We’ve been performing influencer outreach at Volume Nine for a while now, feeling triumphant in huge successes and suffering through some learning experiences. Fortunately, we’ve learned from both and want to openhandedly share our experience with you.
The valuable role bloggers and influencers play in brand promotion should be highly regarded by Internet savvy companies. Online influencers may have a small audience compared to traditional advertising options, but they have earned the much coveted loyalty and trust of niche audiences and can be employed at a fraction of the cost. Bloggers provide a formidably persuasive voice that online communities respect, especially when researching products and services, a voice that provides a unique confidence in the brands they promote.
While I’m tempted to dive further into the abundant benefits of activating influencers to increase brand awareness, for the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you are already sold on the concept and agree that blogger engagement plays a vital role in brand recognition. Instead, this post will focus in on the how to reach out to bloggers to promote your brand. The “How To” is worthy of serious consideration in itself.
Raise your hand if you’ve had an experience that went something like this:
- You assembled the ultimate list of bloggers and websites you love and would like to work with.
- You thoughtfully crafted the outreach email presenting the perfect opportunity for them.
- You reached out to this list with great anticipation and excitement, aaaaaaaaand……
- You waited a little longer. No response.
- You sent a follow up email. Nada. Silence. (maybe you sent another follow up email …or two, but you wouldn’t admit to it)
IS ANYONE OUT THERE?!! DOESN’T ANYBODY CARE?!!
Maybe. Maybe they do care. You may just need to examine your outreach process to see where you are losing them. Or – maybe they don’t care, and you need to rework your research process to figure out who does care.
To get you on the right track, I’ve assembled a list of BEs to BE AWESOME at reaching out to influencers.
BUILDING YOUR INFLUENCER OUTREACH LIST
BE ORGANIZED – To successfully reach out to bloggers, you need to build the right list of influencer opportunities for your brand. To do that, you need to get a few things figured out ahead of time:
- Know what your goals are for the specific brand promotion campaign and work toward those goals with every step
- Set up a means of determining whether or not (or at what level) you accomplished those goals. For example, if your goal is to promote your brand to 50,000 people in your target market, how will you track how well you did?
- Define who your target audience is for this campaign
- Are you looking for B2B bloggers or B2C bloggers to accomplish your goal?
- Have an idea of how many influencers you are hoping to work with – you will need a much longer list to connect with 15-20 influencers than you will if you are looking for 3-5 influencers
- Set up a method of tracking influencer relationships, whether that is on a spreadsheet or utilizing an online tool (a few are mentioned below)
- Set your timeline – some projects will be more time sensitive than others, or you may be planning an ongoing project with no real time sensitivity
- Make a list of what you have to offer these influencers, whether it is monetary compensation, a product, a service, a new content asset, or your own brand authority you will allow them to leverage
All of these will drive your blogger research and govern the course of reaching out to these influencers.
BE REALISTIC – First and foremost, target relevant bloggers. Don’t approach a blogger who doesn’t write about your industry or a related topic… justifying how you can make it fit usually isn’t successful ;o). For example, if you are promoting a local donut shop, it would be ill-advised to approach someone who blogs about home improvement.
There are literally millions of blogs (and more created every day). Search for those that are a good match.
Once you have a target list of relevant blogs, assess their obtainability. Is building a relationship with the influencers on your list realistic? For example, it would be a-MAZ-ing to get a post about your local donut shop on BusinessInsider.com, but highly unlikely. Read some of the posts on the blogs you are researching. Is your company similar in scope to the brands they mention?
Does your site have its own authority and a larger audience? If so, you are more likely to receive responses from higher audience sites. If not, you will probably want to approach influencers with a smaller (but still engaged) audience. Ask yourself, would it be appealing to this influencer to work with our brand?
Also, make sure you are approaching “PR friendly” influencers. Do the sites on your list work with brands? Many websites don’t offer paid promotion, giveaways, reviews, guest posts, etc. Look around and get a feel for the author’s style – if they have never worked with a brand or posted a sponsored post, they probably don’t want to start now. Blogs don’t have ‘no soliciting’ signs, so make sure you do some sleuthing to figure it out yourself.
Nugget: If you find a Media, Work with Me, or PR page on a blog, information about how to reach them to partner with your brand will usually be nicely presented.
BE THOUROUGH – to successfully promote your brand you want to find REAL BLOGGERS with a REAL AUDIENCE… not sites that are created for the sole purpose of selling you a link in one of their posts.
