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Gold, Frankincense and Murder Mysteries: The Wise Bookseller’s Guide to Corporate Gifts
What every image-conscious organization needs to know
You’re the manager in charge of corporate gifts at an insurance company in New York, an investments firm in London, or a hotel chain with sites across Europe. I’m your best friend. I’m a bookseller, and I can give you the advice and service you need to make outstanding charitable donations. I can help you decide on gifts for your suppliers and clients. When a colleague retires, I have ideas for the most appropriate item to present to him or her at that farewell dinner.
I can save you time, money and grief at Christmas. Name the occasion, and I can surprise and delight your major shareholders, board members and illustrious visitors. With my help, you can bring joy to any elected official or government honcho. I can make you the most intelligent and generous corporate citizen in your neighbourhood, city or state.
Interested? Of course you are. Let’s consider a variety of mutual opportunities.
Christmas is the biggest gift-giving holiday of the year. You are expected to present your top clients with something more than pretty cards. Unsure of what they would enjoy, you decide to give them expensive items. Your clients might not like what you select for them, but when they realize that you’ve paid a bundle for that crystal statuette of a duck, they’ll know that you value their service. Or so you think.
But your clients are tired of crystal ducks, titanium pen sets, vibrating footrests and all the other gewgaws that arrive in their offices every December. What they want is something to divert them. For example, last year a lawyer in Los Angeles sent his clients hardcovers by John Grisham. His inscription: “Who says lawyers are dull? May this humble gift take your mind off the usual madness of the season. Merry Christmas”.
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His clients responded favourably. An oil company president wrote in his note of thanks, “I loved the Grisham, couldn’t put it down. Since I’ve renewed your retainer, your New Year will be happy and prosperous. Cheers.” Credit for the lawyer’s book selection goes to a local bookseller, who received a bottle of scotch and an order for “the same hot stuff next year”.
Honoured visitors and guests like hot stuff, too. They expect a bunch of roses that they will abandon in their hotel room, or a brass-and-enamel plaque that commemorates their visit to your office. The plaque will probably end up in an airport garbage bin. What you can give them is a book that appeals to them, suits their tastes, and demonstrates your sensitivity to their interests.
When a Japanese CEO arrived in Vancouver this year, his corporate hosts gave him a recent work on famous Pacific Rim shipwrecks. The CEO was entranced. He is known for his love of scuba diving. He sat through the lunch in his honour with his nose planted in maritime history. When he rose to give a toast, he announced that he would need time to find an equally suitable gift for his hosts, but that since he intended to do substantial business in Western Canada, he was certain that he’d be able to reciprocate eventually. His hosts were thrilled.
As for the local bookseller who supplied the work on shipwrecks, she received a long-term P.O. number and a gift certificate for a sushi dinner.
Books are suitable gifts at any time, but especially when you and your company want to make a point in public. Let’s assume that you want to draw attention to your corporate commitment to high quality. Talk to me! I can offer a selection of books that will emphasize your commitment; I can even suggest recipients. Let me select the highest quality of children’s books on the market: award-winners, classics and titles too good to miss. The best recipients for these will be the public library, a children’s hospital or a local school library. You can announce this gift to the media, and note that because you’re committed to high quality, you want to give the best books to society’s most valuable asset, our children. You can mention your dedication to fostering literacy.
Don’t miss that photo opportunity with the librarian or hospital CEO, that interview with the business columnist or that tax break. If somebody asks you why you give books rather than software, suggest that the slickest high-tech package doesn’t have the longevity of a Newberry or Caldecott winner, and that while your company relies on software as much as anyone else, you’re interested in quality that lasts longer than the latest version of Windows.
There are book-giving opportunities to underscore any positive corporate image. If your market is global, donate an atlas to a local school. For a company that promotes a healthy lifestyle, a gift of diet and exercise books to a public library is suitable. Innovative companies can stock school library shelves with biographies of scientists and inventors. On any worthy cause or idea there are hundreds of titles, and I can provide them.
One date to remember is April 23, which is International Book Day and Shakespeare’s birthday. In acknowledging this date, why not donate the Bard for a school prize-giving ceremony? A modern edition of his Collected Plays is a good choice for a first-class student of English literature or a talented young actor. With my guidance, you can also make donations to a broader group of community organizations: selections of fiction to seniors’ centres, books on games and playtime activities to daycares, music reference titles to music schools and choirs. Chances are that you will be invited to deliver a speech explaining why you’ve donated these books: here’s your chance to broadcast your message and polish your corporate image.
In fact, even though books are less expensive than many other corporate gifts, they have more inherent dignity. When you help a young person to discover Shakespeare, you have every right to mount that stage and tell the assembled parents how noble you and your company are. Others may donate computers or video equipment, sporting goods or laboratory supplies: all useful and welcome, but pale stuff beside Hamlet and King Lear. You can be sure that most thinking parents know it.
As a bookseller, I’m an excellent source of ideas for all gift-giving occasions. We should talk further. Feel free to discuss with me your past donations, corporate gift giving traditions and future needs. I’ll be happy to tell you what’s new from the publishers, what’s exciting, and what’s appropriate for different panjandrums. I’m sure that we can develop a healthy business relationship, and never again will you be tempted to hand out crystal ducks.
About the Author
Guy Robertson is an Instructor at Langara College and the Justice Institute of British Columbia, Canada. Guy is noted for his research into book and manuscript theft, data loss and protection, and financial fraud and forgery. He has delivered keynote speeches, seminars, and workshops at conferences and has published several books and papers including Disaster Planning for Libraries (2015) and Robertson on Library Security and Disaster Planning (2016). He is in the process of writing the book, Disaster Planning for Special Libraries.
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