Take Note: The Value of Handwritten Messages in Multifamily



Take a Page from History and Send a Meaningful Message to Multifamily Residents and Employees.

Write it down. Today is National Handwriting Day.

The origins of this salute to the art of handwriting traces to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) 40 years ago and is celebrated along with John Handcock’s birthday. Call it another landmark day derived by marketing pundits, if you must. But in today’s text-y, technological world, the power of the handwritten note is still something to write home about.

Handwritten messages are effective ways to communicate to multifamily residents or employees, whether it be giving thanks, praise or emphasizing a need. However, we’ve lost that affair with our Shaeffer and Cross pens, even those rather pedestrian Bic stick jobbies. Today, most messages are sent using thumbs, not the old three-finger swirl.

I write a lot on a keyboard, enough that my handwriting skills have suffered over the years. Recently, it took a lot of work to pen legible thank you notes following a family death. But sending an email or text could not possibly convey the right kind of personal message. As much as it seemed like a struggle to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, knowing what was stamped and dropped in the mailbox was comforting. The recipients surely would get the same warmth and embrace the message.


Handwritten Messages are Effective Ways to Make a Statement

Studies show that handwritten messages are often more effective in making an impression with the recipient or remembering conceptual information over the long term. WIMA reminds of handwriting’s impact on history − “handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence.”

Simpler offerings like notes don’t take that long to write, and they also tell a lot about us, says the National Handwriting Association. They also can tell us to get the lead out, like those handwritten notes my wife sometimes leaves on the bathroom counter. Usually, they mean I’d better get in gear.

In 2012, Forbes ran an article about how Campbell Soup Co. CEO Douglas Conant’s hand-written notes to employees helped turn around the company that made chicken noodle soup and a sandwich a household staple. He came aboard in 2001 after Campbell’s had lost half its market value the year before. In additional to a mass overhaul of the company’s leadership, Conant dug deep to create a high level of engagement with employees to identify what needed to be done to put soup back on the burner.

He began by overriding newer ways of corporate communication via email by scribing old-fashioned notes to employees. As the company turned profits, the more he wrote. In his 10-year reign, he penned about 30,000 handwritten “thank you” notes.

“I made it personal at Campbell,” he told Forbes.

Take a Moment to Send a Meaningful Message

Unfortunately, about the only time you hear of handwriting is when state legislators make a plea to continue teaching it in school rather than remove it as a requirement. Sadly, many schools have abolished cursive writing from curriculums.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t limit our thoughts, praises, dissatisfactions and other emotions through impersonal emails or texts. A handwritten note to thank a resident for a renewal or showing gratitude to a job well done by the maintenance staff or leasing associates makes an impact, and gets a thumbs up by me.

So, take a moment on this day and jot down a few thoughts to whomever and send them on their way. You don’t always need a specialty card; a nice piece of paper will suffice. And don’t forget to sign it with your John Hancock.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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