Bad news is best via cyberspace

Comment by David Teather, media business correspondent at The Guardian

Unhappy news travels better via e-mail

Agencies, next time you want to bend your sales contact's ear for running the wrong copy or delivering lame response rates, don't pick up the phone.

Send an e-mail instead - this is the most popular way to receive notification of tender failure among UK company directors, according to the freelance marketing recruitment firm Stopgap's survey of communications preferences.

Of the 100 respondents, 58% said they would prefer to receive the bad news by e-mail, while 25% said they would rather get a letter and 17% said they would prefer a phone call.

Unsurprisingly, directors were less reluctant about picking up the phone to hear praise of their product or service - 55% preferred to receive notification of tender success by phone, compared with 20% by letter and 25% by e-mail.  

"The phone is fine for good news or notification of meetings," says Stopgap managing director Claire Owen.

"We tend to be brief and clipped on e-mail, while on the telephone we can allow ourselves the time to be more chatty and pleasant."

While a disgruntled customer may not care how his business contact likes to receive communications, people trying to ingratiate themselves will want to be alive to these subtleties.

Job-hunters, for example, would be very unwise to phone prospective employers - none of Stopgap's respondents said they like to receive such calls, while 62% of them said they preferred to receive CVs by letter and 38% of them by e-mail.

"While they are probably greeted on a daily basis by a mass of e-mail communications, many company directors would frequently prefer to receive letters and, sometimes, telephone calls instead," said Owen.

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