HOW TO ALIENATE STRANGERS WITH E-MAIL
by Dan O’Day
At the end of a very long seminar day in Singapore, I went back to my hotel, booted up my computer, and instructed it to download my e-mail. Half an hour later, it still was downloading.
Some disc jockey I don't know sent me an unsolicited, 892K MP3 file, and it took forever to download over the hotel's phone lines. Unfortunately, if I aborted that file's download, I wouldn't be able to access the 47 other e-mail messages that were in my box.
E-Mail #1, From "Julie Jock"
(No, her name isn't Julie; I'm disguising her identity):
"Love your newsletter....Here's a lil sample of one of the regular features on my show."
Note: She was not a subscriber to my newsletter. This was the first I'd ever heard of (or from) her. When I finally received the other 47 messages, I found a subscription enrollment from this jock, along with the note, "I'm very anxious to advance my career."
E-Mail #2, From Dan O'Day To "Julie Jock"
"Dear Julie Jock:
"Sending an unsolicited, huge audio file to someone is one of the stupidest things you can do.
"When I checked my e-mail from my hotel room in Singapore, it was not with the hopes that my computer and my phone line would hijacked for 30 minutes while downloading your file. (And I paid phone charges for every second of those 30 minutes.)
"and very stupid.
"And certainly not an effective way to 'advance your career.' "
Okay, right now you're shocked at my lack of tact. Why didn't I take the time to craft a polite reply that would have gently pointed out to her the error of her ways?
Because she had just wasted 30 minutes of my life. Thirty minutes during which, had I been able to use my computer, I would have been able to prepare for the next day's seminar....Reply to some of the other 47 messages....Maybe write something for my next newsletter.
Because tact takes time. And she had squandered whatever time I might ordinarily have offered her.
And because experience has taught me it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Someone with so little self-awareness will always blame the other person for his or her own actions.
In fact, encounters like this are incredibly predictable.
If it's a male jock, you typically can expect a reply filled with obscenities and exclamation points, plus a chilling retort along the lines of, "You're just an old, pathetic guy who is jealous of the rest of who have genuine talent!"
If it's a female, the reply most likely will feature LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS, lots of exclamation points, and an admonition that "You're the rudest person I've ever encountered!!!" and "I'm going to tell all my friends how awful you are!!!!"
And either sex is likely to try to impress you by exaggerating their own professional accomplishments in a way that would fool only the most naive radio rookie. (My favorite was the guy at a tiny Massachusetts station who proudly proclaimed himself "Executive Producer" of one of that station's local talk shows. Uh-huh.)
E-Mail #3, From "Julie Jock"
"Oops... sorry Dude...."
"I sent a small MP3 file....after reading in your newsletter that you
"Reality check....I sent a small MP3 file...obviously your connection is
slow or your computer is old and out dated......."
"After working with The Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan (maybe you and your has been computer have heard of them) for three years in Los Angeles...I find you rude and offensive."
"EXCUSE ME! ... for bothering you."
Surprise! No excessive exclamation marks or capital letters. And, gee, if I actually encourage people to send me MP3 files, what's my problem?? In fact, I do encourage people to send me audio. But as in my newsletter, I stress that it needs to be by postal mail only.
Wow, she worked with The Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan for three years in Los Angeles. Don and Robert W. both worked at KRTH. But I live in L.A., and I've never heard of Julie Jock, who now works a small market in the Midwest.
Which tells me one thing: Either she worked there as an intern, or she worked there as a traffic reporter. Okay, I'm impressed.
E-Mail #4, From Dan O'day To "Julie Jock"
"Please show me where in my newsletter I encourage people to e-mail me any type of audio file."
E-Mail #5, From "Julie Jock"
"Why do you pretend to be concerned about fellow brothers and sisters in the industry in your newsletter but come off like such a (EXPLETIVE) in real life?
"I'm sorry it takes you 30 minutes to download a dinky mp3 file....
"Reality check time.....do I want a person who uses a 386 to consult my career??????"
Um...Didn't I already explain why her "dinky" file took 30 minutes to download? Is it really rude of me to have the temerity to download my own e-mail from a slow server?
Why am I sharing this with you?
Trust me, it's not because I "need to vent." I've received much worse communiques over the years.
When you send someone a sample of your work, you are hoping that will help your career in some way. You owe it to yourself to do everything possible to insure that the other person is receptive. And you do that by making it as easy as possible for that person to listen...and to want to listen.
Julie Jock sent an MP3 file because that was easiest for her. Attach it to an e-mail, hit "Send," and she's done. No dubbing to cassette or CD, no finding and then addressing an envelope, no fumbling for the correct postage.
But if a stranger wants me to hear her tape, I don't care about making it as easy as possible for her. I want to make it as easy as possible for me. (And if I ask a favor of a stranger, I structure my request in a manner that makes it as easy as possible for that person to comply.)
Will I listen to airchecks of strangers? Sure, I do it all the time. But not when I'm at my computer. I use my computer to write or to access the Internet. I listen to airchecks on cassette or CD, while I do other non-office tasks.
Do you think that's a stupid way for me to listen to airchecks? Maybe you do. Do I have the right to choose to listen to airchecks that way? Yes, I do.
How This Applies To Radio
- When applying for a job (or sending a tape to a stranger), follow instructions. If the job ad says "no phone calls," don't call.
If the ad says "send tape & resume," don't send only a resume along with a note that says, "If you're interested, let me know and I'll send you a tape." (Yes, people really do that.)
- When you send someone a tape, that person assumes they are seeing you at your very best behavior. After all, you're trying to make a good impression, right? But are you giving it your best effort?
I get "help my career" e-mails with astonishing, repeated misspellings. With no kind of salutation or signature, and a return address that doesn't give you a clue as to the sender's identity. I'm not joking; it's not at all unusual to get an e-mail like this:
"hey if u no any body whose lookng 4 a gud jock
im ready to move 4 a gud offur"
You've seen e-mails written that way, too. And if it's from a buddy, that might be fine. But if it's from a job-seeker, you're seeing that person at his very best!
- Maximize the recipient's convenience. Make it as easy as possible for the person to think, "Not only am I interested in hearing this, but I really hope I'll like it!"
- Never ever send an audio file to someone (other than a friend whom you know won't object) without first obtaining their permission. All it takes is a simple e-mail from you. (Yes, that's an extra step for you. Remember whose convenience you want to honor here.)
- Never send unsolicited, unexpected attached files of any kind to a stranger. Doing so is like mailing your tape & resume to someone...C.O.D. Contrary to popular belief, e-mail is not "free." It requires time and resources (e.g., the connection) to download. It interrupts the use of a computer. In many parts of the world, the user pays per phone connection, per second.
- When you contact someone via e-mail, what is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish?
Once you've identified your goal (to get the person to listen to my tape, to get some advice, to obtain information, etc.), do everything in your power to increase the likelihood of the recipient reacting the way you hope they will.
The Dumb Approach: E-mail an audio file, unsolicited, to 100 programmers...knowing that you'll irritate some of them but figuring out of 100 people, someone might listen.
The Smart Approach: E-mail 20 people to ask if you can send them your audio file and then send it only to those who reply in the affirmative... knowing that those who say "yes" will listen.