A Letter to a Pit: Put Your Social Media to the Pen Pal Test!

KOTAW Off the Clock - Adventures of the KOTAW Girl Gang laced with mini marketing tips

Social media is about making genuine connections -- Does your social media strategy pass the pen pal test?Ivy received her very first letter!

This weekend, I made the couple minute trip from my home to my KOTAW Content Marketing mailbox and my mouth quickly formed a smile as I saw an oversized rectangular envelope addressed not only to me, but to my Brand Ambassador too!

I desperately wanted to open it right then and there, but since it was addressed to my sweet red nose pit bull as well as to me, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to open it without her.

So I rushed home to my pittie and opened the envelope as she smiled and wiggled at me with love.

The three page handwritten letter, addressed “Dear Katherine & Ivy” was decorated with adorable paw print stickers on every page and my smile grew bigger and bigger with each word I read aloud to Ivy.

Celebrating National Card & Letter Month

Ivy’s first letter, signed “Love & dog biscuits, Jennifer” was written by Jennifer Broderick, owner of StationTEEN, where she designs colorful, cheerful stationery with the goal of “empowering teen girls to develop deeper relationships with family & friends.”

At the beginning of April, in honor of National Card & Letter Month, Jennifer invited members of Google Plus to send her a handwritten letter.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to write a handwritten note (making cards and writing old-fashioned snail mail letters to friends and family gives me so much joy!) I curled up on the couch with Ivy and my card-making supplies and started writing to Jennifer about my favorite subject, Ivy herself!

I told Jennifer how my biggest personal goal as a branding coach is to brand pit bulls as the gentle, silly and loving dogs I know them to be, despite the bad reputation thrust upon them due to prejudice and hate.

I told her how Ivy is KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador, representing how hard our KOTAW team will work to mend and transform any and all brands we deem worthy (always remembering our catchphrase: “We don’t brand boring!”)

And I told her how Ivy nurses stray kittens, is friends with all the neighborhood babies and toddlers and how she has an extra special fondness for peanut butter, perhaps because she has peanut butter-colored fur!

In response, I got to hear about Jennifer’s parents’ dogs, Dash and Pez, who love to eat vanilla ice cream cones from McDonald’s but hate pretzels!

A Present & A Pen Pal

Included with Jennifer’s letter to Ivy and me were two beautiful (and doggie themed!) handcrafted cards designed by Jennifer herself, as well as a beautiful piece of stationary with a gorgeous black ink doodle of a woman, flowers and swirls.

I can’t wait to use Jennifer’s adorable cards and stationary to write more handwritten letters!

And Ivy and I are so excited to have Jennifer as our new pen pal!

We can’t wait to curl up again together and write her our next note.


Social media, when done right, should be about making genuine connections. Next time you’re wondering whether to follow or circle someone, why not put them to the “Would you be their pen pal?” test.

The pen pal test makes you realize that, at the end of the day, it is true connections – not numbers – that matter.

When’s the last time you wrote – or received – a handwritten letter? Do your social media connections pass the pen pal test? You could tell me by letter… or share your thoughts below!


  1. Katherine says:

    What an amazing story—although knowing Jennifer I’m not surprised at all. Congrats on your new pen pal, may this exchange bring you and Ivy years of joy and fun.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Katherine, for sharing your comments not once but twice to accommodate my server issues, which wiped out your original remarks. But the glitch gives me a chance to update my comments and say that Ivy and I just put a new note in the mail to Jennifer…so your wishes for a long pen pal relationship with Jennifer are on the way to becoming true! Thank you also for all of your thoughtful comments and interesting posts in the re:DESIGN group on Google+. I peek more than I post there, but I never miss your contributions.

  2. When I saw this post was about Ivy, I had to stop and read it. Who wouldn’t want to send her a card, sweet puppy?!?

    Being on social media for business, I have circled and friended people I might not in real life, but I love your idea. I can certainly have circles and friend lists for ou those who pass the pen pal test :)

    A scratch and a pat to Ivy! Thanks for the great read, Katherine!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Alisa, for your double dose of comments (for reposting after server issues deleted your original thoughts.)

      Your extra efforts as well as your kind words are very much appreciated.

      You’re right — not every person in our business circles will (or should) pass the pen pal test. But I think it’s a good standard to consider when choosing how to spend our time in social media.

      Ivy sends kisses to Spike and Pepe and insists you spoil both of them fully this weekend.

  3. Katttt

    I saw your post on Facebook and immediately rushed to read more about Ivy’s new pen pal! #KittoHUGSforIVyandCo

    Awww…how happy am I to learn that your #CutiePittie received a letter from a generous and creative lady! And I am EXTREMELY happy to learn that Ivy loves peanut butter – a pet after my own soul! I pack several pounds simply by sticking a finger or spoon into a PB jar #DELICIOUS

    I do feel bad for not being the first one to address Ivy in a hand-written letter, but since my hand-writing is horrible, I don’t want to put #IvyandCo through my horrible scribbling! That said, I am going to send you a card soon, so watch out

    I LOVE YOU, sweetie Kat, and am going to make it a point to meet you very soon. 2014 is going to end in Kat’s arms for Kit


    Keep writing, genius lady


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Sign your note to Ivy with peanut butter, and she’ll love you forever! Actually, she’ll love you forever anyway because she is an extraordinarily good judge of character. She’ll know you’re much more than a pretty face, that you soul is even more beautiful.

      Thank you so much for writing the first time and for resubmitting your comment due to a problem with my server. Your comments cheer me just as much the second time around. :)

      Keep writing yourself. The world will be singing your praises soon.


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