I get five to ten communications a day from people asking for help – advice, promoting a campaign, reading a script etc. I pride myself on helping as many people as I can (if I can), but sometimes it’s just not possible. And if I am honest, sometimes, the communication I am sent can lead me to hit the delete button…
So what is it in some messages that makes people help, where others, they just bin?
Here is a my take on how to get people to help you.
Don’t expect YOUR preferred comms channel to be the best way to get in touch.
I don’t often read Facebook messages. I do read some Twitter messages, but infrequently. I don’t always check the answerphone either. But I always read emails. So for me at least, the best way to get in touch is via email. However, other people will respond to Twitter or Facebook where emails will go unread. The key is to understand that they may not like (or even use) YOUR preferred communication method. Research and try all communications avenues if needed. The usual mistake is to send a Tweet, get nothing, and give up. Don’t give up, try another route.
More than anything, over verbose, knowingly clever or lazily edited messages drive me nuts. I would share some of the howlers I have received in the past, but that would be unkind. More than anything, respect the time of your reader. They do NOT owe you their time. Be clear and get to the point. One line to introduce yourself and your relationship to the reader, two or three lines with your offer / proposal / question, and a final line offering contact information and thanks.
Ask just one thing
Make it easy for your reader to say yes. Ask just one thing and then offer them a way to fulfill that request. For instance if you wanted a specific actor to do a narration on your film you might say, ‘I would be honored if you would perform the narration for our film (insert project and WHY they might be interested)… We have secured a top studio and we can make this happen any time that suits you. I can even arrange to get you collected and dropped off’. Of course, you will need context around this request, but the point is you are asking for ONE thing and making it very easy to say yes.
Ask for advice
People help people they know, so build a relationship first. If you ask for simple, professional and targeted advice, you will probably get a meeting. If you ask for a million dollars, you will get deleted. Again, be specific. I get emails from people saying ‘I need help making my film, can you call me back?’ I really do get those messages on my answerphone! DELETE!
Flatter but don’t kiss ass
Everyone likes to feel important and appreciated. They key is to not go over the top and into sycophancy. Tell the person you have seen their work, you are a fan, it has influenced you enormously (and be specific and honest). You want to chime in with them and their work, not to gush like a star struck nerd so that the reader considers you a fanboy/consumer instead of a serious film maker with questions.
Your film is not extraordinary
I don’t care what your mum says. I don’t care what your actors say. Your film is not extraordinary, so don’t tell me it is. Everyone thinks their film is special, which by definition makes it average! Now it might be extraordinary IF Michael Caine loves it, or a Sales Agent has backed it. That kind of professional ‘proof’ acts as a convincer that you are not a crazy person who is in love with their own work. And even IF you get a powerful person to rubber stamp your project, be humble about it and don’t go on about it.
I can’t tell you how many emails I get that say ‘I am sorry for the intrusion’ or ‘It’s probably not important enough for you’. Jeez! Grow a pair! If you don’t believe your project is the most important thing in the world, why would anyone else?
Give me a reason to click through
If you are sending a link, offer some context and a reason to click through. I get lots of mails saying ‘here is my horror movie trailer, it was made for no money over weekends, what do you think of it?’ Why on earth would anyone click on that? As an alternative example you could say ‘this is our horror feature promo (2 mins) which has already had 6,000 views on YouTube – I would love your advice about which sales agents to approach with this feature film’. Specific, qualified and clear. Remember, getting anyone to click on a link is VERY hard, so help people make that choice.
Assume I WON’T click through to your site
Distill EVERYTHING down to a line or two. Never say ‘it’s all on my website, click here…’ Tell the reader what they need to know concisely and offer the link as a way of getting more information (if they are interested).
Ask via a blog
Ask me a question via my blog and you are more likely to get a response. Why? Well first it shows you have done some research and have landed on a relevant page. Second, my answer is public, therefore it adds to my online digital footprint. Google will pick up on the answer and catalogue it for future searches. Then someone else my chime in with a further response of their own (again this adds to my Google footprint). This conversation also creates a relationship, and mentioned earlier, we know that people are more likely to help people they know. A good example of this is what happened on my last blog entry on Editing Software.
Write a letter or send a fax
I can delete your email in a nanosecond, but it’s harder to throw a hand written letter into the bin. I would say less than one percent of my communications are via the postal service. Always strive to be different, it gets results.
Make a call
Phone the person. You probably won’t get through, but if you do, you will get much further much faster. You will also have demonstrated chutzpah and of course created a relationship, even if it is with a PA who asks you to write an email! Of course you should still call back after a few days. Then call again. Just don’t call me 😉
Make sure you include ALL contact information
This drives me NUTS! Please include your FULL name, title (if needed), email, phone, twitter, FB, blog , website. Need I explain why?
What’s in it for me?
We are in an ever connected world where anyone can reach anyone. But what’s in it for me? When I get a communication, what can you offer in return for the investment in time? People are way more likely to help if there is something in it for them. The old school way was to turn up on the doorstep with a bottle of booze to say ‘thanks’.
Do you have any tips to add yourself?
Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author