Deploy Four Communication Styles to Help Craft Emails That Will Succeed in Any Culture


It’s all too common for us as PR pros to equate mastering the art of communication with crafting a compelling message. It’s easy to get lost in what we think is a winning pitch when corresponding with journalists or media counterparts.

In our globalized world, the trick to crafting a compelling pitch goes beyond a timely hook and irresistible subject line. Crafting a powerful message is not enough.

When pitching, we must reframe our approach to effective emailing—which ultimately is defined not by how we communicate, but by how we connect with our words.

Whether we’re in brand management, content strategy, media publishing or another facet of public-facing workplace communication, this new approach to connecting with media counterparts is powerful globally because it is rooted in the human psyche and ingrained in behavioral psychology.

Only after adopting this approach can we begin to master the art of communication and build genuine rapport in digital exchanges across cultures.

Connect vs. Communicate

Think of standard pitching protocols that we arm ourselves with as communicators. Often, we limit ourselves to focus on our idea of ‘the perfect email.’

We must shift our mindset from communicating to connecting. We need to focus our intention outward to foster the kind of partnership that we so often seek when working with members of the media.

Our new mantra must include creative ways to demand response.

To write that winning email, start ‘mirroring back’ the style of the message’s reader. In this way we cut through the noise to reach our target audience and psychologically build a more powerful connection with a journalist through her/his own communication style.

Work with global professionals at the United Nations and New York University led us to identify four distinct reader communication styles to create an effective emailing model adapted from Social Styles Theory. Rooted in behavioral psychology, this pre-internet era construct was intended to help face-to-face interactions. We’ve adapted it for emailing with intercultural dimensions that accommodate individual and cultural diversity.

Reflect The Styles of others

The basic idea behind the strategy is that if we can change our style to be closer to the styles of others, we can better communicate with, and ultimately better understand, others. This works whether we are sending a pitch to the media or a note to a colleague.

The good news? These four distinct reader communication style preferences are based on observable patterns of behavior, meaning they’re easy to spot and also reflect back as you craft a pitch or email.

Keep in mind that although each of us is inherently drawn to one ‘preferred style’ of communication in our emails, ultimately, as PR pros, our effectiveness is defined by our writing versatility. In other words, when emailing, our goal is to be able to transition between all four styles as the situation requires it.

Below, we lay out practical tips for emailing effectively across the media landscape in the four reader communication styles. This model works whether we’re emailing in regional, national or international markets.

Above all, when emailing media or other professional contacts, we must always recognize the individual within the culture, as all styles exist across all cultures; remember that individual preferences as well as occupational preferences may vary.


1. Expressive: This style is people-oriented in a way that exudes confidence, inspiration and charisma when bringing new ideas to the table. Think of someone like Albert Einstein on the other side of your screen. Keep in mind that this persona likely is more dominant (telling others) than easygoing (asking others).

When writing an email to someone with this style, mirror back the following characteristics:

    Describe ‘the big picture’ before going into detail
    Present ideas creatively using ‘action’ language
    Use an enthusiastic tone that is people-oriented
    Describe ideas in the five senses, weaving in sensory language

* This style tends to be the preference pattern of most of Latin America, parts of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula and the majority of sub-Saharan Africa.


2. Driver: This ‘reader’ style is task-oriented, valuing time and efficiency, which is in contrast to the Expressive, people-oriented style. When emailing a person with this style, focus on results, include necessary details only and avoid excessive emotion.

An email asking for personal details about a weekend trip will not get an immediate response. Instead, write succinctly and focus on the task to get a faster reply. Also, this reader style does not mind conflict.

When writing an email to someone with this style, mirror back the following characteristics:

    Be direct, use bullet points/lists and only provide essential details
    Make definitive statements and state specific actions needed
    Avoid excessive emotion
    Focus on results, outcomes, and the bottom line

* This style tends to be the preference pattern of most of the English-speaking parts of the world, including the United States, parts of Canada, parts of Northwestern and North-Central Europe, Scandinavia and Australia/ New Zealand.


3. Amiable: This reader style is friendly, personal, warm and cooperative, often preferring chitchat language rather than professional jargon. Coincidentally, this persona is the default style in initial correspondence, whether in pitching a journalist for the first time or sending an email to a complete stranger.

Someone with this style is ‘easygoing,’ focused on ‘social harmony’ and gets along with others. An email loaded with conflict likely will result in a delayed response. Instead, always provide recommended solutions and refer to relationships in terms of ‘one team,’ highlighting positive benefits to people.

When writing an email to someone with this style, mirror back the characteristics below:

      • Use


      language and colloquialisms when appropriate
    Write in terms of ‘the team’ and highlight positive benefits to others
    Focus on empathy, relationships and team harmony
    Avoid conflict language; provide solutions to minimize conflict

* This style tends to be the preference pattern of countries in East Asia and most parts of Central Asia, except the subcontinent of India, which is a hybrid of Expressive and Driver styles.


4. Analytical: This reader style uses specialized/technical terms and thrives in ‘jargonland.’ Think of the marketing specialist who enjoys using jargon or the engineer or computer scientist.

To garner an immediate response, focus on evidence, write in a formal tone, and present ideas in an organized way. With a healthy dose of skepticism by nature, this reader style welcomes a web of evidence, logic and facts to support claims; these readers are also likely to respond to messages that present information in a logical and evidence-based format, using language that denotes expertise.

When writing an email to someone with this style, mirror back the following characteristics:

    Use appropriate specialized/technical terms
    Provide facts, evidence and data to prove any claim
    Be methodical and logical in explaining step-by-step processes
    • Contextualize requests with specifics, not generalizations

*This style can also tend to be the style preference pattern of most of the English-speaking parts of the world, including the United States and parts of Canada, parts of Northwestern and Central Europe, Scandinavia, and Australia/New Zealand.


When we shift our mindset to modify emailing style to reflect that of others, especially those in different cultures, we begin to build powerful bridges that motivate clients, colleagues and journalists to respond more positively and quickly to messages.

Ultimately, the goal is to mirror the reader’s communication style. So, adapt your email messages to reflect the style of the recipient. When we make an effort to adapt to others, we not only humanize the digital experience, but become true global communicators in the digital world.

Raúl Sánchez and Dan Bullock’s new book is “How to Communicate Effectively with Anyone Anywhere: Your Passport to Connecting Globally” (Career Press).

Contact: [email protected]