Replying to Letters and Emails

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When musical artist Richie Havens died on April 22, 2013, he was quoted as having stated: “I’m not in show business; I’m in the communications business. That’s what it’s about for me.” I found this to be a bold statement from the singer/songwriter.

We’ve come a long way from my elementary school days where a teacher had our class write a single page letter with paper and pencil to The President of The United States. Who knows? I’m guessing this was the fourth grade. Then again, it could have been earlier. In any event, we were excited, sincerely believing the President would be reading our long hand letters in the Oval Office! The one fact I can tell you with certainty is that despite our naïveté, we used our best penmanship!

Sadly, it’s rare that a professional inquiry receives a response today. I’m not sure form letters are even used all that much anymore with our inflated postal rates. Just the same, it bodes well for us to remember at the end of the day, that there is a human being behind every letter, email, and voicemail. Refusing to answer an inquiry that is legitimate and from a person of goodwill is beyond bad manners. It’s a collective disgrace. If that sounds disgusting,  so be it.

At a time when validating an inquiry for creative feedback, or an enterprising idea is submitted only to be ignored, these opportunities are wasted.

Incidentally, the term “creative feedback” is useful for organizations that refuse to accept “unsolicited inquiries”. With this in mind, I sorely wish I could lay claim to circumventing this legal dodge from “feedback” to the less threatening “creative feedback”. But I can’t. Even if I could, I’m going to be the bearer of bad news when I inform you that yes, even “creative feedback” is now summarily ignored. The assumption, of course, is that no response equates to a “no”, “not interested” or “haven’t read your inquiry”. Take your pick. Others might say “take your hint.” I call this cowardice.

The late Orson Welles once observed that film producer Samuel Goldwyn was “a good merchant”. Maybe we ought to consider ourselves as merchants in these moments by becoming amazing and responding to others who dialogue! Merchants  or not, it’s good business. And it was Al Pacino who uttered the line to Gabrielle Anwar in the movie, “Scent of a Woman” (after being told his tango dancing was ‘amazing’): “I’m in the amazing business.” Yes. Lt. Colonel Frank Slade was technically and classically, a “good merchant”, to quote Welles.

Some of you are familiari with the old saw about how a disgruntled coffee shop customer who received bad service is likely to share their experience, on average, with at least 8 other people. That doesn’t sound very serious, until you take out a calculator and start doing the math for each of those eight people multiplied to infinity! The take away? A bad reputation is hard to repair. A good one is worth more than gold.

Whoever thought that professional inquiries being ignored (and the bad behavior behind this action) would be so commonplace in 2016?

The truly classy person is the one who answers an inquiry in a timely manner, and regards enterprising ideas as opportunities, not liabilities. The one possible exception is the President of the United States, who is legitimately busy. Maybe that’s why we never received a direct response back in elementary school from the Commander in Chief.

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