Famous Last Words: Falling on Deaf Eyes
I read seven newspapers a day. Two of them—The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal—are consumed in hard copy over coffee in the early morning. The other five—The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Guardian, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post—are scanned on the Internet along with regular visits to AOL’s news page and Matt Drudge’s deliciously scurrilous Web site (www.drudgereport.com). One morning, when things were going particularly badly in Iraq and former NFL star Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, I saw a Web ad for John Kerry in The Times and sent him $500 charged to my American Express card. Among other things, I wanted to see in action the new Internet political fundraising phenomenon pioneered by Howard Dean. How would the Kerry campaign treat a $500 donor who was a perfect stranger?
“Always say thank you,” says legendary fundraiser Roger Craver. “It’s the polite thing to do.”
Daily, I looked in my snail mail and e-mail for a thank you and an upsell. No such message was forthcoming in either medium. Instead, I was put on the “Kerry for President” and Democratic National Committee e-mail lists and received 19 missives in one month—more than one every two days—urging me to sign a petition, fire Rumsfeld, hold a fundraiser in my home, get angry at how Kerry’s war record is being besmirched, etc.
Here’s the lead from one of Kerry’s e-mails:
“On your block there’s a woman named Sue. Like you, she supports John Kerry. Like you, she’s appalled at the future George Bush is creating for her children. But unlike you, she’s not going to vote on November 2nd.”
As block captain, I know pretty much everyone on my block. The Sue I know is a poll watcher, so presumably she votes. Either John Kerry is a liar or using privileged voter information to spread malicious gossip.
Obviously the new e-mail political fundraising model is highly successful; Dean and Kerry raised a ton of money. But as a donor, I am not made to feel special. And, people like Kerry and the super rich (by marriage into the ketchup family) Mrs. Heinz-Kerry who do not say thank you for $500 (or $5 or $50 or $5,000) are, frankly, déclassé.
I read Richard A. Clarke’s “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror,” and have come to the conclusion that part of the reason Clarke’s dire warnings of imminent terrorist attacks did not register with the Bush administration people was his reliance on e-mail.
E-mail is the lazy person’s communication medium. Banging out a quick message and firing it off to your address list is too easy. It arrives amidst a barrage of other messages including jokes, memos, spam, sales pitches, dinner invitations and inane notes from relatives. What’s more, unless your recipients print out your e-mail, they are tied to the computer screen where your correspondence is one click away from oblivion. In my opinion, long e-mails fall on deaf eyes.
Only in rare instances do I e-mail an important document. When I do, it goes as a PDF file, which formalizes it and casts it in electronic concrete. But for the most part, I will create a memo, a copy deck and/or a four-color artist’s comp., print it out and mail or FedEx it. Yes, it takes a bit more time. But when it arrives on crisp, bright paper, it says Denny Hatch means business. Further, it offers the recipient the opportunity to step away from the computer, settle into a chair with a cup of coffee, and contemplate what is written and make notes in the margin.
Like saying thank you, it’s the polite thing to do.
Finally, let’s hoist a glass to the ignominious Kenneth Daigneau, described all over Internet search engines as “a Broadway actor.” In point of fact, Daigneau was in three plays on the Great White Way that lasted a combined total of 40 performances. So why is he splashed around the Internet? He was the brother of a Hormel meat company vice president, and at a New Year’s Eve party in 1937, Jay Hormel offered a free drink for everyone who came up with a name for Hormel’s new processed meat plus $100 for the winning name. Daigneau apparently got blotto and blurted out “SPAM!” Six billion cans and a trillion e-messages later, Kenneth Daigneau is in the pantheon of immortals.
Denny Hatch, consultant and freelance copywriter, founder of Who’s Mailing What! (now Inside Direct Mail) and former editor of Target Marketing, is the author of “Priceline.com: A Layman’s Guide to Manipulating the Media” and “Method Marketing.” Visit his Web site, www.pricelineandthemedia.com, or e-mail him at email@example.com.