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Timing is everything

As the latest instalment of Star Wars delights fans and critics, Alan Coates explores the idea that blockbuster film audiences are not the only people who should avoid spoilers. Timing is everything, and that goes for internal communications too.

As this year’s biggest film breaks box office records, there are many fans still trying to avoid the biggest spoilers. But what’s the problem? They’ll see the film anyway. They’ll find out who lives, who dies, who falls in love with whom. And who is whose father.

The problem is obvious. By hearing about the story early, it ruins the surprise. It weakens the experience. Even when the scene has been set and the music reaches its inevitable crescendo, you’ll already know who falls into the sarlacc pit – and the intended impact is lost.

But do we treat our communications with the same delicacy as movie spoilers? Perhaps we should. Timing, after all, is everything.

Schedule the message

Picture yourself on Monday morning. You’ve finished your commute and enjoyed two cups of coffee already. You sit at your desk and turn on your computer. What’s the first thing you do? That’s right. Check your emails. But when is the best time to send your email for maximum impact?

Research by leading internal email expert Newsweaver has uncovered some key times to help improve your email message cut-through.

“Messages sent between 08:00 and 09:00 or 12:00 and 14:00 achieve above average open rates. Even the day you send out messages can have an impact… Mondays, Tuesdays, Friday mornings and Thursday afternoons achieve above average open and click rates.”

Just like with movie spoilers, targeting our email campaigns smartly means we have a bigger impact from our communication because people are reading the message at the right time. This reduces the chance of colleagues missing the point, or having to hear the facts second-hand and out of context at the water-cooler.

Crisis control

Sometimes timing is more complicated than simply looking at the clock or the calendar. In a paper titled How to present a crisis, Irene van Eerden explains that, in times of crisis, honesty is definitely the best policy. But sending a message out instantly can spoil your one chance to send your message out strongly.

The key controls of crisis messaging aren’t as soon as possible, the article states, but rather before somebody does it for you. If competitors or journalists are able to break the story, it can make the situation seem out of control or sordid.

Added to this, van Eerden explains the importance of communicating the solution to the problem at the same time as announcing the problem. “If a company confessed about the crisis… using a proactive response, it reduces anger and negative word-of-mouth and increases sympathy.”

What’s clear is that the timing of your message can have a huge impact on how messages are received and interpreted. Einstein’s theory, that time is relative to the observer, is something that we should try and remember when the deadlines are looming and you have five minutes left to finish before pressing ‘send’.

At times like this, consider that your audience is probably not watching the clock waiting for the email to arrive. So take your time. Make sure it’s right. And make sure it’s the right time.

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