Making an effective request for a favour

From time to time, we all have to write emails asking other professionals to be kind enough to do something for us. In marketing communications, it might be asking an editor to run an article, or asking a website owner for a link. The key to success with these, according to some of the people who receive a lot, is to avoid making the recipient do the work.

One way of accidentally falling into this trap is being too humble. As an editor, most of the covering notes which I received would say something like: “We’d be grateful if you’d read our latest press release attached and consider it for publication”. That’s fine, but that’s effectively saying: “We’ve no idea if this will be of any interest”. Why not say: “We know that this will be of significant interest to Widget World readers”? Then sell that significance hard.

That, of course, brings us on to a second point, which is personalisation. If you’re asking for a favour, at least go to the effort of showing some interest in the recipient. If you (or your customers) are frequent users of a website which you want a link from, prove it. “I’ve been on your mailing list since…” or “I recommended your article about…” are good examples.

Always think of these things as conversations. I rarely receive emails asking for favours or help which are couched in what might be called normal conversational language. Ask the person next to you for the same favour as you’re about to ask for in a letter, and use that spoken exchange as the basis for your written request.

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