Email Vs Memo – 7 Questions to Ask Before You Choose

The modern business arena is wonderfully diverse and moves at a frighteningly swift pace. When you need to get a message out to your team or the company as a whole, you may be tempted to pound out an email, hit “Send All,” and then call it a day. But is email the most effective form for your message? First answer the following seven questions, and then you can answer this one.

#1 How quickly do you need a response?

If you are looking for immediate answers for relatively simple questions, email is the best medium. Those most likely to respond are those that have the answer at their fingertips. Those who ignore their emails would not have answered anyway.

#2 What is its legacy?

If you are sending out an update, reminder, or check-in, then an email is definitely the way to go. If you are sharing a detailed proposal or report, meeting minutes, policy changes, or instructions that your audience may need to revisit, an email is not the best option. Many people read and then immediately delete their emails, so use a more permanent medium for things that need to live on.

#3 What are the consequences?

If the message you must deliver involves serious changes and consequences, then it is best to go more formal. With a memo, you have specific formatting, including the company letterhead, date, recipient list, and edit dates.

#4 Are graphics/visuals involved?

Email can be a bit tricky when there are charts, graphics, or even just bullet points involved. The hours you spent formatting the perfect email may all be lost when your readers are on different platforms. Outside of the building, chances are slim that every recipient is using the same web browser, much less the same email program. A vast number of email addresses are simply forwarded to the user’s preferred email client. Many recipients read their emails on their phones or tablets. The best way to ensure that all of your audience can see all of your intended formatting is to write it in memo form and save it as pdf file. This file is like a picture that can be read universally across most platforms.

#5 Will it be printed?

This dovetails on the previous question. If yes, then you want to make it as easy as possible on your readers to hit that print button – so use a memo. If no, then fire off that email.

#6 How sensitive is the information?

Even with the long-winded disclaimers after your signature, an email is quickly and easily forwarded. If you are discussing proprietary information, client data, or anything that may affect the business as a whole, it may be better to have an actual paper trail. An innocent Forward or Reply All could cause irreparable damage. Consider how the information could harm or help your competitors and what the chances are that any part of your communication could be taken out of context. It is difficult, at best, to fully control the audience an email reaches. Sensitive information is best shared in a more formal and controlled medium.

#7 Where is my audience?

If you must get something out to a whole lot of people in a whole lot of different places, then email is by far the most economical. If it meets all the criteria for a longer or more formal correspondence, consider a hybrid: a brief email explanation with a pdf attachment of (or link to) the memo.

Now you know!

By answering the above seven questions, you can judge the best way to send out the information that needs to be sent. Check out my other articles on how to write more effectively for diverse audiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.