With the hectic pace of change in today’s business world, it’s easy to overlook the human touch.

My suggestion to avoid this potentially-costly mistake: Make your communications more personal. A great way to accomplish this is to send letters. Think of your network of business contacts as extended family and treat them that way. Let them know in writing that you care and are there for them when needed.

This intensely personal approach to communications takes time but is worth far more than the extra effort required. Your whole communications strategy becomes more powerful when it’s underpinned by strong personal relationships.

There’s no better time to start building up connections than the holidays. As activity winds down at year end, take a few extra moments to reach out and touch those who matter to you personally and professionally. Then, keep nurturing important relationships year round.

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderful leaders in the public and private sector. I’ve enjoyed becoming pen pals with many of them, keeping up with their lives and families, and important events in their communities.

At Coca-Cola, we’re part of the communities we serve, and we’re committed to making a positive difference wherever we do business. We try to reinforce that message at the right time. After a disaster or tragedy, for instance, we may send a letter to offer to help. We want to let people know that we’re thinking about them.

On the other hand, when something good happens, it never hurts to connect. If someone you know gets a new job or promotion, a brief note of congratulations is always appropriate.

Personal communications are critical in the non-profit sector. I’m on the board of Girls Inc. I try to help this organization as much as I can. If they have new programs or fundraising campaigns, I send personal notes or messages. I tell people in my network about Girls Inc. and urge them to support their great work.  

Sonya Soutus

With any form of business communications, it’s important to think about the audience. How is the message likely to be received? Most leaders are extremely busy. They are overwhelmed by a crush of emails. Odds are a sincere personal note will provide a welcome change of pace and format. Your well-chosen words of kindness will cut through the most dense electronic clutter. Better yet, your personal touch will make a heartfelt connection that will enhance your entire communications program.

Sonya Soutus is SVP of Public Affairs & Communications at Coca-Cola North America.