Self-PR 101: How NOT to approach someone for help

by Lee Hopkins on February 14, 2008 · 11 comments

in marketing

I received this request from someone working at a company in a foreign country. That’s about as much information as I’m going to give away as to their identity, but see if you can spot the reasons why I might not spend as much time helping them out as I otherwise might have…

I am a masters student researching on the effects of internal communication on job satisfaction in a company i work for. Please direct me on how to go about it. Secondly provide me with a list of questions that must be asked to management of the organisation and the employees I am going to interview. I strongly need you support as an expert in internal communication.

The sad thing is I get at least one of these a week, usually two or three.

I guess there’s an opportunity to set up some workshops there, but I’m not sure who to approach to organise it, and who could actually afford to fly me over…

If you received an email like this, what would you do? Truly. I’d love to know.

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  • http://www.author-izer.com/ Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with ‘s

    Pardon me, but doesn’t this person have instructors? I’ve had students approach me about various things (including writing their essays for them), and I always tell them to go to their own teachers and advisors for help. In the US, universities provide a lot of support to students if they know to ask for it. When I was teaching, I was happy to help students write better essays even if it meant more work for me.

    And this person really seems to want you to do it for him or her, rather than suggesting some possible interview questions and asking for your opinion. Perhaps you need to provide a link to the “All our services are reassuringly expensive” headline on the Podcast Asylum home page.

  • http://www.author-izer.com Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with ‘sketch’)

    Pardon me, but doesn’t this person have instructors? I’ve had students approach me about various things (including writing their essays for them), and I always tell them to go to their own teachers and advisors for help. In the US, universities provide a lot of support to students if they know to ask for it. When I was teaching, I was happy to help students write better essays even if it meant more work for me.

    And this person really seems to want you to do it for him or her, rather than suggesting some possible interview questions and asking for your opinion. Perhaps you need to provide a link to the “All our services are reassuringly expensive” headline on the Podcast Asylum home page.

  • http://www.stefandidak.com/office Stefan Didak

    I get about one a week like that, sometimes a bit more depending on web popularity at any given time. Mostly from students in the IT field, computer sciences, etc. asking me for career advice or tips on which classes to take, or generally asking me for a list of things they should do and in what order and for what reason.

    Since I have no clue about formal IT education (and have a rather strong opinion about what is considered computer science education these days) I usually respond saying I am not the right person to ask for help. What I would really like to tell them is “do yourself a favor, if you want to be great instead of mediocre or sub-standard with a few degrees to back it up, drop out, study your butt off on your own and learn all the things you can learn, specialize if you want to or be a great generalist but don’t rely on a formal education).

    At one point I actually did say that. I thought I was clear in that it was in jest and I would never really advise anyone to do that (not officially anyway) and after a few e-mails back and forth asking me why I would say such a thing I suddenly end up on the phone with one very angry mother who feared her son, who had just dropped out, would not be capable of competing with the jobs that are getting outsourced to cheap labor countries. It was quite an interesting conversation, I must say.

    So these days I completely refrain from providing advice on education and stick to the short answer unless someone really has a very specific question that I can provide a meaningful answer to. :)

    If the e-mail is rude and along the lines of “please provide me with this that and that, thank you” I usually just don’t respond at all. At that point I don’t care if someone thinks that’s rude of me.

  • http://www.stefandidak.com/office Stefan Didak

    I get about one a week like that, sometimes a bit more depending on web popularity at any given time. Mostly from students in the IT field, computer sciences, etc. asking me for career advice or tips on which classes to take, or generally asking me for a list of things they should do and in what order and for what reason.

    Since I have no clue about formal IT education (and have a rather strong opinion about what is considered computer science education these days) I usually respond saying I am not the right person to ask for help. What I would really like to tell them is “do yourself a favor, if you want to be great instead of mediocre or sub-standard with a few degrees to back it up, drop out, study your butt off on your own and learn all the things you can learn, specialize if you want to or be a great generalist but don’t rely on a formal education).

    At one point I actually did say that. I thought I was clear in that it was in jest and I would never really advise anyone to do that (not officially anyway) and after a few e-mails back and forth asking me why I would say such a thing I suddenly end up on the phone with one very angry mother who feared her son, who had just dropped out, would not be capable of competing with the jobs that are getting outsourced to cheap labor countries. It was quite an interesting conversation, I must say.

    So these days I completely refrain from providing advice on education and stick to the short answer unless someone really has a very specific question that I can provide a meaningful answer to. :)

    If the e-mail is rude and along the lines of “please provide me with this that and that, thank you” I usually just don’t respond at all. At that point I don’t care if someone thinks that’s rude of me.

  • http://www.strivepr.com/wordpress Sherrilynne Starkie

    You should push the email to the student’s instructor with a polite note saying that you are unable to help at this time. Along with a link to this post.

  • http://www.strivepr.com/wordpress Sherrilynne Starkie

    You should push the email to the student’s instructor with a polite note saying that you are unable to help at this time. Along with a link to this post.

  • http://www.jasmineshanea.blogspot.com Jasmine Shanea

    A master’s student writing ‘I strongly need YOU support’?! I applaud this student for having the guts to send such an email. He or she needs to learn something about email etiquette and emotional intelligence. I guess all we can do is to pray for the future of education all around the world.

  • http://www.jasmineshanea.blogspot.com/ Jasmine Shanea

    A master’s student writing ‘I strongly need YOU support’?! I applaud this student for having the guts to send such an email. He or she needs to learn something about email etiquette and emotional intelligence. I guess all we can do is to pray for the future of education all around the world.

  • Liam

    I too get a few of these – and rarely reply. When I did once I got no response or acknowldgement.

    Originally I thought the blunt tone was something to do with a different language or culture but then realised it made little difference if the note came from the UK or elsewhere.

    Liam

  • Liam

    I too get a few of these – and rarely reply. When I did once I got no response or acknowldgement.

    Originally I thought the blunt tone was something to do with a different language or culture but then realised it made little difference if the note came from the UK or elsewhere.

    Liam

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