How To Email Strangers: Talking With Talent and the New Media Elite


Subject: give

To: [email protected]


Date: Aug 19, 2007 6:38 PM

My office a call. I want to talk to you about TV projects



Chief Executive Officer

XXXX Digital Entertainment



Well, not like that. PR 2.0 and the New Media rest on one thing: Personal Relationships. Actually, forget that. The world now rests on these relationships. They’ve always been important but now–now, people connect with anyone, anywhere. So if it isn’t with you it will be with the next guy.

Like I said earlier in the week, I signed my first client. In a space with behemoth competitors who do nothing but scout for a living, you’d think it would be next to impossible to speak with the talent. That is a mistake. For one thing, no one else is actually speaking WITH the talent, they’re speaking DOWN TO the talent. It is actually very easy. There is hardly an important blogger or site out there that hasn’t at least gotten an email from me. Sometimes it has been about stuff that helps me but a lot of time it hasn’t. I’ve talked to pretty much everyone–and look at me, I’m a nobody.

In actuality, the pitch has devolved instead of evolved. It has been pared down to its purest form: The Connection. That’s PR–the bond. What do you bring to the table right then and there, what can tear down the suspicion, the resentment, the fear? In most cases, genuineness is the cheapest and best route. Instead of tricking the talent into thinking you like their art, what if you actually liked it? Instead of creating the illusion of history or of research, what if it was already created?

If you break down the email situation above, it is very easy to see what happened and then what could have happened. Tucker probably popped up on the CEO’s tracking grid–someone told him he was hot. And because the CEO has the words Chief and Executive in his title, he figured it was a safe bet assuming that he was more important. He didn’t know his space. He didn’t bother to look that the traffic of his online video service had half the traffic of the client he couldn’t bother to write a professional email to. Probability said that some smuck on the internet couldn’t have already made the rounds in Hollywood (and wrote about it) and stated loudly his terms for any future negotiations.

The thing is that those metrics–the probabilities, the assumptions and the fancy titles–they don’t mean as much as they used to and they certainly aren’t as accurate. The glory days are over. No question, Hollywood still has power, tons of it. But it would be a mistake for them to conclude that nobody else does. And that is the current source of conflict and surest ticket to obsolescence. Old school or new school, humility and a keen sense of reality are now the ultimate assets.

So when I send emails, or made cold-pitches to new people I make sure that respect is my number one priority. Tell me where you can go wrong treating people that way. It makes them feel good and it makes me feel good. You can’t feign respect–only obsequiousness. I enter the conversation informed or I don’t enter at all and I always, always have something to offer. Again, that something can be respect. Your email should be real. It should have real words; words that people use. No one wants to hear about your plan to “maximize all existing and possible revenue streams by leveraging strategic partnerships in the, various applicable niches.” They want to see that you are a master of your space but aware enough to realize that not everyone else is. They need to know that you are personable and honest and are prepared to give before you receive. That means giving a taste of what you have to offer and having the confidence to know they’ll want the whole thing. And being big enough to know that sometimes they won’t and that your only loss was helping someone.

Think back to ultimatum games; people don’t live in a vacuum and they don’t always act in an economically rational way. You have to think that in America, in an atypically wealthy sector of the population that is predisposed towards intellectual and artistic activities, things like dignity and emotion are going to mean almost as much as money. There is more at stake here than dollars. All your reaches need to be run through that lens because then and only then will you be able to establish meaningful connections with the people who matter.

Normally, someone would hide these methods from the public eye. I don’t have anything to lose. Ultimately, I am supremely confident in my ability to connect and contribute to the necessary influencers in the right communities. You should be too. This isn’t the stock market and I have inside information. This is a strength competition–whoever works harder wins. Do you know your space or not? If you don’t, someone will do better. Put in the time, bring authenticity to the table and you will be accepted.

By no means am I perfect here. I fuck up all the time. I’ve rushed emails before truly researching or I have snapped to judgments without getting the full picture. But, when that happens I ALWAYS admit it before I am called on it. Because if they notice first then it is over. And if it isn’t, then they aren’t worth dealing with. And I have never, ever sent anything close to the email spotlighted above.

Conclusion: Be respectful. Be knowledgeable. Be honest and always apologize. With those (genuine) traits in your pocket you can have real access and real opportunities with anyone you can think of.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.