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You the Great Persuader

A large TV screen of many business people headshots

Newsletter providers often argue on the issue of how to address a group of people. Which do you think is better: getting personal or addressing your reader as part of a group?

For example:

  • "Hi Jane..." or ...
  • "Hello subscribers ..."

Some writers prefer addressing the group as a group, simply because — they argue — they're actually "talking" to a group, not an individual, just as if they were standing in front and making a speech.

Others suggest that such an approach is colder, more impersonal. Also, since e-mail-merge technology is now easily available to automatically address each member of a group or email list by their first name or name they provided when they signed up for the newsletter, why not tap into the power of technology and get personal to create additional friendliness?

Whichever method you prefer, simply considering the issue and asking the question is time well spent. Often, like life, the best "answer" is rarely simple and straightforward. Much depends on your target readership and the kind of communication you're creating, whether written, spoken or presented.

Finding Your Trust Genie

Natural sincerity goes a long way. However, words are easy. To create and foster authenticity takes time: belief doesn't happen through the quick substitution of email placeholders for recipient names.


  • Be patient while you build your personal trust brand.
  • On the web today, many people may feel like they have been let down by countless websites. Some have already been tricked, duped perhaps several times. So why should they trust you or I? Suspicion levels may be high. Trust may be low.
  • However, all problems are also opportunities. That's precisely why those who are prepared to demonstrate sincerity and trust over and over again, can win lifelong visitors and clients, with much less effort and cost that might otherwise be required.

Which is best: Personal or Formal?

In general however, getting personal; using first names, addressing each reader individually using "you" more often is simply nicer than falling for the traps of using "he", "she", "they", and so on.

On this website, we use individual identification software routines and cookies to ensure that both visitors and members can enjoy a more personal web-based experience while logged in.

Sure, any experienced user knows that the software is actually addressing the subscriber or member. However, the essential point is, perceptive users know that we have thought about the issue and seek to do all we can to make their usage sessions more friendly. You can adopt that approach too.

When someone first visits versions of that use the Joomla web content management system, we didn't assume an over familiarity. We simply welcomed whoever they are and asked each visitor to register. If a visitor chose to subscribe, during registration, our website software asked each user how they would like to be addressed.

When our subscriber next logged in, she was welcomed either by first name or a preferred name they chose earlier. Clearly, "Welcome Jane" or "Welcome John", is much warmer than "Welcome Friend", "Welcome", or worse, simply saying nothing.

However, today, from August 2018 and beyond, we have switched to an open blog-article-based format, with no web content management system, no separate database, so fewer cookies are needed. Visitors now don't need to register unless they choose to sign up for something. So our approach is much simpler, yet still as friendly.

How to Determine Whether the Use of "Dear Friend" Should Be Avoided?

For US writers, here's a minor caution when using "Welcome Friend ..." in your communications that are aimed at or may include a UK and possibly a European audience.

For some curious reason, the simple phrase "Welcome Friend ..." is often perceived by many people I've talked to in Europe "on this side of the pond", as "sleazy" or "foppish". I don't share that view even though I understand the reasons behind this minor dislike.

So just what is so risky with using "Dear Friend ..." on website pages and other documents that include UK and / or European users? Answer: perhaps the core reason is that in general the US is a culture within which service is valued highly.

Moreover, perhaps US-based audiences in general are more trusting than those from other parts of the world.

When viewing television documentaries about airlines and airports in both the UK and USA, I have also been struck by the apparent high level of what can best be described as "a sincere willingness to help" often displayed from US airline staff, compared with procedures delivered by UK staff in similar situations.

Of course, I'm aware that US airline providers may modify their behavior in the knowledge that that they're part of a TV experience, and so what we see on Sky television programs like "Airline" or "Airport" may not offer a completely true picture. US airline companies may simply be better at marketing for television.

Nevertheless, from personal experience, I believe friendliness and a commitment to service appears to be almost second nature certainly among many small- and medium-sized US businesses and organizations. But words are easy: you have to find a way to demonstrate what you say.

However, many folks here in the UK and Europe are culturally more reserved than many from the USA, suspicious of strangers and therefore appear less friendly, until a bond is made.

Perhaps that's why a UK or EU visitor may react to the use of "Dear Friend" at the top of a web page with something like: "Don't automatically assume you're my friend or call me your friend — until we are, maybe later, if we still get on! For now, a simple 'Hello' is just fine".

Key tip: so what is the answer? One remedy is to use personalization routines within your web design, as we do here at Then, you can avoid the entire issue and connect with users from a wide range of cultures with an almost universal friendliness, yet without coming across as over-friendly.

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