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Holiday Greetings–By Email?

A reader wrote to me yesterday to ask whether it is proper to email holiday cards to customers and vendors. Interesting question! To respond, I will share my own thinking process.

Whenever I confront a question about my business communication, I ask myself a few questions:

  • Why am I writing?
  • What do I want my reader to do?
  • What do I want my reader to think or feel?
  • How can I help my reader do, think, and feel as I intend?

When I think about my own holiday greetings, I answer this way:

  • Why? I am writing to send holiday greetings to my clients and vendor-partners.
  • Do? I want my clients to think of me when they need help with their business writing. I want my vendor-partners to work happily with me in 2007.
  • Think or feel? I want my readers to be pleased that I have thought of them during the holidays. I also want them to think that I am organized enough to get greetings out on time. (This is a challenge for me.)
  • How can I help them do, think, and feel as I intend?
    I can send an actual card through the mail. If it is an attractive card, they may post it on their bulletin board or show it to others. If it is a really lovely card with a thoughtful message, they may save it.

My solution is to send actual cards rather than emailed greetings. I try to pick out beautiful cards, although this is tricky because people’s tastes differ. I know that I am successful at least sometimes because I have had two clients tell me that they kept my cards and framed them to display in their offices.

One of my clients sends out greeting cards that everyone in the office signs. It is fun to read their brief messages and signatures.

Your answers to the questions above may be different. If your relationship with certain people is by email only, an emailed holiday card may make sense. However, when you send something in an envelope, you can add your business card, a bookmark, or a small gift.

My only caution about holiday greetings is to avoid asking for business in them. A greeting is a greeting. You may say “I look forward to serving you in 2007,” but avoid writing “Please call me for an estimate.” That approach is tacky.

Whatever approach you take, enjoy the process. Thinking of others should be a pleasure.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.