How to communicate to get what you want, top strategies and pitfalls to avoid

As a film maker I am in the business of communication. It is the cornerstone of my business. Communicating big ideas with the world. Communicating stories with financiers, backers, actors, producers and broadcasters. And communicating with my community, sharing my journey and sometimes asking for help.

As I write this I am downloading 79 emails. That’s not too many today as I checked my email last night at midnight, and it’s been a bank holiday here in the UK. Generally I get several hundred emails a day. If I don’t manage my email daily, it quickly becomes a huge job to get through it. I also have over 3,000 followers on Twitter and many thousands on Facebook, if you include all the groups.

So for me, receiving communications is a BIG part of my job. I don’t know if ‘that message’ that I am getting now is from a major producer, an emerging film maker or just cleverly worded spam.

However, from what I receive daily, hourly and minute by minute, I can tell you that many people would get more responses if they just considered what messages they send and how they send them.

So how do YOU communicate with the world?

Have you ever considered that you could be significantly more successful if you thought more about your communication technique and content?

So some thoughts.

1. Don’t write a long email. People don’t have the time to read it. Keep ALL non essential information out. I am all for well written messages, but don’t make people have to work out what you are saying. This is not a work or art.

2. Ask for one thing only. If you ask for more than one, chances are they may have said yes to the first thing, but are unsure about the second, and so do not reply. Keep requests short, simple and clear.

3. Clarify WHO you are. I can’t ell you how many messages I get where the writer EXPECTS me to know who they are.

4. Add a footer with ALL your contact details, phone, email, address, skype, and social media links. You would be amazed at how hard some people make it for me to get in touch when they have asked for help or support.

5. Include a clear subject line. I am guilty of failing on this one! Doh!

6. How does the recipient want to be communicated with? Twitter? Facebook? Email? I don’t like messages over Twitter or Facebook, yet still I get tons of them. It’s not about how YOU like to communicate, it’s how the recipient likes to be contacted. Do not expect it is one way or another.

7. If you don’t get a response, write again. Keep being persistent, concise, engaging and positive.

8. NEVER, and I mean NEVER make the person you are writing to feel guilty for not responding. There is no agreement that says anyone MUST respond to a communication. I get these kind of angry, self righteous emails occasionally and usually just delete them and block the sender. Life is too short.

9. Do not assume your email has arrived. Many get lost in cyberspace and spam filters. If you don’t get a response, try again, and try another forms of communication.

10. Don’t be too friendly or behave like a ‘mate’ unless you are. You can be cheeky, but do it knowingly so.

11. If you have any relationship at all, mention that… ‘we met briefly at… I was the person who…’

12. Always add your name to communications, it’s amazing how few people do.

13. If text messaging, do not assume I have your number in my phone. Again, clarify who you are.

14. If leaving voice mail, leave your name and number TWICE, and at the start of the message. I don’t want to listen to three minutes of message to try and decipher a mumbled number.

15. Are you sending a message that is NOT a message, but a conversation? Social media gurus teach us to engage with people. Most of time, I don’t have time to engage with my better half, so really, I am not going to engage with everyone and every message. There is nothing wrong with a conversation, just make the distinction between an online chat and a message to which you want a specific response. Specific requests are usually easier to respond to than conversations.

16. Above all, keep it short and to the point.

Have you considered?

1. Make a phone call. It works, it really does. So much more is conveyed in a short conversation than can ever be deduced from an email. Of course it’s a double edged sword as not everyone will want to speak on the phone, but you would be surprised.

2. Write a letter. I get about one letter a week. And I always open it and read it.

3. Turn up. Yes that’s right, actually go to someone if you want some important information or a relationship. Again you’d be surprised how few people do this, but also, how effective it can be.

Above all, remember it is up to YOU to be clear and to be understood.

If the person you are communicating with does not ‘get it’, it is not their fault. It’s yours.

Remember, not everyone enjoys communication in YOUR preferred way, they may hate Twritter and Facebook for instance (I check emails many times a day, where Twitter and FB could easily be once a day, may be even less).

In the new Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook we had a section on PPP, Polite, Professional and Persistent. You can read that box out below.


People often ask how we got so much for free when making films, how we got crews to work such long hours, and why they are all still our friends (mostly). The first thing to remember is that if ‘we believe’, it’s much easier for others to believe too. So it all begins with what most people would call conviction and passion. Then add PPP – requests that are professional, persistent and polite.

So when you send out a letter, make sure that it’s short, specific, concise, typo free and has accurate contact details. That would be a professional letter. In our office, we regularly receive a hand scrawled DVD in the post. That is NOT professional. Persistent means when they say no, you professionally and politely ask again, maybe in a different way. Or you ask someone else. Polite means always being gracious. It’s hard to dislike anyone who is always smiling, calm and confident.

To recap… Set your goal then be professional, persistent and polite about getting there…

Buy the Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook direct from us…

And if you want your own signed copy of the Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook, you can get it direct from us here.

Do you have any more tactics for communication?

Onwards and upwards

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author


One Response to How to communicate to get what you want, top strategies and pitfalls to avoid

  1. jason August 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    so true.. a session to us all.

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