Christmas Card Rant

Every year there is a bump in revenue at Canada Post owing to the flurry of corporate Christmas cards that fly hither and thither in a desperate attempt to connect with all the important stakeholders right before the holidays.  I get the sense that there are protocols in place, likely within the administrative function of companies, that put in motion a decision making matrix that includes questions like what card design to use, who should get one, and which executives need to slice out a few precious hours to sign them.

I have a small pile of greetings that have come in already, to the Councillor side of my life.  Among them: a card from a local union with six signatures impossible to decipher, another from a community organization with just initials, and one with a hand-written John Henry and rubber stamp of their title and coordinates.  There is one, however, that rises to the top and is most likely to hang around the longest.  It is a beautiful card from a senior executive of one of our oil sands companies.  Inside, he took the time to write a simple yet personal note - "Have a great Christmas Russell" along with his signature (legible).

Which card do you think contains the most value?  Which one has left the best impression or made the strongest connection?  I GUARANTEE you it is the one with a hand-written, personal note.  That person took the time to make a meaningful gesture that justified the not-so-insignificant investment that his company made in the design and printing of the card, and the time he took to personalize it.

My opinion is that organizations would be better served doing less cards, but injecting each of the ones they do send out with something personal, meaningful, impactful. Also, don't sign your name like you're putting the finishing touch on a contract; sign it like that person means something to you, so they can read it.  The ROI on that kind of a Christmas card stewardship strategy would be much higher than the shotgun, impersonal approach that seems to be running rampant.

What can I write, in an authentic way, that expresses what this person has meant to me, my organization or community in the last year?  If you take ten seconds to ask yourself this simple question for each person on your list, and write a line or two of whatever pops into your mind, you have justified your time and likely have made someone feel valued and honoured on the other end.  If you can't think of anything to write, you should probably cross that person off your list.

I struggled with myself about whether or not to write this post, as the last thing I want to do is offend anyone, especially during the holiday season.  I appreciate all the cards at some level, personalized or not.  But every year, I monologue about this issue and think it's worth sharing. You have such a valuable opportunity to make meaningful connections with the people and organizations that are important to your business.  If you're going to take the time, you may as well make the best use of it.

The cards that come in this year will end up in one of three piles: one designated for the paper recycling container, another to be saved in a drawer to be used for Christmas present tags in future years - usually the largest pile, and one that will get slipped into my box of memories, because the messages they contain are too precious to lose.  I would argue that you need to be shooting for that third pile to provide optimal value to your organization.

Happy Holidays!


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