What follows isn’t guaranteed to work, but it’s a method that has resulted in success for many, many Consumerist readers.
Googling Will Only Get You So Far
Sure, some executives’ e-mail addresses can easily be found with a quick Google search. But many of the results you’ll find will be out-of-date because the info changed soon after making its way onto the web, or simply because businesses periodically change their e-mail naming formats.
Identifying the Players
Everyone wants to get that CEO’s e-mail address, but you should really do some research to identify all the top-level executives, especially those with job titles that would at least appear to be relevant to your complaint. So in addition to suits with phrases like “customer relations” under their name, you should also see if there are VPs or regional directors, as these are the people to whom the problem will likely trickle down.
Most larger companies make these names and titles available on their websites. The “About” and “Corporate Information,” and “Investor Information” links usually hidden in small type at the bottom of the homepage are a good place to start.
[NOTE: If you can find the executive's middle name or initial, make note of it. This will come in useful for executives with common names, and for when you have to resort to brute force (see below).]
You should also do some research (usually nothing more than a quick visit to Wikipedia) to make sure you identify the parent company of the brand or subsidiary you’re dealing with.
For example, if you’re going to send an EECB about your Chevy Malibu, you’ll probably want to go to the General Motors site to begin your research.
Which brings us to one last tip for identifying the players: Check to see if there is a corporate site. Say you’re unhappy with Frito-Lay, you should also be going to the PepsiCo site — not the Pepsi brand site — for the info you seek.
Figuring Out Naming Conventions
The fastest way we’ve found to figure out a company’s e-mail naming conventions is to head straight to the “news room” or “press center” pages — where businesses place their press release archives.
(NOTE: We do not recommend that you write these media contacts because you are pretty much guaranteeing that you will not get a response. Heck, many media contacts don’t respond to the actual media unless it’s a request to promote their product.)
Sometimes you’ll see a list of media contacts with actual individual e-mail addresses (as opposed to the generic firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you don’t see that listed, try clicking on a few of the press releases. These notices often have e-mail addresses for the publicist who wrote them, usually at the very top or bottom of the release.
Once you have the publicist’s e-mail address, use it to figure out the company’s naming conventions.
If Jimmy Smith, Social Media Director for Craptastic Enterprises, has the e-mail address of email@example.com, then there is a decent chance that CEO Carol Smith will be firstname.lastname@example.org, with the same rule applying for the other executives.
Even if the CEO uses a different naming convention, the other executives will likely be the same as the PR flunky, so your EECB stands a chance of getting through.
Unleashing Brute Force
When all else fails, you can always just try all the various standard permutations for e-mail address names: carol.smith, c.smith, smith.c, carol.w.smith, etc.
Before you start launching EECBs blindly, try circling back to Google and searching for the address you’re about to try. Sometimes, you’ll find a match in a company’s archive or in some source you would never have thought to look.
Smarten Up Your Own E-mail
This is a tip about your own e-mail account. Lots of consumers’ e-mail addresses use nicknames instead of their proper name, which is fine when you’re writing people who know you. But most executives at Fortune 500 companies are likely to trash an e-mail sent by someone named “El_Duderino_Shazbot.”
As much is it might pain you, update that name — at least temporarily — to be your proper name. You can always change it back.
Prepare To Be Ignored
Just because you’ve been able to suss out the e-mails you need to arm your EECB, there’s no guarantee it will result in a response, or that the response will please you. It’s a weapon of last resort, one that is best deployed with high spirits but lowered expectations.