to-face manner.
After all, what made my email moment so wonderful was that my son was right there. He didn't forward it to me with a smiley face and a winky. Instead, he said it to my face, creating a moment far more memorable than any shared digital message.