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Defying physical laws.

Being two places at one time may be a physical impossibility, but it's digitally possible. Elton Mayfield has found that having one electronic file for many people is efficient.

Mayfield is marketing project coordinator for Commerce Bancshares Inc. in St. Louis. Marketing coworkers are scattered around several U.S. Midwest cities where there are Commerce Banks. Electronic mail connects them, but sometimes E-mail isn't enough.

"We want to use a lot of graphic capabilities, as opposed to just text information," Mayfield said. If the company is starting a new loan campaign, for example, he wants other marketers to see the advertisements being considered. "With electronic files, I can attach examples of conceptual ideas -- easier than trying to fax ads or sending them overnight."

With E*News software by ION Development, Mayfield can actually send the images across the E-mail network. As an added bonus, the images remain in one file instead of many going to each recipient. Here's how it works, and why it's significant:

With traditional electronic mail broadcast to many people, the one message you create on your computer is duplicated and delivered to each person on your mailing list.

Unlike concise text, graphic images can take up megabytes of space, and if you multiply that by the number of people receiving the transmission, waste becomes apparent. (In addition, network administrators make backups of transmissions, so megabytes of duplication are duplicated again.)

With E*News, the graphic file exists in one place only, on the network "server," a computer that directs messages around the network.

Imbedded in each recipient's text message is a signal to retrieve the graphic file from the server. Many people can access that one graphic file.

Mayfield noted that since the E-mail network already was in place, adding this feature for sending graphic files was simple. "It allows us to use the tools we already have more effectively for very little cost." Even a few marketing people who are not on the network may be hooked up to the graphic exchange soon -- via modem.

The ability to efficiently deliver graphics is only the tip of this digital iceberg. Other features of E*News give Mayfield a tool for gathering the geographically disparate Commerce Bancshares marketing minds on a daily basis.

The electronic-mail text message Mayfield creates each day for them is called Daily News. It may include reminders, special promotions or employee news. He creates it on his word processor -- any word processor will do -- then files it within E*News on the server. "It's not complicated. You don't have to be a computer programmer to know how this runs," he said. Each morning when a marketing professional logs on to the network, the server automatically delivers the current Daily News. "It shows up with full color, somewhat like Windows," Mayfield explained. "Ours isn't information people are going to print off and keep. You have to learn the attention span of your readers. They won't read a two-page daily memo. I need little blurbs."

He also needs to cross computer platforms. While his computer runs under DOS, some other marketing personnel use Windows or have Macintosh computers. Daily News delivers ASCII text to any brand of hardware connected to the network. As for graphics, Mayfield converts images to GIF, a format that can be viewed on any computer platform, before sending them to the server.

The feature that makes Daily News particularly useful for the marketing group is the feedback capability, Mayfield said. He can include questions in Daily News. People select answers from a multiple-choice list. Readers respond immediately via their keyboards, and the software tracks answers.

Using Stars, a statistical program within E*News, Mayfield can review his questionnaire file and interpretations of the responses. Response statistics can be dropped directly into a spreadsheet or database for measuring or tracking. While today's feedback may not be complex enough to warrant such analysis, with only a handful of Daily News readers, it could be significant as Daily News circulation grows.

In fact, Daily News could as easily be shared by five people as 5,000. Mayfield has been using E*News almost since its inception, and the delivery of Daily News to the marketing staff is only practice--until he can send electronic-mail news to people in branch banks throughout the Commerce Bancshares system. Then Daily News will be in hundreds of places at one time.

Sheri Rosen, ABC, is senior employee communication specialist at USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio. You can write her as well at ConsultRosen Communication, 7502 Camomile Cove, San Antonio, TX 78249. Her E-mail address is 76547, 2001
COPYRIGHT 1994 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Digital Knowledge; digital technology
Author:Rosen, Sheri
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1994
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