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Getting Beyond the Unanswered email – what Yale radio taught me

One of the issues I deal with most often when working with artists, is how to follow-up with possible new relationships when they don’t return your email. My Yale Radio interview series continues to teach me about the answer to this.

It is a big issue because for so many artists, because that is where most people stop, or soon after that. Some people say they don’t have thick enough skin to handle rejections, or a non-reply to an email sent – to keep trying over and over again.

I understand that, and I know many people stop there, and move on to other things. You probably know what I mean, maybe a gallerist or collector said they liked your work, and you followed up, but never heard from them again. Or maybe you met someone at a party or through a friend, and you know it would be good to follow-up, but you haven’t, or you did once, and then stopped because they never wrote back? I know I have, it is very common. But I am learning new techniques all the time to get beyond the unanswered email.

This is not about procrastination, it is about the the phenomena of not getting an email returned.

I interview about 10 people every week for Yale University radio, and have interviewed over 400 people so far, and my show is growing so fast in terms of its subscribers, that I recieve quite a lot of letters these days from people asking to be interviewed for the show. Since I have been interviewing a mix of notable figures, like museum directors, major critics and major artists as well as unknown artists or lesser known artists and non-profit centers, I get requests from a variety of people.

Since this radio show is an unpaid job, and something that I do for the pleasure and personal interest of it, I can only put so much of my time into it, and so I can’t answer all the emails right away that ask for me to to consider an interview with the person who wrote the email.

However, some people keep writing and asking over and over, and I find time for many of those people, in between other things during the week.

The reason I say all this is because I notice that some people write to me several times before I write back. Imagine that, you are asking for an interview, I don’t write back, and you ask four more times and I still don’t write back, but on the fifth time I do write back, and the interview is scheduled!

I can only imagine what people are thinking who send me email repeatedly that I do not answer right away, but I imagine it is what we all think – “maybe he doesn’t like me, maybe he thinks I would be a bad interview, maybe I am not important enough for him, maybe he is too busy…” And maybe some do stop after three requests I didn’t answer.

What this has taught me, and what it might help you with right now, is that following up consistently and politely works. The people who are writing to me now asking for interviews are often major writers, well-known collectors, and critics. They are not people who really need more press attention or interviews, but the way they are writing to me is probably how they became such large figures to begin with.

The techniques they use to write repeated letters are designed to get my attention – they compliment me, they compliment my show, they ask humbly, if I would be interested…, sometimes people even send me small gifts, but remember I am talking about people you would not think would pursue something like this. These are people who are in the top of their fields. They are teaching me all the time what it means to follow up like a professional.

So if you haven’t gotten a response to an email that you wish you had, try following up with creative replies, and if you can find a way to compliment the person you are writing to, it will probably increase your odds of getting a reply.





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