This week is Thanksgiving, when there’s a cultural and business outpouring of gratefulness. It’s on the marketing calendar, so we check it off and dutifully say thanks. Social media is a cornucopia of fake thank yous, ironically featuring cornucopias.
But do you really mean it?
Corporate communication has a reputation for saying what people want to hear. There’s a lack of authenticity, and people know it.
I’m not ungrateful or trying to be down on Thanksgiving. I think saying thank you and expressing gratitude is incredibly important. This is one of those cultural holidays that’s actually sort of working when it comes to getting people to think more deeply about its purpose.
But if you want to be authentic, it needs to be more than a sentiment expressed in the latter half of November. You should be thankful all year long.
So how can businesses and organizations express authentic gratefulness in their communication? Here are a few tips:
- Start internally: Good habits begin at home, so start by communicating thanks within your company. In order for thankfulness to be an authentic part of your communication, it needs to spill out of what you say on a regular basis to your own team. So say thanks to your team. Give credit where credit is due. If you’re a one-person shop, your team probably includes contractors or outside help. Say thanks to those folks.
- Start simple: If you say thank you in your primary public communication but no where else, that’s when it starts to feel fake. So in addition to expressing gratitude internally to your team, extend that gratitude to simple interactions with customers and the public. Thank your customers, clients, members, donors. Not just in a sign off to an email, but a specific ‘thanks for your support, it means a lot.’
- Back it up: This is the hard part: Now you need to back up those words with action. If you’re truly grateful, it will mean more than words. This might mean a thank you gift for your team. But don’t get hung up on the first thought of a gift or bonus. A holiday bonus is kind of a joke if the base salary isn’t fair. Being grateful means treating people right, so make sure your team is well paid with good benefits. Likewise, go the extra mile for your customers. Instead of just saying thanks, give added value to your customers. Offer them a discount or a freebie.
- Do it year round: Finally, this attitude of gratitude needs to happen all year long. You can’t just pull it out in November and expect it to be real. By all means start now—there’s nothing wrong with using Thanksgiving as a catalyst. But keep it going throughout the year. Add a monthly reminder to your calendar if you need to (make the fourth Thursday of every month Thanksgiving).
That’s it. That’s the path to being authentically grateful in your communication. Notice I didn’t say anything about communicating thanks. That’s because organizations are too quick to pull that trigger in corporate marketing and it feels like the plastic polite of a kid doing it because their parent is watching.
But if you start being authentically grateful in these simple ways internally and in simple interactions, it will spill over into your official marketing. That’s when it means something and will truly connect with people.
It will be a lot more effective than slapping the same tired graphic and generic platitude on social media.