Communication best practices

Best practices and guidelines on how to communicate over most used channels, e.g. phone, email, chat, etc.

These are best practices that I’ve collected over the years. The list is highly personal and specific to an organisation. This list is meant as inspiration, feel free to pick and choose whatever works best for you.

Email best practices

  • Define when to use cc / reply all
  • Define when to add people to “to:” and “cc:”
  • Define when to send a chat and when to send an email
  • Encourage redirecting (forwarding)  emails to colleagues who are more suitable to respond to an email
  • Do not send emails outside of working hours. If you have to, send emails with a delay to 8 AM the next morning.
  • Do not email direct reports outside of working hours even if you have had a busy day and are finally finding time to send out emails in the evening since for your reports it can cause unnecessary stress. When your team sees an email come in late at night, they will probably think it’s important and feel the need to reply
  • Do not work from your inbox all day, unless you’re in support or sales. Instead work from a list of tasks, and add email with larger tasks on the task list. This way, you can work in order of priority instead of the time an email arrives in the inbox.

Chat (Teams/Slack/Google Chat) best practices

  • Use channels/groups to share urgent or time-sensitive information. If it’s a FYI, send an email instead with FYI in the subject line
  • Don’t bump-up lower-tier messages (“have you seen my email from this morning?”). Needing to  bump up a non-urgent email message implies you’ve used the wrong medium in the first place, since you require an answer or acknowledgement faster than the expected response time for an email.. If however, you’re bumping up a message about which the urgency has escalated, then feel free to bump the message up.  The rule of thumb should be don’t move from async to sync unless absolutely necessary
  • Mark all messages unread daily/weekly in Slack to stay up-to-date. In Slack you can mark all messages as read with Shift + Esc

Meeting and call scheduling best practices

  • Internal meetings: if you're the host, realise you are deciding the agenda. Move on if a decision has been made, or if you are not going to reach one in the allotted time. Invite your team to keep track of time & kindly request you to move on to the next topic if time is slipping
  • Only invite attendees that are relevant to the meeting and only attend meetings that are relevant to you. Feel free to excuse yourself and leave a meeting early if the topic moves on, away from something that is relevant to you 
  • Use the ‘optional’ button when unsure if someone should be in the meeting
  • If you’re the owner of a recurring meeting - check it periodically and remove people that are no longer relevant
  • It should be mandatory that each meeting has a meeting agenda
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Meetings / calls best practices

  • Always send out meeting notes afterwards so people dont feel that they have to attend the meeting to stay updated
  • Be on time for meetings and end them on time
  • Make sure you set a desired outcome and agenda for a meeting in advance  And share it with those that you expect to attend
  • Send and ask for questions / topics beforehand. Some items could be agreed in the email and will save time
  • If action points or tasks are discussed, write the tasks down in a task manager and/or confirm by sending the meeting notes with the tasks included over email. With this email, you’re signalling that you’re on top of things.
  • Discourage impromptu meetings (unless it’s social). If someone drops in for a chat, explain that you’d love to help them, but not now. Schedule a chat/meeting at a mutually convenient time
  • Designate meeting free and focus blocks in your calendar and encourage others to do the same

WhatsApp best practices

  • Don’t send messages on WhatsApp. It’s distracting and opens the door to continuous real-time communication
  • Only use this in case of emergency. An emergency should happen once every quarter at most. If you find you are having constant emergencies, then you should look deeper into the problem - it’s likely that something has to change further up the communication hierarchy. 

Conclusion

Creating communication guidelines that work for your organisation is highly personal. I advise you to have a brainstorming session to discuss what works for your team.

Start out small and create a living document. If you overdo it, the team won’t use it. Better to have too few rules than too many rules. Another helpful idea could be to share  screenshots of good examples to make the document come to life.

The most important variable to make the communication guidelines work is for the managers and seniors on the team to follow the rules and live by them as well.

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About Ewoud

Ewoud Uphof

Ewoud Uphof is an experienced Growth Hacker, certified funnel optimiser and investor.

In the past decade he has co-founded multiple companies. As Head of Growth he has helped grow 50+ companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals. He has worked for Camptoo, NU.nl, Sophia Mae, Koffievoordeel and many more.

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