Meaning it

I just received johnson banks’ quarterly newsletter. This is the first paragraph:


This is the autumn edition of johnson banks did this, heavily skewed to a project that’s taken up most of our year so far. If our electronic epistle arrived by mistake, just unsubscribe and our apologies for the intrusion. Alternatively, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to forward it to others who might be interested or want to subscribe.

The message is: we actually care if you want to receive this note. If you do, that’s great. We are happy. And if you don’t, we care, because we’re not interested in bothering you.

It’s amazing how, more than 20 years after the “SPAM” was first used to refer to junk email, actually caring rather than just acting like you care is still all it takes to truly stand out.

On Behalf of Me

With just a week to go until the New Year, now is the time to reflect on 2014 and to thank those around us for all the help and support they have brought to us and to others.

It is also a big time for online donations. For reasons that have something to do with the tax deadline but more to do with ritual and habit, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and especially December 30th and 31st, are the biggest days all year for online donations. Naturally, our inboxes are flooded with some combination of “thank you’s” and “it’s your last chance to give.”

I am happy to receive the subset of these emails that are from people I actually know or from people who are thanking me for things I actually did.

What drives me bonkers are the emails from organizations, emails that have no name attached to them and where I cannot reply and get to an actual, identifiable human being on the other end. I don’t want to be thanked by an organization, asked for anything from an organization, or wished happy holidays on behalf of anyone but a real, living, breathing person.

It may feel overwhelming to imagine the logistics of hearing back from, and then having to reply to, the too-many people who might respond to your email. But then it’s time to ask whether it makes sense to send that email in the first place. Any correspondence you initiate in which getting a response from the recipient will be a problem and not an opportunity….well, that isn’t a correspondence, it’s spam.

To get tactical for a second, there are four places where your name can (or cannot) show up in the emails you send:

  1. The “From” name that appears in someone’s email client
  2. The associated email address
  3. The name that is signed at the bottom of the email
  4. The email address that comes up when someone hits reply to your note (not always the same as #2)

At least three of these four should be names of living, breathing, human beings.  And I should never, ever hit “reply” and have the To: field read anything like

On behalf of me, and only me, happy holidays.