[Tweet “To successfully promote your brand you want to find REAL BLOGGERS with a REAL AUDIENCE.”]
These blogs will have:
- Visual appeal – would you enjoy reading the blog or do your eyes hurt just looking at the site?
- Well written and captivating content – read a number of their posts. Get a feel for their writing flavor. Does it complement your brand?
- Readership – find statistics on RSS feed subscribers, unique visitors, pageviews, and social site following. Hint: look at the ones that would most benefit your specific campaign: FB? Twitter? LinkedIn? Pinterest?
- Engagement – in the blog comments and on their social sites. An active audience will often result in multiplied sharing of your brand – sponsored content
Other things to look for:
- Is the target audience of the blog/s you are considering approaching your target audience?
- Consistent and fresh content. If the last post was 6 months ago, they may have lost their mojo.
- Is the website actually a competitor site? This can be tricky to catch, but you will learn the tell-tale signs after some practice.
- Domain Authority – this doesn’t need to be a primary determinant when building your list, though. If the other components are strong, you probably have a great prospect.
- If the influencer has been featured in a major publication or they write for other blogs in your brand’s niche, they are probably a trusted source in that niche. The blogger usually places this information prominently on their site.
You can see what this might look like on the Finances Online website.
Remember, more isn’t always better. A valuable partnership can be made with an influencer who has a smaller, engaged community made up of your desired audience.
Nugget: Setting up a system to capture as much of the above information as possible to create a go to database of prospects for current and future campaigns is pure gold! Using online tools like Respona, GroupHigh or BuzzStream can be invaluable!
Some good places to find the most effective influencers for your brand:
- Google search: which blogs are ranking the highest on Google for the search terms you are focusing on in this campaign?
- Online tools like BuzzSumo to find influencers who have written about your campaign focus in the past.
- Are any bloggers following your brand on social media?
- Are influencers already talking about your brand? You can use Google Alerts to find out.
- You can often find great lists of industry bloggers to review by searching for: “list of (your industry) blogs”
Your outreach to these influencers should be considered the first step in creating relationships you will develop and nurture; therefore, you will want to practice “relationship nurturing” by connecting with them even before you reach out via email:
- Engage with them socially. Starbucks follows 101,000 of their Twitter fans. This is an example of serious influencer relationship nurturing.
- Comment on their blog
- Share their content on one of your social sites
- Link to their site in one of your blog posts. Example: Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar is an influencer we would love to build a relationship with!
If your brand is appealing to family bloggers, you will find they can be more responsive than niche bloggers and influencers; you will need to take some extra care with the latter.
BE CREATIVE – Come up with an interesting angle to encourage influencer involvement. This will probably be either an asset you already have or something you are going to create, such as:
- an appealing product review (appealing is the significant word)
- a promotional discount or freebie they will want to share with their community
- a grand giveaway for their readers that is relevant AND desirable
- an attention-grabbing asset they can share (infographic, guide, video)
- unique and valuable content they can post
It should be something you are really excited about! If you are not excited about your own idea for your own brand, why would they be? Collaboration can still happen inside each of these, but you want to have a starting point.
Nugget: Consider the value of your offer to their blog readers; you can bet the bloggers will consider that before responding to you. Does your idea include something that will get the audience involved in a way that will increase social sharing? Giveaways are almost always a winner in this area – easy and fun to share, especially if they are grand.
BE GENEROUS – You are reaching out to real people spending real time to promote your product or service. Be careful not to consider blogger outreach as just an inexpensive alternative to traditional media marketing; online influencers should be regarded as professional partnerships. Bloggers you work with really are your brand advocates. In order to get the best results and build long lasting relationships, offer them a reasonable (even generous) rate of compensation.
[Tweet “Online influencers should be regarded as professional partnerships.”]
Before sending your outreach email, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”
As nice as it sounds, there aren’t many who will post about your brand out of sheer generosity. The incentive you offer doesn’t have to be monetary; something useful, valuable, unique, informative, or entertaining that will engage their readers and increase their following in the process would be a very appealing and mutually beneficial opportunity.
Financial Incentives – If you don’t know what you should offer financially and you can’t find a media kit on their site, ask them to send their posting requirements.
Promotional Incentives – If your brand has a lot of authority in your industry, offer to promote the blogger’s post on your social sites or link to it in a blog post on your site. Bloggers love to get mentions, too! Especially when they come from an authority in their industry.
THE OUTREACH EMAIL
Once you have assembled a powerful set of influencer opportunities, the outreach email is the most important component to successful blogger outreach. