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Is sending company holiday cards outdated? A guide from experts

It’s a long held tradition in many offices, but with so much of business conducted online, do you really still need to send holiday cards?

Is sending company holiday cards outdated? A guide from experts
[Photo: Flickr user Lauren Manning]

‘Tis the season for an endless stream of party invites,  personal obligations, and a mad dash to meet end-of-year goals. While the holidays challenge professionals to disconnect and tune in to family time, they also present more stressful responsibilities and etiquette recommendations to follow.

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One of the most tried and true traditions is the act of sending holiday cards to employees, customers, and clients, thanking them for their contributions. “In the business and professional world, it is customary to send holiday cards to colleagues and clients during the holiday season for both seasons greetings–Christmas and Hanukkah–as well as New Year’s,” explains career expert Wendi Weiner.

But it’s a tradition that requires a lot of  organization, planning, and cost.  Considering much of business is conducted online and fewer people send handwritten notes these days, is this practice on its way out?

Yes and no, according to Weiner. In the past decade, more companies have shifted their approach to an e-card. Although from a cost perspective, this is a budget-friendly alternative, your industry matters.

When it’s okay to skip sending physical cards

Weiner explains a technology-forward start-up might choose to send a digital acknowledgement to their customers in the form of a holiday-themed email. Or, when celebrating the season with clients, opt for a digital appreciation for their business, rather than a signed-sealed-delivered token of “thanks.”  But Weiner recommends explaining your decision as part of your messaging. How so? If you’re opting to go sans-paper for the environment, drop a line that illustrates this choice. Or, if you’d rather put the cost of printing toward more booze for the holiday party iterate that. Your network will be more receptive of bending protocol if they understand the sound reasoning behind it.

When you should still send them

On the other end of the spectrum, Weiner warns against a non-physical holiday nod if you’re in a more conventional field of work. “The conservative professional and business world still appreciates the tradition of the holiday card, along with the symbolism that it signifies: It reminds you that you are still connected even if you haven’t spoken or seen one another in recent months,” she continues. “They represent a positive tradition and cornerstone of the values that our business world still holds onto.”

Joy Altimare, career expert at EHE Health, echoes Weiner, adding that there’s an air of nostalgia and respect that is sent with a holiday greeting that many generations are still happy to receive. With only a handful of annual touchpoints a year to reach out to your client or employee base–an anniversary and their birthday, for example–the holidays present another opportunity to maintain your relationship. “I love the art of giving and receiving seasonal greetings to remind us that we are more and have more than transactional relationships with our colleagues and clients,” she explains.

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How to breathe new life into an old tradtion

If you want to maintain this decorum, but perhaps shake it up a bit, you can send your good vibes and wishes in a creative fashion. Altimare says your phrasing can go a long way in standing apart from the dozens upon dozens of cards someone is likely to receive. Especially if the core mission of your company is built on smart branding and fun language, your holiday cards should reflect your personality–and not just spread the same ol’ message of “joy to the world” or “happy New Year.” “It’s an opportunity to positively represent yourself and your company. The value of the card should reflect the value of the investment. If you’re in luxury category or if you have high-value clients, I would invest in a designed, heavy stock card versus a music-inspired digital version,” she recommends.

When you have to add a personal note (and when you can skip it)

What about signing your cards? This is up to you–and dependent on the size of your company–but direct managers should be tasked with writing specific, personal notes to their direct reports. And if you’re the leader of your company, your top clients deserve at least a few sentences about what you’ve accomplished and what they have to look forward to in the coming lap around the sun. “Business suicide is sending out a generic card to everyone in your portfolio. You should write a personalized note so that the impression is more celebratory than mandatory,” Altimare continues. “Include a relevant memory from your interaction with them over the year or create a heartfelt greeting. It’ll mean a lot more.”

Last but not least, remember procrastination is your enemy during this festive quarter. Since many people travel to visit loved ones and friends during November and December, being first to the post office will speak louder than being last. After all, the excitement of receiving a holiday well-wish can wane as the season lingers. Altimare recommends aiming for the last week of November to ensure a timely delivery.

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