Detective Skills for the Digital Age

In a perfect world, every photo editor, art director, gallery owner, and media person would make their personal contact info public. Alas, we do not live in such a world, so several times a week I find myself trying to track down the email of someone I wish to reach out to. Over time I have learned several techniques to acquire such information, which has let me send highly targeted emails to individuals rather than to general support accounts. Here is how it works.

If upon looking on the company’s about page or magazine’s masthead you still can’t find the email of the person you are trying to reach, and you don’t know anyone who might have it, try the following (in the order listed).

Google – This seems obvious but the mere fact that Let Me Google That for You exists proves that it’s often overlooked. Try searching: Full Name + “email” or Full Name + “@comanyurl.com”. If their email is mentioned on another site, one of those will usually bring it up.

Call – I’m continually surprised how easily secretaries give out people’s emails. Just give the main company line a call and confidently ask – “Hi, I was wondering if it would be possible to get [name of person]’s email? I’m a photographer and I was hoping to send her a few examples of my work.” Modify the last sentence to reflect why you need the email.

Social Media – Other than being a great way of making time vanish, social media also helps with finding information that people themselves don’t know is public. Try searching for the person’s LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles – then check their info or about pages. If that doesn’t work try looking for links to other projects or companies they’re involved in – sometimes they will have their contact info there.

Reverse Engineering – If by now you still don’t have an email address, you can reverse engineer someone else’s email to find the one you need. The main principle behind this is that companies often use the same email address structure for everyone in the organization. What you need to do is find someone else’s email who works in the same company. The main HR person or a public figure  usually has their email published. Analyze that email to see how it is structured – usually it’s one of the following:

  • firstnamelastname@company.com (e.g., johnsmith@worldcorp.com)
  • firstname.lastname@company.com (e.g., john.smith@worldcorp.com)
  • firstinitiallastname@company.com (e.g., jsmith@worldcorp.com)
  • firstinitial.lastname@company.com (e.g., j.smith@worldcorp.com)

Whatever the structure is, use it to create a logical email address for your contact. If you send an email and the address doesn’t exist, you will get a bounce back notice and know that it didn’t go through.

If by now I still haven’t found an email address, I generally resort to just sending an email to the company’s main email (usually info@company.com) and in the first line writing: Hi, I’m hoping reach “person’s name”, followed by the rest of your email.

Good luck and happy searching! Please share any techniques you use in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. I think you’ve got the order bang-on. Sometimes this is more trouble than it’s worth, but I’d add trying to get their assistant’s contact info—if they have one. Sometimes it’s more effective not to go through the “primary” person.

    Another technique that works for smaller, or more public situations (like an art gallery, for example), is to just visit in person. Often people are more wary about giving out contact information, but if they see you are a regular human that’s made the effort to visit their enterprise, most people are very friendly and receptive. This obviously doesn’t work for all situations, but it’s very effective in the right ones.

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  2. Thanks for adding those! Visiting in person is definitely a great one, I actually dropped by a gallery recently after emailing them with no reply – they were super nice and seemed genuinely happy that I’d made the effort. Most of the time when people don’t reply they’re not being rude, they’re just really busy.

    Thanks again Elena.

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