On my desk is a piece of robin’s egg blue stationery. It’s a thank-you note from a former student who asked me to help her with her job search. I keep it in clear view as an unremitting reminder to help her as soon as I can. I have many papers on my desk that accumulate throughout the day – white paper, beige paper, glossy and flat stock, all printed neatly and clearly. Admittedly, there is a feeling of accomplishment as the pile dwindles to nothing by the end of the day. Yet her note remains. This particular letter is special. It is blue and it is handwritten.
Would I have read an email from my student? Yes, of course I would. While there is an immediacy to email, it doesn’t linger. Once read, I’d jot a note in my planner and move on to the next task. The message wouldn’t just sit there on my desk, subtly demanding action.
Neither do most of the items that come in the mail – bills, circulars, trade publications, credit card offers and so on. There are also those donation asks with fake handwriting printed on them, just to trick you into looking long enough to notice. All of us receive too much email and junk mail – just imagine how much the media, foundations, industry leaders and business owners receive.
On top of all of this noise and bustle, voicemail, text messages, Facebook posts, Linked In requests, Twitter and RSS feeds form a stimulus shield that can make it very difficult to get someone’s attention, as we discussed in our last blog entry. Only around 20 to 40% of emails are ever even opened.
When you really need to captivate, some neat penmanship on crisp cardstock or applying a highlighter on selected lines and a few Post-its in your annual report can often do the trick. But there really isn’t anything that beats a personal, handwritten note.
Your target audience, whether it’s a donor, trustee or a favorite aunt, will definitely open one – and these days, it can feel almost novel and nostalgic to even tear open a card-shaped envelope. A handwritten note shows that you took the time and effort to share with them. Your audience will understand that you wrote the note specifically for them because they personally are your priority. It’s flattering to feel important.
The robin’s egg stationery is still sitting there. It’s only been a few days, but every time I look at it, I’m reminded that I can help this student. Her note makes me want to react. She’s taken the time to let me know of her appreciation and that she doesn’t want to be forgotten. The least I can do is to make sure I don’t.