Ingenious: Fan letters to the non-famous.

This isn’t about writing fan letters to famous people.

It’s about sending fan letters to people who never get fan letters. (Which is most of us on the planet.)

And therein lies the magic.

Especially if you do it right. (More about that in a second.)

By a ‘fan letter’ I mean a simple note that compliments someone. (I know, what a concept)

It could be an email of applause, or acknowledgement, maybe gratitude. It could be hand-written or snail-mailed or even voice-mailed.

It could be an utterly unexpected note of admiration for an achievement that no one else noticed. An ability or minor talent you saw.

Something that inspired you or taught you something.

You can even express begrudging admiration to a fearsome rival or opponent. (You get extra points for this. And it will put them off balance a bit.)

One of my clients is a brilliant VP who sends fan letters all the time.

She sends them to colleagues, to clients, and especially to her teams. Even to staffers far down the org chart. And to unsung interns on their last day.

She sends congratulations, thank-yous, attagirls, and notes that say “I noticed.”

When someone sees a note from her in the inbox, they get a dopamine rush.

And they drive home that night with the music turned up, and singing along and tapping time on the steering wheel.

The word is, people will crawl over broken glass to work on her teams.

I recently sent a fan email to an illustrator whose work made me envious. I said I wished I could write as simply and insightfully as she draws. I told her that above my desk, I had pinned a copy of her illustration of chewed-up pencil. I told her it makes me smile to look at it.

She wrote back to say she was delighted to get a fan letter. She rarely gets them. We became sort of email friends.

You could send fan letters as a way to to expand your network, and make more friends. And if you were nefarious, you could send fan letters to people you are angling to do business with. If you were nefarious.

Or better still, you could write fan notes just because the world needs more of this.

I guarantee that every fan letter you send will be remembered. For years.

I have actually received a few of these, believe it or not. (Um, yes, freelance copywriters can have fans.) I confess that on dark days I dig them out and re-read them.

Here’s how to do it. I learned this from a master.

1. Call it a fan letter right away.

The exec I mentioned above, she sometimes puts it in right there in the subject line: Fan Letter.

That always gets the email opened right away. Sometimes, it’s “Applause” or “Oh!” or maybe “About Your First Quarter”, “How do you do that?”

Then, get right to it.

2. Be specific, detailed, concrete about what you’re admiring.

Say what inspired you, impressed you. What you learned. What sticks with you. Recount the incident, the conversation, the revelation.

(Don’t be generic, and don’t gush superlatives. That sounds like sucking up. And doesn’t work.)

“I happened to catch three of your talks on our last ‘tour.’ I know you prepped like crazy for them, but you managed to make each one sound so fresh and casual, like a pleasant conversation. And you ‘read the room’ brilliantly each time. Some day I hope I can learn to present like that.”

or. . .

“I heard how you stepped up when John Morgan was suddenly taken ill. That must have been daunting, with so many projects underway. I appreciate the extra work it took to keep everything on keel. But I’m especially glad to hear how the team rallied behind you so naturally. They were with you.”

or . . .

“I admire how deeply you listen, how you can make someone feel like the center of the universe for that moment. Sheesh.”

3. Say how it affects you personally.

“I sit in meetings sometimes, during all the chatter and yammering, and think, ‘How would Peter cut through all this and get to the point?”

or . . .

“I wish I had 23 more people like you here.”

or. . . .

“On days when I have no idea what to do, I re-play some of our conversations in my head. And I kinda know what to do.”

4. Say thank you.

5. And do not, do not, ask for anything. That will spoil it.