Personal greetings en masse

This week I received a ‘personal Christmas e-card’ from a Queensland government Minister.

It was simply a PDF attached to an email. The PDF is a single page with a photograph of the Minister, a ‘best wishes’ statement, and a ‘Dear P&C Secretary’ address.

The email was also addressed to ‘Dear P&C Secretary’, with this statement: ‘To help conserve natural resources and protect our environment, I am sending you a personal Christmas e-card’.

My immediate reaction was that there’s nothing very personal about it, so why call it a ‘personal Christmas e-card’? It’s not addressed to me personally (there’s not even a simple mail merge happening here!), the photograph wasn’t taken at my school, and there’s not even a scanned signature from the Minister to suggest that it really came from him.

To reduce the sense of personalisation even more, I’m not even the P&C Secretary! I’m currently the President, and this email would have been sent to all P&C Presidents in the state (presumably to all the Secretaries as well!).

The end result was that the ‘card’ did nothing for me. I don’t feel that the Minister has really sent anything to me, nor that he’s really thought about sending a personal message to P&C associations throughout the state.

But why did I react this way? Surely the ‘personal’ card means that it’s personal to the Minister, not personal to me? And, as the email includes his photograph and name, then it certainly is personal to him. No one else would send this card.

I think that the idea of a ‘personal’ greeting goes well beyond the dictionary meaning of ‘personal’. Perhaps we expect a ‘personal’ greeting to become a ‘personalised’ greeting – that is, a greeting intended for me and addressed to me.

It’s all too easy to send out something that’s personal to the sender. In fact, it’s just as easy to send out a personal greeting by email as it is to send out something generic. Perhaps even easier, because it’s all done in-house with no concerns about copyright.

But the personal greeting is barely worth getting. It’s nothing more than junk mail sent to a broad distribution list.

Now, a card that’s personalised to me … that really involves some time and thought … wouldn’t that be a different thing?