Does Anyone Print and Save Thank You E-Mails?

Handwritten notes: a lost art?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article on “The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note,” author Philip Hensher addresses how our increasing reliance on typing and texting is making the handwritten note go the way of the fax machine. He says, “The ready communication through electronic means that has replaced the handwritten letter is wonderful. But we have definitely lost something here, and those Skype, email and text exchanges won’t be treasured in the way that my teenage letters, scribbled journals and postcards have been for years.”

We couldn’t agree more. Recently, Jessica moved apartments and unearthed a shoebox full of handwritten notes from old friends, ex-boyfriends (not sure her husband appreciated that she hung onto those!) and thank you notes from magazine editors with whom she worked for years at Hearst Magazines, including the late, legendary Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown. Had those been sent to her via email or text, she definitely would not still have them — and they wouldn’t have had the same sentimental value.

When people ask us if, after a job interview or informational meeting, they should send a thank you via email or snail mail, we always suggest both.  The speed of an email foll0w-up is great but can get buried in a busy person’s in-box (or even get lost in the “junk mail” folder if you’re sending it from an unfamiliar email address). In this day and age, when sadly we’re getting fewer and fewer letters in the mail, a handwritten thank you note, well-crafted on good stationery, will make a candidate stand out from others who chose not to take that extra, personal step.

In fact, a female magazine publisher we know said that if she interviews someone and they don’t send a real note as a follow-up, she will not hire them, no matter how impressive they were in person. And a media executive with whom Jessica works asks his sales staff for photocopies of the thank you notes they’ve handwritten and sent to clients and prospective clients during the week so he can make sure they’re actually doing it, versus relying on email alone.

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Bragging on Social Media: Useful or Annoying?

Can bragging on Facebook and other social platforms backfire? In an extreme example this week, a gang of thugs in Brooklyn boasted about committing murder on their Facebook pages and got arrested as a result. Verdict? Not smart! While most of us are bragging about much less criminal things (we hope!), touting your accomplishments through social media may still have a negative result.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last month ago called “Are We All Braggarts Now?”, which examines whether social media has given people a platform — and permission — to constantly boast about their accomplishments, children, jobs and lives in general. In the piece, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that “we’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.” We believe this is a generalization and that, while select folks spend all their Tweets and Facebook posts talking about how their child is the world’s most talented and beautiful, there are ways to leverage social media to promote yourself and what you’re proud of in a smart and more subtle way.

In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, we dedicate an entire chapter, called “Toot Your Own Horn (but Not Too Loudly),” to teaching people how to be their own publicists without irritating those on the receiving end. There’s an art to self-promotion and part of it is building your reputation slowly and strategically so you don’t come across as too in-your-face. (Though we don’t see what’s so bad about posting “Got my first royalty check for my book,” as referenced in the article. As authors ourselves, we know what a huge deal it is to finally see some rewards from all the hard work you put in!). Nonetheless, here are a few tips on how to avoid being pegged as a braggart:

Pat yourself on the back but pat others harder. It’s okay to post something about an award you won, but make sure you’re also congratulating others when they’ve received accolades. Hit the “like” button on Facebook or re-tweet it when you see that people you know have posted about their personal milestones and they’ll likely do the same for you. A third-party endorsement often has more impact than if you tout your own accomplishments.

Offer a take-away. If you wrote a great blog post about how to avoid being a braggart, for example, linking to it might actually offer useful advice to the folks who click on it. Or if you say, “Our nanny is a rock star,” maybe you can tell people where you found her so they can find their own personal Mary Poppins or link to the great sample sale where you scored amazing Hermes piece, so others can benefit too.

Don’t make others feel bad. We haven’t had a real vacation in a while (that’s a whole other blog post!), so it’s natural to feel a wee bit jealous when we see our friends post amazing beach shots of their tropical trips (though we’re mostly happy for them). That happiness would be dampened, though, if they posted or tweeted things like, “Ha, ha! I bet you wish you were here!” or “I feel like I died and went to paradise.” instead of “Great view from my hotel room in Costa Rica.” The upshot: Be cognizant that not everyone is as lucky as you are, watch your tone and try not to over-post. (You are on vacation, after all!)

You can always dial down who sees what posts on social media, if you fear that you are over-sharing to your extended crowd. And, on the flip side, if you feel that some of your Facebook friends or those you follow on Twitter are getting out of hand with their self-promotion, simply filter out their posts or stop following them. That way, when you see them face-to-face next time, stories about their child landing first seat in the school orchestra or their latest major deal at work won’t irk you quite as much.

What kind of posts annoy you?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

NEWS WE CAN USE: Why Working from Home is Just Like Being in the Office

Working from home is not as fun as it sounds.

Working from home is getting more popular and also harder, writes the Wall Street Journal‘s work/life columnist Sue Shellenbarger, in this interesting recent article. With the ability to be connected 24/7 and more ways for your boss to be monitoring your progress and productivity from afar, doing your job remotely may be just as demanding and busy as if you went into the office every day.

According to IDC, a Framingham, Mass., market-research company, the number of corporate employees who work from home at least one day a month has been rising 23% a year since 2007, on average, to 22.8 million last year. Jessica works from home one day a week and she can attest to the fact that some of those days are so packed with conference calls and deadline-driven tasks that she doesn’t even have time to shower or say hello to her toddler between play dates. In fact, because she has a laptop that hooks into her company’s network and a wirelessly-connected duplicate of her work phone at home, most people don’t even realize she’s not physically in the office.

As technology has allowed us to be reachable at all hours no matter where we are (even, in some cases, on vacation), companies are increasingly offering employees more flexibility and telecommuting options, which is a good thing. At the same time, even when you work remotely, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy office environment has gotten more challenging.

Share your thoughts on working from home with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Social Media and the Summer Vacation

Social media continues to change the way we live our lives and, according to the Wall Street Journal, how we communicate when we’re on vacation. A recent story by Elizabeth Holmes shared the challenge that people who have a strong social media presence have when taking a summer vacation: Stay connected and tweeting to keep your followers happy but face the pressure to remain “on-message,” even when you are officially off the clock.

If you’re a super user — or just super into the social media scene — here are some tips if you want to unplug on your time off:

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News You Can Use: Forever Indebted — Rising Debt Makes Finding the Right Gig Vital For Grads


This past weekend, Meryl spoke to 175 seniors graduating from Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications, where she also earned her degree. She, like so many graduates, feels  connected — even indebted — to her alma mater for the experience and access that it provided.

Interestingly, this year’s graduating class is indebted in a completely different (and quite disconcerting) way. The Wall Street Journal reports that, thanks to rising costs of education, those graduating from America’s colleges and universities this spring share a dubious distinction: the most in debt ever. And, according to a recent poll, a staggering 85 percent of graduates will move back in with Mom and Dad to try to stave off financial ruin while seeking a job to pay off the monies owed.
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