The joys — or ploys — of thank-you notes
“Gratitude is an attitude,” contend positive psychologists, 12-step disciples and even occasional scientific studies. Practising said thankfulness, they say, leads to increased happiness and better energy. When it comes to PR, however, my suspicion has always been that gratitude is nowt but a calculating tactic; that anyone who thanks me for coverage is really just trying to convince my flattered subconscious to use their clients again in the hope of further acknowledgement.
Given I strive for impartiality, and to only publicise businesses when I think it is merited and the best possible bet amid said article, it seems vital that I try my damnedest to avoid falling victim to such emotional traps.
Wondering whether this all actually says more about my terrible cynicism than anything else, however, I asked a few industry pals for their perspective on thank-you notes. Almost all were positive. Fellow journalists voiced fondness; one PR said she just felt it was non-negotiably polite while another expressed certainty that her recent note of appreciation lay behind a second successive mention from one editor. (“Sucker,” I automatically thought, apparently still as horribly contemptuous as ever.)
“I dunno,” opined the freelancer (and hugely successful novelist!) Lizzie Pook, when I told her about my pessimism. “I think it’s a way of maintaining the network between journalists and PRs. A kind of checking in. Effectively: ‘we see what you’ve done and we appreciate it.’”
That does make sense. And, even if it is as premeditated I’ve speculated, there’s still nothing nasty or pushy going on here.
There’s a sibling to the thank-you note; the ‘your article was great’ email. I’ve always instinctively found these to be just as dubious, but that perhaps speaks more to my low self-esteem than any truth. Certainly, praise is always nice when one does believe it. “I think the thing I dislike most about working for myself,” another freelancer confided in me, “is the lack of anyone saying ‘good job’. So I’ll gladly take it from anyone.”
My conclusion is that thank-you emails are undeniably a good idea. They’re certainly not mandatory, but rather filed under ‘Being Nice’. The trick, possibly, is to only send them on special occasions (two mentions, not one / a target publication / for coverage where the writer was very patient) so as not to overdo it and, above all, to always be wholly sincere. Then even a Scrooge like me might believe you.
I’m very interested to hear about your thoughts and motives here, so please do write to me and be as honest as you like. I may do a follow-up newsletter if there’s enough reason.
What Richard Thinks…
“Lucy at Roche deserves this for her punchy Pan Pacific release and its superb pictures. But who’s that behind the book?”