Season’s Greetings

How not to embarrass yourself or your company during the holiday season.


The holiday season has arrived—that confusing time between mid-November and the New Year full of office holiday parties, year-end sales lulls, and, of course, the holiday card exchange. Whether you’re chilling by the water cooler with a mug of mulled cider or making a last ditch effort to push into the black, now is not the time to forget your manners.

“It’s nice that a company takes the time and effort to send a card. You want to share your gratitude for your business relationships,” says Charleston business etiquette expert Pam Harvit. “There’s nothing more important than building strong relationships with clients—and from a marketing perspective, you get your name in front of them again.” Harvit explains there’s a fine line to walk between budget-minded giving and personalization and between creativity and ill-thought-out humor. She offers a few tips:

Keep it non-denominational.

“One of the most important things to consider is that not everyone celebrates Christmas,” Harvit says. “When you make your card too narrowly focused on just ‘Merry Christmas,’ you risk offending people who don’t celebrate that holiday. I recommend sending a more generic season’s greeting or just celebrating the new year itself.”

Not all humor is appreciated equally.

Harvit laughs about sending naked Santa holiday cards to friends and family, but cringes at the idea of one being sent to a business associate. “The one thing you want to be cognizant of is sending anything that can be misconstrued,” she says. “I’m all about humor, but what might be funny to Company A might not be funny to others in the corporate world.” Creative organizations shouldn’t be afraid to flex those imaginative muscles, she says. Just keep the drunk elf jokes at home.

Personalized is best.

Keeping messages short and sweet is a good thing, as long as they’re not too short. “Any way you can make the card as personalized as possible is better,” Harvit says. “I’m a big proponent of the handwritten envelope because those are always the ones opened first. If it could be handwritten, it’s probably a better thing. If it’s a smaller business and each employee could write their name or a short message, that says a lot.”

Timing is everything.

“You would want those cards to arrive by December 15 at the latest,” Harvit says. “Employees take holiday breaks. The earlier the better, before people start taking time off.” Harvit also recommends differentiating your business by sending out cards for Thanksgiving, a holiday most of the country celebrates. Card-giving at that time gets your name back in front of clients or associates earlier and you’re less likely to get lost in the shuffle.

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