Q: Is it necessary (or valuable) to include a caveat at the end of emails coming from our organization?
I enjoy reading the Getting Attention e-update and am glad to have an opportunity to improve our communications practice.
Here’s the issue: I notice some of my colleagues here add this multi-line caveat at the end of their emails:
This email, and any attachment, is confidential. If you have received this message in error, please return to sender and delete from your machine. The views expressed in this message are not necessarily those of the Minnesota Council of Churches, members or affiliates.
What’s your take on where this sort of information belongs, if it belongs at all?
Emily (Emily Jarrett Hughes, Assistant Director of Organizational Development, Minnesota Council of Churches)
A: Less is more, particularly in online nonprofit communications, Emily. The more “extra” content in an email, the more distraction from the key points conveyed.
However, it’s not a black-and-white situation, Emily. If your legal advisors require use of a caveat, it should be used consistently – by all staff members in every email.
I’m no lawyer but what I do know is that extra verbiage like that in use by some of your colleagues just gets in the way of effective email communication. There are three different points made here:
- The email is confidential. But what does that even mean?
- The email should be returned if sent to the wrong recipient. Really? I doubt you receive emails returned due to the directive in the caveat.
- The views expressed in the email are those of the individual, not the Council, members or affiliates.
If there is a good reason to integrate such a caveat into emails, do it cross-organization, in every email and make it as short as possible. In the Council’s case, Emily, I bet that this third element (on views) is the point of concern. If so, work with your legal team to cut the other verbiage and get to the point.
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