Back when I was programming WRIF in the early '80s, I was like a lot of PDs. I was constantly in the moment, striving to create that killer promotion that would lead to a great book. But I also had one eye on the future, always thinking about “the next big thing,” and the price we would pay if I missed it.
So, in those pre-Internet days, I read as much as I could. And in '82, a book came out that had an impact on me, as well as everyone who tries to predict the future. John Naisbitt's “Megatrends” was a huge bestseller that year, and remained on The New York Times list for years.
One year later, The Times took a look back at Naisbitt's meteoric rise. He was advising the President, while commanding a reported $15,000 per speech (in 1982!). He was a futurist and he was the rage.
I read the book cover to cover – twice. And I thought about some of the societal and cultural trends Naisbitt wrote about, especially being in the media and entertainment business.
Among other things, Naisbitt predicted what he called “The Information Society,” setting the tone for the next many decades of trending. The fact we're obsessed with “Big Data” today is a compliment to his ability to look into the crystal ball.
Naisbitt's technique? Content analysis. To develop his ten “megatrends,” he compiled news stories from 200 newspapers as the foundation for his predictions about the future.
Today, we can do what Naisbitt talked about with a few keystrokes using simple tools like Google News and Google Alerts, among others. That doesn't mean we could possibly be as prescient as him, but it's a protocol we can all use to get a sense of what people are talking about – whether we're prepping a morning show or forecasting a 5-year plan.
One “megatrend” that resonated for me was called “High Tech/High Touch.” You still hear it in use today. As Naisbitt explained it:
“The more high technology around us, the more the need for human touch…High Tech/High Touch. The principle symbolizes the need for balance between our physical and our spiritual reality.”
Put a pin in that one because if it had a grain of truth in 1982, it's a silo's worth of reality today. Back then, new technology was the compact disk player,the Commodore 64 computer, and emoticons. More technology breakthroughs happens every seven days in 2018 than occurred in 365 back then.
But even in the primitive MTV '80s, Naisbitt had it right – the techier things get, the more us carbon-based lifeforms value the personal touch. In many ways, that was the theme of “Star Trek” and the interplay between Spock and Kirk – the impact of emotion amidst all that space age technology.
It's why I've heard parents comment that smart speakers seem counter-productive to the way they raise they kids. “Say please and thank-you” may as well be embroidered above the fireplaces in most homes today, but Alexa will do what she's told, sans both words. (BTW I always add a “please” and a “thank-you” after every Echo command. And it works just fine.)
It's why DJs give radio a decided person-to-person edge over playlist services like Pandora and Spotify. It's why social media acknowledgment matters, especially in a world full of extremes, trolls, and hackers.
And it's why the simple, old school, hand written thank-you note has made something of a comeback. Make fun of Jimmy Fallon all you like, but the basic act of sitting down to pen a note that sums up your feelings is emblematic of the high-touch often missing in our mobile-fueled world.
A recent story on CNBC.com – yes, the financial cable TV channel of record – underscores the value of a personal note in today's world of Wall Street, IPOs, and EBITDA. It profiles billionaire Tilman Fertitta, the guy who founded the restaurant empire Landry's and who now owns those high-flying Houston Rockets.
Fertitta says he spends $150,000 each year on stationary to thank his customers. Landry's owns everything from Morton's to the Rainforest Café to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, so that's a lot of people to thank during the course of the year.
But to Fertitta, his personal thank-you protocol resonates:
“Customers love to know they're appreciated. So when you can drop them a little unique note, it really lets them know how you feel.”
Most of us get 50, 100, or even 200 emails each day. And it's not that a digital thank-you is meaningless, but it's easy for them to get lost in all the noise. Or glanced at, deleted, shoved in a folder and forgotten.
But a physical note takes time to write. It shows that someone made the effort to really express their appreciation. And it has staying power.
CNBC offers up survey results from TopResume, revealing that two-thirds of employers say receiving a thank-you note from a job applicant following an interview impacted their hiring decision. And when you consider only three in ten bother to send a note after these critically important meetings underscores the value of positively standing out in the crowd.
Last Christmas, our staff received a box of holiday treats, accompanied by one those handwritten missives. It's been on the kitchen refrigerator for weeks. Everyone's read it – probably more than once – and it serves as personal symbol of what our software development company and our customer service department has accomplished. The fact it was handcrafted by a satisfied client makes it even more impactful.
Because in a high-tech world where company phones are answered by a multi-tiered automation systems, and “Contact us” instructions on websites are generic email boxes, customer service matters even more.
And the techier we get, the more those high-touch moments have a powerful impact – whether you're looking for a job, acknowledging a favor, or just connecting with a friend, colleague, or customer, that handwritten note will be remembered. And you won't have to spend as much money each year as Tilman Fertitta to make it happen.
So, thanks for reading our blog, sharing it, and offering up your comments and wisdom.
Your thank-you note is on the way.