Content | Business | Design

How To: Get More Out of List-Serves In Your Organization

In Digital Communications on June 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Hello everyone,

Let’s kick-off June with a nice and neat digital communications post! I came across some old writing of mine and after some tweaking I thought it might be useful to some of you–for business or personal use. Below are a set of problems I ran into with list-serves. There are corresponding solutions in the latter section.

Why list-serves can be problematic:

  • List-serves are free-flowing by nature. We need rules of play to maximize potential and productivity. However, constructing limitations without restricting ideas and progress can be tricky. Exercise caution.
  • Making e-mail informal. If a list-serve has 30 people on it and there is not a formal code to govern its users then the list-serve can easily become a wasteland of ideas.
  • The conversational appeal. People lose sight of topics, go off on tangents, and devalue ideas when there is an ongoing conversation. There needs to be a cap or limit. When you lose form and accept loose forms of communication, productivity and potential decrease.
  • Lower quality of information. Everyone has their two-cents to drop in the bucket. Kindly, ask yourself is this contributing to the discussion? Every message should have a point, an intention—make sure yours is on par with the environment of your list-serve and your audience.
  • Lower levels of information retention. People naturally want and feel the need to be heard. This is gladly accepted in most cases, as long as it is useful. Opinions should benefit the group or discussion. Be mindful of your actions.
  • They promote spam. Everyone on the list-serve may be colleagues or friends, but messaging can also lead to spamming. Unwarranted messaging or inappropriate conversation can be the demise of a list-serve.
  • Loss of information. If the five bullet-points above are not moderated, it will be at the cost of valuable information. When communicating via e-mail on a list-serve be mindful of your key points, your writing (e.g. when a sentence has reached its optimal carrying capacity), and your audience in mind.

How to create a useful list-serve:

  • Create a set of rules and moderate activity. Also, find a way to enforce the rules if necessary. Weigh your options. Consider a formal, more contractual, agreement strategy and a strategy that feels natural to all parties. Each list-serve environment is different and will require a different approach. You don’t want a jungle of untamed messages, nor do you want complete silence.
  • Have a clear purpose when creating a message. In your head, visualize what you will be doing before you begin drafting a message. Thinking it through makes sure you stay on track. Remember, there is a certain level of permanence to writing a message on a list-serve. Everyone will view your post so it is very important that you are formal and accurate with information, data and details.
  • Always focus on your audience. Regardless of what the message is, exchanging information will not transpire if you do not consider the needs, wants, and attitudes of your peers.
  • Be clear. Your writing and topic(s) should be to the point and easy to understand. If you’re unsure, remember this: complexity can only lead to confusion.
  • Format is important. Following the standard format when writing a message ensures its content will be equally objective. Subject headers, language, and structure all have their place. Make this a list-serve policy.
  • Be open. A list-serve is naturally social—you’re exchanging messages with other people. There could be questions and comments that differ from your opinions. Stay professional and don’t be offensive on the list-serve. Remember, your opinion can be one among many.
  • Use power and command effectively. When in a position of power, use your authority properly and timely. Position yourself correctly when you address your audience. You can perfectly capture an audience to make a strong statement (e.g. persuade) or you can negatively impact your audience (e.g. create disharmony). It is your duty to make sure the list-serve runs smoothly and effectively.

Do you use list-serves? What’s your experience with them? Have any tips about creating a constructive list-serve environment? What irks you the most about list-serves? I would love to hear from you. I’m very interested in hearing your email experience–the follies and greatness.


Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: