My main mode of professional contact is email. Sure, social gatherings are important and nothing quite beats the intimacy of getting a cup of coffee and/or vodka with someone to win them over. But that’s a luxury few can afford in a world where most people are far too busy to waste time doing silly things like sitting and drinking something.
Which means that for communication, email is king.
I recently (yesterday) accidentally sent an email invitation to “See My Photos on Facebook!” to hundreds of people who had ever received or sent an email to me. And while I pondered how many penis-related mailing lists I accidentally signed myself up for with that action, I stumbled upon the thought of how important email really is. And not just email itself but the art of the email.
There are hundreds of books that try and teach you to be charming, hilarious, attractive and socially capable — but none (and I say that with the full power of no research at my back) talk about how to be all those things over email. See, the thing with email is that, unlike meeting someone in person, people can completely ignore your emails. “Hey, want to meet for lunch?” you ask someone — and, in six months, they respond, “Sorry, just got this. Nope.”
Luckily, I’m a neurotic writer, email (there it goes again) fits my personality quite well. I have even arrogantly decided that, throughout the years, I’ve developed my email writing skills enough to declare myself a professional emailer.
Below is a list of tips that I have gone a long way in helping me further my career and, in the process, develop a few new friendships. So, without further ado, here we go…
Leave a Personality Hook
Emails should be professional, yes, but professionals get professional emails all the time. Hundreds of them. It’s dull and it means these people — who are, in fact, people and not corporate drones — have to be their boring, professional selves all day. Even in writing. Even in an art form. So, bring themselves out of themsselves — give them what I always (just thought of this) call, “the personality hook.”
Let’s say you’ve been introduced to someone who can theoretically help you. An agent, the head of a production company, someone you need in short. You send them a professional email, the body of which thanks them for their time, introduces you to them, and generally asks for whatever you were going to ask for. Here’s where the hook comes into play, are you ready? Are you taking notes? Are you rolling your eyes? Okay, good.
After your main paragraph, throw in one quick sentence that’s a very casual joke. It can be about the person who introduced you, it can be about… anything. Self-effacing, poking fun at the topic, whatever it is, just give them a little something. The key is that it should be a comment that begs for a response. An amusing question, perhaps, but it should lure them into biting.
They are the fish, you are the fisherman — what you’re doing is seeing what kind of bait they’re into.
The hope is this: once they read your email, they’ll not only respond to the body but make a joke back. Then, you’re in. What starts happening, if you’re good, funny and can pick up on their sense of humor, is that before you know it, your emails are less professional and more jokey. That seems backwards but it isn’t — people won’t help Random Guy Who Needs My Help as much as they’ll help Guy I Can Joke Around With.
I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, mildly manipulative and kind of dumb, but in a world where we’re constantly answering emails, it’s how friendships are made. It’s how you can break someone out of their auto-response and get their personality involved.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
You know who said that? God. No, that’s not true, it was Shakespeare — but it may as well have been God. Don’t expound. Don’t send a 30 page letter from the war. Just write what you need, keep it fast, keep it fun, keep it easy, and send it off. Trust me, you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Don’t Write Like An Idiot
Remember all those lessons from school? Like how “u” actually has three letters in it? It’s time to use those. It doesn’t matter who you’re emailing, start getting in the habit of spelling correctly and using proper grammar. Sending a poorly written email to a higher-up is a lot like calling them a racial epitaph in person (it’s true), so take some time, proofread, and make sure you don’t write like an idiot.
This also helps for love letters, by the way. “I luv u” is all fine and dandy if you’re 14 and texting, but it’s no way to electronically please a lady.
Gmail, Gmail, Gmail
You know how getting to know someone is important? Gchat is just perfect for it. I love when I email someone I need to meet and they have Gmail. It’s the easiest thing to add them and, after some time, shoot them a quick comment on Gchat. If they bite, you start a conversation. You can really draw someone out, connect, and do the whole personality hook much quicker.
I loves me some Gmail.
Respond a Day Later
Sometimes, really busy people take an irritatingly long time to get back to you. Don’t rush in emailing them back — every email is a reminder to them that they have to get back to you. If you email them three reminders, you get really irritating. So, say they respond to you with, “We’ll get back to you in a couple of days!” Wait a day, maybe even two, and respond to them saying, “Great! Looking forward to it.” Or something in that vein. It’s a reminder camouflaged in a simple response.
Follow-Up, But Don’t Be a Douche
My “Don’t Be a Douch Rule” stretches out to not just email but every facet of life. Yes, follow-up after a week. Yes, check-in. No, don’t bother them. No, don’t expect a response. No, don’t be a douche about it. If they’re not responding, they’re not interested — give it a month, give it a couple of check-ins, if there’s nothing, well then, you don’t need them and they don’t need you.
Chill The Mailing List out
If I emailed you, it doesn’t mean I want to forever be on your mailing list. Please leave me alone, you’re becoming comparable to the guy that keeps talking about my “love hammer.”
Don’t Invite 500 of Them to Your Facebook
It struck me that while I did it by accident, I can see people doing this purposefully. It’s probably not worth it. Partly because it’s really annoying, and partly because you probably don’t want anyone who can maybe hire you in the future to see the photos of you with that prostitute that your friends thought would be totally funny to tag you in.
Finally, Don’t Be A Douche
I’d like to reiterate this. Don’t make friends so that those friends can help you. Don’t email people and play nice until you get ahead — let’s not continue to make the entertainment business a place of faux relationships and backstabbery. Don’t be a douche and good things will happen, really.
That’s all for my email tips. Feel free to add your own to the comments! I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks!