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Why Use Electronic Communications?
Why Use Electronic Communications?
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The Internet and electronic communications (also called computer mediated communications, or CMC) doesn't just mean new tools for communication; it means new ways to communicate. Today your organization interacts with its various constituents differently - employees, board members, customers, partners and others - depending upon the nature of the message, the goals you are trying to achieve and the strengths (and weaknesses) of the available media - telephones, voice mail, fax machines, print, etc.

Electronic communications adds a powerful new channel that not only will change how you use this mix of options, but it will create entirely new ways to interact. For example:

  • Electronic communications lets you combine numerous media - text, graphics sound, video, etc. - into a single message. That can result in far more meaningful communications tailored to the nature of your particular audience. In contrast to broadcasting, narrowcasting reflects the ability to develop numerous communications for subsets of your market or constituencies.

  • Electronic communications is interactive. It engages audiences in active, two-way communications. That requires a new way of thinking about advertising copy and the handling of public relations. The pay-off, however, is a self-selected audience, engaged and actively participating in the communications process.

  • Two-way communication is nothing new. But electronic communications creates a new form of many-to-many communications that lets geographically distributed groups communicate interactively and simultaneously through text, sound and video. You can hold inexpensive video conferences or press conferences from your desk, or conference with people at several desks located across the world. One of the burgeoning phenomena of the Internet is businesses and organizations sponsoring, supporting and moderating discussion groups about issues, products, strategies - anything of interest to the organization and its constituents. Sponsorships are also solicited for popular resources, such as indexes and other Internet search tools, and these provide a further communications and marketing opportunity.

  • Many organizations are using electronic communications facilities, such as the World Wide Web, as internal communications tools to enhance team work. Many individuals at different locations can work on the same documents, hold meetings and integrate research findings.

  • Electronic communications removes the power of communications gatekeepers to both positive and negative effects. Most organizations are used to controlling the messages that go out to its constituents through managers, spokespeople and others. But with the Internet, constituents begin to talk among themselves, requiring new approaches and a new emphasis on listening and reacting, not just talking.

  • With the Internet you have the ability to transmit and receive large amounts of information quickly to and from individuals and workgroups around the world. This changes the way activists, for example, can galvanize communities, inform legislators and change public opinion. It changes the sources and depth of your constituents' knowledge levels. It also lets those constituents reach you with new kinds of communications they may never have attempted before.

And these are only some of the changes we are seeing now. There will be unanticipated and ripple effects we can't imagine. For example, will electronic mail become a buffer to avoid communications or confrontations that might be better resolved in person? Will managers find themselves traveling more in order to gain the personal touch with members of distributed workgroups? How will organizations prepare themselves for this increased level of participatory constituent interaction?

General Information

For general white papers and journals about electronic communications, visit the following resources:

Electronic Mail

  • Electronic Mail - An overview of electronic mail benefits and jargon.

  • The Business Communications World Wide Web Resource Center - By guest editor Lance Cohen, Ph.D. This site looks at how business communications can help develop relationships and build businesses.

  • The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette - an overview of e-mail etiquette by Arlene Rinaldi.

  • Listserv/discussion groups - Look for groups on subjects that interest you.

  • Discussion groups are managed by various types of server software. Some popular software includes

    They have different subscription instructions, so you'll want to know something about each. See James Milles' Mail Server Instructions.

  • E-mail Information - Topics include how to find someone's e-mail address and how to address your Internet mail so that it reaches a user on a proprietary system.

  • IRC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Questions and answers about Internet Relay Chat.

  • MUDS, MOOs, and Mushes are proliferating and are often used as virtual conference centers for collaboration and support. Academic papers are available about these virtual worlds.

  • Teleconferencing with Packet Video is a very hot topic. Visit the following sites for more information.

  • Real Audio - Information as well as some examples of its use with ABC and NPR.

  • PDF Portable Document Format allows users to view your materials just as they were created, whether or not the user has the application that created them. This preserves your formatting, fonts and other design elements. Visit the Adobe Acrobat site to find out more about their product.
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