One of the best National Postal Forum sessions I've EVER attended (and I've attended 27 NPFs over the years and a LOT of sessions) was presented this past April by John Leininger, Professor, Clemson University. He pointed out that one of the keys to building relationships is proper communication - the vehicles, frequency and content.

    Know your audience. For those of you who don't know me, here's a hint. I always thought I was in the "Baby Boomer" generation but Professor Leininger's presentation moved me to the "Generation Jones" (no clue why it's called that) but it's for people born between the years 1954 - 1965. I prefer to talk with someone over the phone instead of an email. I prefer to pull a handwritten card or letter from my mailbox instead of getting email, a tweet or a text message. You with me so far?
    According to a June 2006 Duke University study by Lynn Smith-Lovin and Robert L. Wilson comparing data over 19 years, the mean number of people with whom Americans can discuss matters important to them dropped by nearly one-third. The number of people that have no one to discuss such matters ranked at 25%. This phenomenon is speculated to be due to an increase in the number of hours family members spend at work (I hope my husband is reading this) and the influence of Internet - translated to text, tweets, blogs, vlogs, etc. OMG!

    Let's get back to those cards and letters. Think about a warm sunny window seat with a pad of fine linen paper and a good pen. Cup of coffee close by and you're writing a letter to share your thoughts, or to congratulate someone on a personal achievement, or penning an invitation to a festive event. You carefully address the envelope, put your letter inside, find a really great stamp and personalized return address label. Drop it in a "blue box" and away it goes.

    That message was important enough for you to take the time to make it special. What about business communication? If you were trying to entice me to make a purchase, for example, what would work better? A nice letter (yes you can make them look fantastic in the thousands) or an electronic social medium? Know your audience and use the approach that works. Maybe use several of the tools available to marketers. Yes this old dog has learned to use email quite sufficiently still haven't tweeted yet (is that a word?).

    So how do you write a good effective letter? I took a college course two years ago called "Successful Business Communication" and they even had a couple of units on how to write letters! No kidding! I found a great resource for young folks sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities at http://edsitement.neh.gov titled, "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Someone a Letter." I know many of us could use tips from time-to-time to improve how we communicate, especially when I see letters that use poor grammar or spelling with text and tweet message abbreviations instead of good business letter writing skills.

    A few quick tips:
    1. Know Thy Audience: Use "Dear Wanda" instead of "What's up W-Dawg"
    2. Correct margins, line spacing, position of the date, address blocks and salutation lines
    3. Serif fonts (fonts with little curly-cues called serifs on the letters) like Times New Roman, Garamond or Courier. As a general rule, don't use sans serif fonts (fonts without serifs) like Arial, Trebuchet or Calibri for print letters. And for old dogs like me, how about using a font size I can read and do NOT reverse fonts - white on dark background!

    But before you mail off that carefully crafted letter to me, or to thousands, be sure you are using the right address. I just know there's another article in this issue that "addresses" that topic!

    Here's a challenge to you. If you mail me a letter at: World Marketing - Atlanta, 1961 S Cobb Industrial Blvd., Smyrna GA 30082-4915, I will mail one back to you - with two postage stamps inside. Replacing the one you used to mail your letter to me, and one you can use to mail another letter or pay a bill (if you still do that through the U.S. Postal Service).

    How many responses do you suppose I'll get in today's fast paced world? I'm betting ZERO!

    Stay tuned to the next issue and I'll let you know.

    Wanda Senne is the National Director of Postal Development for World Marketing. Contact her at wsenne@worldmarkinc.com or 770-431-2591.
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