Answers on a postcard, please

browningyork Communication channels

The recent sunshine has got me thinking about a summer holiday – packing, swimming, sandcastles, ice-cream. And postcards?

With the permanent access to Facebook and Twitter that we all enjoy these days (unless we’re lucky enough to go somewhere very exclusive and remote for our holidays), has the humble postcard had its day? Perhaps if everyone adopted the same approach as my parents do, it would remain slightly more relevant – they always bring their postcards home in their suitcase and hand-deliver them, because they know it will be quicker than putting them in the post. Even so, you still have to wait until the end of their holiday and they can tell you in person whether the sun was shining or the local paella was delicious.

I am lucky enough to own a fantastic album of postcards, sent to my grandmother in the first half of the 20th century. These really show how much could be communicated between friends and loved ones when this really was the only way to get in touch. At a time when my Gran didn’t necessarily know her friend had gone away until she received the card, the writer had to get across where she or he was, why, and if they were having a good time, in just a few sentences. Nearly 100 years later, it is possible to trace Gran’s friendships through the cards she received and kept in her precious album. It’s a wonderful family treasure that I hope will survive for many generations to come.

These postcards strike me as examples of the natural ability we all have to communicate without being formal about it. Each sender of the cards knew what their purpose was – inform their friend of where they were, what they were doing and what they were thinking. They knew my Gran well enough (presumably) to know whether she would be more interested in hearing about the beach or the tea-rooms, and that’s what they wrote about. My Gran received the cards, was pleased to be updated about her friends’ holidays and their relationship was maintained by hearing about their lives. In some of the cards, it is clear that my Gran was also sending cards to them, so this was obviously a two-way thing.

There are so many ways to communicate now; it can feel overwhelming to know what to use and how to do it. But I believe that if we remain true to this natural ability we have, knowing our purpose and our audience, the communication method we choose is almost irrelevant – if it reaches your intended audience and achieves what you hoped, then you’re doing it the ‘right’ way.

Until next time

Sarah