As the fellowship is approaching its end, I’m thinking about all the lessons I learned and how I can adopt some of them at home in Ukraine. Improving the culture of communication should be on the list.
While working for the Chicago Tribune, it typically takes a couple of hours for someone to reply to my email. Obviously, there are some exceptions and sometimes my messages get no response. But overall, I learned how to communicate very quickly via emails.
First of all, it’s very handy. I often go back to my messages and recheck the information or comments once again. I know that until I have access to my office email address, I have access to my sources.
As soon as a source replies quickly, it’s also a good way to fact check your data before the deadline. I’ve been told that isn’t the case for every state institution, but my general impression is that people are very organized with their correspondence.
On top of everything, emailing is just an efficient way of communicating with people here. I talk with my colleagues about coffee breaks, with my new friends about weekend plans, and with my mentors about everything else. Replies come on the same day.
Recently, a colleague was wondering why the Chicago Transit Authority had not replied to her, even though she sent an email the previous day. So I felt obliged to share my experience from Ukraine.
The culture of communication in Ukraine leaves much to be desired. When dealing with almost any state institution, one can hopelessly wait for a reply on the same day, and won’t get it. Why? Because people don’t read emails that often and don’t reply quickly.
And while this delay might be not be harmful in personal relations, the professional side suffers a lot. Through my experience, there were only a couple of cases when the press offices satisfied my requests quickly and efficiently. In the rest of the cases, it’s really hard to get a comment from an expert on the same day or get a response to your emails.
According to the law, state institutions have to reply to a media request within five days. This law can be referred to when a reporter asks even minor questions. As a good practice, we call to a press office and ask whether they got our email and what day we can expect a response.
I like to think there is a black hole in our space where all my emails without response are going. One day, someone will find them all.
But a situation like that can happen not only when sending emails. For example, Ukraine recently stripped former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship. Reporters tried to get the presidential administration to answer their telephone calls for a couple of hours to confirm the information, but the phone on the other side was silent.
As the press offices work in this unstable pace, we came up with an alternative solution. Facebook helped us to get to our sources quicker. So when I want to amaze my American colleagues and share with them my communication practice, I tell them that I can arrange an interview with a deputy minister via Facebook personal messages.
So, if there is one thing I would like to be able to change in my job at the Kyiv Post right away, that would be a good culture of timely communication.