Guidelines for which form of communication to use


Someone asked me today when it was more advantageous to call someone, email or pay them a visit. This is one of those things you think you know but is difficult to quantify. What are some of your guidelines for to email, when to call and when to show up in person?

Notice that I did not include text messaging, twitter or pokes.


asked Oct 28 '09 at 02:32
Rob Allen
631 points

4 Answers


I would use the following guidelines

  • Call/See somebody if they would be happy to hear from you
  • Call/See somebody if you have a personal thing to say
  • Call/See somebody if there is a chance that your message can be misinterpreted by email
  • Call/See somebody when you have to followup an important email
  • Send emails for keeping people updated on statuses/news
  • Send emails when you have documents and information to send
  • Send emails (low priority emails) when you think what you have to say can be seen later
answered Oct 28 '09 at 04:09
547 points


As a general rule of thumb, you should strive for the most personable method reasonable and appropriate. Business is built on relationships, and the more "face time" you can get with your contacts, the stronger those relationships will be.

anup gives some good guidelines on what's reasonable and appropriate, but I think it's important to note that this is not a place to follow the golden rule. What's right for you is not right for everyone else.

For example, just because your day is booked to the minute doesn't mean that your client is too busy for visitors; sometimes having some comapny can be fun. On the same token, if you have a client who never leaves the office, he may not even want to hear your voice on the phone.

Your best bet is to feel them out: how much resistance is there to an in person? What about a phone call? You also need to balance this against your time as, generally, your contact will send signals if you're spending too much "bs" time with them.

answered Oct 28 '09 at 12:34
Alex Papadimoulis
5,901 points


I guess it will depend on "volume" and "importance" of task at hand.

Like if you have to reach out to a large number of people, emails, postcards and may be phone works well. For example finding beta testers for a web app.

But when I'm looking for say a letter of recommendation, or looking for an imp. employee, I would first send them an email asking for an appointment/permission. And then call them up in a day or two and fix a meeting.

answered Oct 28 '09 at 03:58
Arpit Tambi
1,050 points


Advantageous for you or advantageous to them? :-)

If it isn't a cold call, it's best to communicate with them in the way that they feel most comfortable. For example, some people prefer conversations by phone to messages in email. Ask your business contacts for their contact preferences.

If you're contacting an individual that you haven't spoken with before, the polite thing to do is to choose the communication method that interrupts them the least. That usually means email since they can respond on their own schedule.

answered Oct 28 '09 at 04:08
D Thrasher
894 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics: