How to write "Tom Baker" emails...
👉 a "fresh off the press" guide
Sunday’s email about how Tom Baker initially scored poorly as the new Doctor Who got a lot of good feedback, so I thought I’d talk a little about how I came up with it and what made it quite powerful.
And more importantly, how you can use the same process yourself to come up with good ideas for your emails.
There’s also a bonus tip if you read to the end :)
So the genesis of the idea was simple. Unlike The Genesis of the Daleks - sorry, couldn’t resist.
I was reading the BBC website on Saturday and scrolled down to the not-so-serious section they always have at the bottom of the home page. it mentioned it was Tom Baker’s 90th birthday and had links to his early episodes along with some of the feedback.
So I clicked through and - after taking a peek at a few old episodes for nostalgia’s sake - realised there might be a useful lesson in there about not immediately reacting to feedback since change is always challenging.
I then googled around to grab a few facts and figures. When was Baker’s reign as Doctor? Was he really the most popular? Who were his most well-known assistants (I had forgotten K9 believe it or not!).
That all gave me the bones of an email:
And honestly, it really is as simple as that.
The real secret is doing it regularly and consistently.
There are lots of different sources you can use for interesting stories. In this case it was something I just happened to spot reading the news.
I’m sure you spot tons of interesting things every week in things you read or watch on the TV, things you hear from others, hobbies you have, things you see at work or a home.
What makes the difference is picking up on that trigger. Hearing yourself think “that’s interesting” and taking note of what it was.
Because if something is interesting for you, it’ll most likely be interesting for your readers.
If you can use it immediately as I did then that’s great. But more often than not you’ll be out shopping, in the shower, watching TV, out with friends. Somewhere you won’t be in a position to write an email immediately.
In that case, don’t rely on your memory. Write it down. Either in a notebook or on your phone.
Then when you have a spare moment, copy it into an “idea file”.
When you do, have a little think about some of the insights you could draw from it.
In this case the insight was about not reacting immediately to feedback but giving things time. It could equally as well have been about not judging yourself against the finished article of someone successful but instead noticing how they also had challenges early on.
If you can’t think of a relevant insight for your audience, don’t worry. Leave the story in your file and at some point something will occur to you.
Or maybe it won’t. It doesn’t matter.
Get a big pile of ideas into your file and inevitably enough of them will be usable.
Reading this email back it’s obvious that none of this is rocket science.
But it works.
Of everyone reading, nodding their heads and thinking “oh yes, that makes sense”.
I wonder how many have heard this advice or something similar half a dozen times before…
…and I wonder how many have actually implemented it.
I hope you’re one of the ones who has.
Or if you’re not, I hope this email has inspired you to get started. Because believe me, it is exponentially easier to email regularly if you have a collection of ideas written down.
And it’s emailing regularly that gets results.
PS I promised a bonus tip…
One of the reasons emails like the “Tom Baker” one do well is because of nostalgia. Harking back to TV shows, films or music of an era when your readers were young almost always brings back warm memories.
And my experience is that often, your audience is about the same age as you. Maybe a little younger if you’re teaching them about things you’ve done that they’re just embarking on.
So talking about things from your childhood can often stir up warm feelings for them. And those warm feelings rub off on you.
PPS A secret bonus tip…
Did you notice that this email was a “How I…” rather than a “How to…” email.
“How to” emails are very powerful because they give useful information and demonstrate your expertise. But “How I” emails can be even more powerful because they demonstrate your experience too. And by sharing your story and thinking people feel a little closer to you.