Friday, February 19, 2010


Good manners have always been important to me so I hope you don’t mind me sharing that. No, well, I thank you (see what I mean?)

I abhor bad manners, lack of courtesy and those who are less than polite – whether it’s keeping a department store door open for someone who breezes past without so much as a “thanks” to children who don’t seem to be able to master simple phrases such as “please” and “thank you.”

This brings me to politeness and manners in business – they do matter, and I like to think I have them. They are vital. But, in the opening two months of this year, I’m detecting a sad slide, however, despite modern communications available to all.

Here are two examples: at the start of December I undertook a copywriting job for a publishing company. One of the businesses I had to contact during the project indicated, in our conversations, that it was interested in PR support and media relations and asked if I could make follow-up contact in January, which I duly did, as I promised I would.

When I got in touch via email, as requested, I asked the gentleman I had interviewed previously if he would like to consider a meeting to discuss his company’s needs for possible PR, generally. No response. No simple acknowledgement was forthcoming so after seven days, extremely politely, I emailed again. Several weeks later, I have heard nothing.

Yes, of course, I could telephone but I was specifically asked not to do so and to use email instead as it was “more convenient” given the nature of the business. Not convenient enough, it would appear, to say “no thanks” or “we’ve gone off the idea or “we’re waiting to sort out budgets” – an acknowledgement or a knock-back, it wouldn’t matter. Some form of feedback was all I sought.

In another case, I was invited to visit a company to discuss PR and media relations. At the end of a very positive meeting, I suggested – and its company representatives agreed – that I should submit an outline strategy, flesh out some of the matters we had discussed and submit costings based on a range of commitment scenarios.

I emailed them to say I had enjoyed the discussions, meeting them and so on – as I usually do after a first meeting - and attached a summarised proposal. Four weeks on there has been no feedback, no acknowledgement that they have even received my document. Phone-call follow-ups have yielded the usual trite “we’ll pass on your message” or “so-and-so has been very busy” to “leave your mobile number” etc. Pathetic.

I’ve not been seeking decisions, agreements or confirmed deals. I only want to know that my communication, which I have taken the time to prepare, refine and finalise, has actually been seen by someone I was dealing directly with.

Thankfully, and to end on a positive note, good manners do exist. This week I met with a charming MD with a view to creating website text for his company. Again, I was asked about PR support, media relations, social media opportunities and more. When I was on the train home, up popped a message on my Blackberry to say - and he beat me to it - that he had found the meeting extremely instructive and interesting and could I, in the first instance, give him a costing for the copywriting work the following day.

This I did – and he replied one hour later to say go-ahead. Now that was efficient and business-like, simple good manners, neither difficult nor challenging. Not all decisions, obviously, can be made instantly. But, if I am spending time plus effort to communicate and keep potential clients informed, the least I expect is the same level of courtesy. And with email, text or whatever, it’s never been easier.

To refuse to respond, answer, or acknowledge is arrogant, ignorant and totally unacceptable behaviour in my book. To repeat: business manners do matter.

That feels better: please forgive the rant. I’m sure I’m not alone, am I?

1 comment:

  1. I recently made a similar rant after being in the same situation as yourself: spending lots of time in sales consultations and meetings, only to literally never hear from the potential clients again. Absolutely nothing.

    But, like yourself, the good communicators help me to put it all in perspective. I run all of my projects through the Basecamp project management utility. One of my clients "just didn't like it", so he refused to use it. Task progress went acknowledged, questions went unanswered, and communications were literally all over the place. The client and I eventually parted company due in no small measure to the communication breakdown. On the opposite side of that, another one of my clients loves Basecamp as much as I do and sees it for the value it adds, not the extra step it creates. I left a meeting with them at 3 PM and had well-organised and specific tasks and follow-ups in Basecamp from them by 4. Now that's who I want to work with.