How NOT to Email Famous People

Written By John Sonmez

In this episode, I talk about emailing famous people.

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Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from I am still here in Amsterdam and this video really doesn’t have anything to do with Amsterdam but I got a few emails recently and I thought I would do a response to not to the email specifically but the kind of emails that I’ve been getting to give some tips on what you should do if you want to basically email someone who you feel could help promote you in some way, right? If you’re reaching out to someone kind of at a higher level than you and you want their help what should you do and what shouldn’t you do? I’m seeing a lot of things that are not good. I’m not trying to pick on anyone specifically but I thought I would mention some of these things as I’m looking through some of these emails that I’ve been saving of the ones that have not been quite doing it so well.

Also I got some new glasses. I don’t know if you noticed that but my old ones have that crack in them and I didn’t want to get rid of them because I like those glasses so much. But I got some new ones that I think are kind of cool so we’ll see. They look almost like the old ones, so anyway.

So basically here’s the thing, right? You want to email someone, let’s say, I get this a lot because of my blogging course. If you want to sign up for my blogging course, free blogging course by the way, just go to is that it? I hope that’s right. Blog-course, Anyway, I get a lot of emails because of that from people that are trying to get me to help promote their content or their people.

One of the—and this is okay to do, but you’ve got to do it the right way. Here’s the thing, I'm going to look at a few emails here. One of the big problems that I see first off is subject line. Subject line is definitely really important. You want to clearly state what it’s about and you don’t want to sound spam-y at all. You don’t want to have a subject line that’s talking about helping you or doing something for you. You want to find something that’s going to be valuable to someone who might be getting 100, 200, 1000 emails a day so that might be something about how you could help them or something that—a subject that they’re interested in that you know.

The other thing that I would say is okay, so you have to understand how email kind of etiquette works and also where the level is. Okay, so I see a lot of emails where I am one of the To’s on the email, right? Then it’s like a whole bunch of people like Scott Hanselman and Bob Martin and all kinds of different fairly high level technologists, bloggers, authors, things like that.

When I see that I know that that someone doesn’t have a personal relationship with all those people. I'm just one of these numbers, one of these people that’s included on this To. I'm seeing all their email addresses, they’re seeing my email address. I might not want to know or that—have that association and I might not everyone having my email address on that list for example or knowing everyone else who—it’s just—that’s not the way to do it, right? Let’s just put it that way. Doing it that way in itself is not good. It also shows—that’s the key thing as I would say is like if you’re emailing all these different people that you’re asking for help from it’s very impersonal, like why would I help you?

The other issue—so what should you do, right? So what you should do is you should email, write a separate email to every single person that you’re going to ask for some kind of favor or help from or a request and personalize the first line or 2. You can have a copy and paste thing where you’re—the body of your message, I’ve done this multiple times when I’ve requested things or asked for help for something. But the first line or 2 should be specific to that person and they should be on the To. You can’t do a CC. You can’t To everyone in there and no BCCs either because if you BCC mass mail people will know that as well. You want to personalize the email, at least the beginning of it, congratulate someone on something that they wrote or that really helped you that will segue into your request.

Now we get to the point of your request. If you make a request from someone you have to phrase it in terms of what is in it for them. You can make a request and say, “Will you help me out?” That’s fine. Some people will help you out of obligation but it’s so much better to say, “You know, I’ve got something that my help you or something your audience might be interested in because I know that you blogged about this and there are people asking about this so I wrote up this thing that bam you can just give out and that would help you.” Phrase it that way. You’ve really got to think about what’s in it for them. You can’t make this stuff up otherwise it’s not going to work out because I get so many pitches like, “Oh, your audience would find this interesting.” No, you’re just pitching your thing, but something realistically. You might have to stretch a little bit to figure out what that is but—and if you can’t then you probably—your request is probably going to get denied. It probably doesn’t make sense anyway, right?

That’s the key thing. The other piece of this is you want to show success, right? Don’t email someone and ask them to help you or to spread your thing or to share your thing because you are not doing well. You want to say, “I am having all the success. People are reading my stuff. I'm really growing.” And note some other people, “I got so and so to share this article or to contribute to this” and use some name dropping there to show that you’re getting success that other successful people are communicating with you, they’re participating in what you want this person to do. That’s going to make it much more likely.

I think that’s really the key things there. Obviously you need to have things well formed, keep the email short as possible. If you are going to ask someone to tweet something, share something, create a shareable link for them that they can just click or retweet a thing or make it as easy as possible where they just have to click a thing or you give them what they could post, definitely a direct link to that. Make it as simple as possible that’s another key thing.

You could follow up in this case, but you have to be careful with that because following up when you’re making a request like that, if you don’t do it right—I'm a big fan of following up, keep following up with people but make sure that it doesn’t look like you’re mass mailing following up. If you do that that’s going to be just—that’s going to be really bad. You want to make it individualized and personalized if you do follow up because then it just looks like a sequence of follow up. Yeah, that’s not going to work out too well.

Anyway, hopefully those tips help you out if you’re trying to, you know, I always say reach out to people that are above you that can help you but make sure you do it in the right way. You want to show them success. You want to show them what’s in it for them, make it personalized and really think about it before you send that email and realize that people are just busy. They might not do it if there’s not a strong what’s in it for them they’re not going to let you just borrow their audience.

Also, try to go one level up, not 5 levels up a lot of times. Sometimes you can hit one out of the park, but for the most part you have a lot more success like finding people that are like if you’re like in this little orbit find people that are in this bigger orbit that are one level up, not way, way—don’t email the president of the United States and ask him to share something, right? You’ve got to figure that out and you work your way up the levels.

Anyway, hopefully that’s helpful. If you like this video, this podcast definitely subscribe and share it. Take care.