Happy December! This year has gone by so quickly: I’m slightly bewildered that it’s December already, although, frankly, I won’t be sorry to see the end of 2016. I’ve had some amazing times personally this year, but globally, there have been some pretty awful things going on, and I’m hoping that the international upsets will be fewer and further between from 2017 onward. However, it being December does mean that I have been blogging for just over six months now, which is an exciting thing to realise. Well done me, and thank you all for reading; whether you’ve been here for six months or six minutes, I hope you enjoy it here, and that you stay! Today’s post is an advice blog about writing emails and particularly invitation emails, from my experience in the arts. I hope it’s useful to you!
As I mentioned last week, The Marlowe Showcase was more successful than it had been in the past at getting an audience of agents to attend the London performance, which was an achievement I was pleased with. Several people mentioned they’d like some advice, so I thought I’d collate what I got from writing invitations for Fuel over the summer and for the Marlowe Showcase this term, alongside some more general thoughts about writing emails in general.
1. Make Your Emails Personal
This is the single most important piece of advice for any email. It’s obviously particularly relevant for invitations, which you clearly are sending to as many people as possible, but any email – asking for advice, or a reference… should be clearly addressed to the person recieving it.
No one wants to receive spam emails, and the best way to make your emails look like spam is sending them to every email address you have access to. At the very least, you should be addressing your emails to the company you are writing to (e.g. “Dear all at Name of Company,”), but ideally, you want to be writing to individuals (i.e. “Dear Joe,”) and noting that you know who they work for in the body of the email (e.g. “We would be delighted to welcome you to Event, along with any of your colleagues at Name of Company who you think might enjoy it.”).
If you really don’t have time to send them to people individually, make sure to send them by bcc (this is good practice for group emails in life in general, if you aren’t sure that every member of the group is happy for every other member of the group to have their contact details) but frankly, the time it takes to copy and paste an identical email and change just the opening Dear _____, is the best time you can spend for this (or, if you have the money/infrastructure, you could pay for a system such as iContact or Spektrix to do that for you).
The more personal you can make the email, the better. So if you met someone briefly, mention it (e.g. “Dear Name, We met briefly at Past Event, and I thought you might enjoy this Event, so I would be delighted to welcome you” etc…), making it clear that they are recieving a very personal email. Other personal touches can be things such as: mutual aquaintances (e.g. “Name mentioned you with high regard, and etc…”), appreciation of something specific about their company (or the ethic/atmosphere/something more general if you on’t actually know anything very specific), appreciation of a particular piece of work they contributed to (e.g. “I particularly enjoyed your Name of Show, and etc…”) or anything you know about them/the company that you can drop in to suggest that you are writing to them specifically, and not sending spam (even if, to some extent, you are).
2. Be polite, and to the point
Keep emails, particularly to people you don’t know very well, quite formal. In the arts, I would tend to address people by their first names (for invitations and most other emails), even if we haven’t been introduced, but otherwise I would keep everything fairly formal: Dear, not Hi or Hello, signing off with All best, or Best Wishes, or Kind Regards (I tend to prefer one of the first two, which are slightly warmer, but any will do), and correct written English throughout.
However, also keep them as short and to the point as possible: if it is an effort to read your email because it is too long and full of flowery formalities, you can be fairly sure that a lot of people simply won’t have time/be willing to make the effort.
Make it easy to spot the important information; for an invitation: who you are, what they are being invited to, when and where, and provide other necessary information (e.g. details about the event, a dress code, if applicable, any charges or a link to buy tickets if you’re inviting people to buy tickets, rather than attend an event as a guest…).
If you can design an email to look good (e.g. you have your own logo and or colour-code and an ability to create a simple graphic design), this may be a good idea, but don’t let design get in the way of ease of reading. (Basically, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably better off with simple, well written, black text on a white background.)
3. Keep track of Responses and contact details
This is longer term advice, and for either reccurring events or for trying to buil up a consistent audience. If you can, keep track of who responded what; if they said they would come to something and did, or didn’t, if they said they would be interested but weren’t available… This makes 1. easier in the future, because then you know that Joe Blogs came to Event last year, and you can write “Dear Joe, We remembered you enjoyed Event last year, and we’d be delighted if you would join us again etc…”, or you know that Jane Bloggs wanted to come, but was unable to attend, and you can write “Dear Jane, You were interested in Event last year, but were unable to attend and we wondered if you would be interested in attending this year. We would be delighted etc…”
It’s also useful to retain that firstname.lastname@example.org is answered by Fred Smith, and, if Fred Smith responds from email@example.com, keeping that address and writing to that one in future is also helpful. Having several email addresses from the same company is a helpful thing in general, because if you want to try and contact an individual but don’t have their address, you can make an educated guess. (I.e. if you’d known that both Joe Bloggs’ and Jane Bloggs’ email addresses were firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, you could guess that Fred Smith’s would be firstname.lastname@example.org, and not email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com etc…)
As you become more established, you may decide to invest in software such as iContact or Spektrix which can do some of this for you, but in the mean time, a well organised google doc is your friend. You probably want the following columns: Name, Company, Job Title, Email Address, Phone Number, Events Attended in Past, Past Communication, Other Info, with as much information about anyone you contact as possible, for future reference. I would order it by contact surname in alphabetical order, but you can do whatever is most useful.
That’s it for this week, I hope you found this useful! Please like the post if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you’d like to hear more (next week is an update on Cigarettes and Chocolate, and my thoughts on the Old Vic’s King Lear, with Glenda Jackson in the title role) and leave a comment with your thoughts or questions, or any suggestions of things you’d like to read about from me in future!