Time your message

As a kid I knew when to ask my dad for any favour, be it money or a day off from studies or permission to go to a friend’s place after school. I would observe him and ask for the favour when he was most relaxed and in a happy mood. If I asked when he was preoccupied with some thought or tense for some reason, he would surely turn it down.

This is nothing new. Almost all kids know and practice this. However, as we grow up most of us forget this strategy. We communicate to our managers / stakeholders / customers when they are busy or are preoccupied with some thought and what we communicate fails to make an impact. And then we get frustrated because “they” do not listen.

A mass communication professional knows this very well. Advertisements are aired at the time when the target audience are most likely to listen. That’s the reason the cost of TV and radio commercials vary according to the show or the timing of the advertisement.

But what about the rest of us? How do we take care of this while communicating on a day to day basis? How do we find out when is the right time to communicate with our target audience?

If what I want to communicate is important and I want my communication to have desired impact, I follow one of the two methods below, depending on the situation:

1)      When I have the privilege of observing my target recipient/audience on a daily basis, I find out the time when the person I want to communicate to is in the most receptive mood. If I do not find any such time, I would create that time by asking him or her for a one on one meeting.

2)      I communicate same thing multiple times through different channels and hope that one of the communications will find him or her in the most attentive mood. For example, I make a call first and then at a different time of the day, I send a follow up email.

There are times when I send an important mail and get an automatic “out of office” reply from the receiver. I do not assume that the receiver will come back to office and read my mail and reply. If the person is out of office, chances are high that he will have huge number of mails piled up in his inbox when he returns, and as a result chances that my mail will get due attention is quite low. Hence, I would typically note down the day in which he is back in office and send a follow up mail or call him a day or two after he is back.

There could be many other ways to find out the right time to communicate. The bottom line is we need to be aware of the fact that “when” we communicate is as important as “what” and “how” we communicate.

I would be happy to hear back from you on your point of view and experience on this. Do you have a method to find out the right time for communication? Please share your thoughts.