Internet vs. Interface Etiquette

Posted on November 10, 2011 by

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In my many years of conducting business online, I’ve frequently wondered about etiquette issues…. For example, when someone sends me an email I often begin my reply with my answer– seems obvious enough, right?

But only after I’ve reached the end of the message and I review it does it occur to me that perhaps I should include a, “Dear So-and So”… because without it the opening seems a little abrupt due to the written format. Emails however, often feel like conversations– in which replies don’t begin with a salutation– but since they look like letters, they feel incomplete without one.

Then there’s the sign off– simple enough if you don’t know the person (“ Sincerely, Regards or Kind Regards, ” or if you know them very well (“Love and Kisses!”). But what about the situation where you’ve been working with someone and have begun to develop a warm and personal connection? Oh how I’ve obsessed about this! Sometimes “Warm regards, Debbie” or “Best, Debbie” just isn’t enough. “Fondly, Debbie” just doesn’t land right either. Sometimes I want to communicate more–but not too much as to be considered inappropriate.

In Spanish, the term Abrazos, means “Hugs”, and I’ve seen this sign off. It feels right to me in Spanish, but somehow I can’t see writing it to a business colleague, even though when I see him/her we often do hug on our hellos and goodbyes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

On the Face to Face front, I recently had an experience where I was meeting a new client, a sound studio, who hired me to record a project for them. Because I was able to make the long-ish trip to their studio, I offered to come to them instead of conducting the session remotely.

Everything went swimmingly before and during the session. Towards the end of the session I brought out my “happy happies”– little gifts I give away as mementos, along with my demo and business card– to the various people who were there. The studio manager, the audio engineer, the ad agency folks, everyone who was present. They thanked me, we continued to chat warmly and I left.

The next day I received an email from the manager saying that I had overstepped my boundaries as a sub-contractor, in handing out my business card, etc. and thereby selling my services to their clients. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be perceived that way– I’ve always left at least my card behind so that people knew who they were working with and, yes, could get in touch with me in the future/or recommend me to others.

But the assumption from the studio is that I would be taking business away from them if I developed a relationship with their clients (the ad agency, etc.). I thought long and would think that. My personal philosophy is to be honorable to the chains of command that bring me work. In other words, if the ad agency wanted to hire me again for this project, of course I would insist that we record through the studio that connected us in the first place.

The question that remains is, what about work for a different job? What if that ad agency works with a different studio? Should I be deprived of being hired for a project under those circumstances? Our business is very fluid these days; much more so than ever before.

Once you book a project through an agent and meet the people who have hired you, they can either try to hire you directly or go back through the agent. I always ask them to go back through the agent– unless there is new/different work… since I am a freelancer and not signed to one agent exclusively.

Everybody up and down the food chain uses many different vendors… Casting directors contact multiple agents to find talent; Agents contact scores of talent to audition; talent work with lots of different agents and casting directors to find work. Ad agencies and Marketing firms hire different production studios even when working on different projects for the same client.

Clients (the entity for whom the production is ultimately being done), hire different Ad agencies/Marketing firms/Casting Directors/Production Studios/Agents/Talent to get the job done. It’s a bowl of spaghetti. Many years ago, before the onset of the internet and the explosion of non-union talent, the work flow chart was probably a lot easier to follow.

It’s a whole new world out there and these questions of etiquette are worth discussing.

I look forward to your insights.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker