Does anyone in Britain still write letters?
I can tell you one person who still does. Me.
Actually, I know lots of people who do. My whole family still write letters to each other. It’s a welcome side effect of being dotted all around the country. Perhaps a legacy of growing up in a forces family has a lot to do with it too.
Yes, we have WhatsApp. We have Zoom. We have emails. But we do still like putting pen to paper as well. Call us old-fashioned, but actually, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being appreciated and loved like receiving a letter through the post that’s been written just for you. (Unless it’s a bill of course – but you know what I mean!)
It’s not just receiving letters that’s lovely either. Taking the trouble to sit down and write to someone can be extremely therapeutic. Writing a letter, whether you’re typing it or writing by hand, takes a different type of thought process to drafting an email or sending a quick text. It takes care. Often you end up writing something oddly revealing about yourself you didn’t necessarily intend at the outset. Something about the personal nature of writing a letter, perhaps.
A letter is there to treasure, too. I still have boxes full of letters from my parents and relatives that have been sent to me over the years. I just don’t feel I can throw away these precious documents that were created just for me.
In fact, and I appreciate I’m answering my own question here – but you know, it was rhetorical – I happen to know that my family and I are very much not the only people in Britain still writing letters.
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of writing about a social project based in Huddersfield that’s all about letter-writing.
Called ‘Give … a few words’, it was the brainchild of Sharron Wilkinson who in lockdown wanted to reach out to people in care homes when they could not be visited. So a campaign of letter writing began.
I’ve been writing about Give … a few words through our work with science company Lubrizol which runs regular volunteering days in which employees are given the opportunity to give something back.
This year, more people than ever from this global company with a Derbyshire technical centre have signed up to take part in this simple but brilliantly effective campaign. They’ve got people from all over doing it. Saudia Arabia. India. France. The USA.
That means many elderly and isolated people living in care homes in Calderdale and Kirklees are going to be sent personalised letters from people based all over the world.
How lovely is that? How appreciated, how seen, will it make someone feel to receive a letter in the post that has been written just for them, with no expectation of anything in return? The campaign functions by organisers providing details about recipients so a tailored letter can be created. The only real rule is: it must be positive.
The success of this campaign shows something very true about marketing, about PR, and about communication. It’s this: simplicity is often best.
Any great campaign, be it a social project like this one, or a gigantic series of billboard adverts, often relies on one great idea, executed with confidence. Something that people can understand quickly and get behind. A simple message.
When you’re working in PR, often it can be hard to explain to clients that simple things they are doing can make great stories, and can really connect with people. You perhaps wouldn’t think that writing a story about someone writing a letter to someone else could possibly be worth writing about (again).
But through covering this campaign, so enthusiastically backed by Lubrizol, I’ve always found that people I speak to who take part have different, very personal, reasons for wanting to write to someone they don’t know, in a part of the world where they don’t live, who is living in a care home.
One lady from Northumberland embroidered a handkerchief for the person getting her letter. Others I’ve spoken to feel strongly about elderly people who are isolated because they have relatives in the same position themselves. The stories get nice coverage, particularly chiming with editors around Christmas, a bittersweet time for many – when yes, families get together, but others are left stressed, anxious and lonely.
And that, in turn, we hope, helps the campaign itself attract more support.
And if that means more people who are suffering from isolation can be sent a warm-hearted letter through the post, that can only be a good thing.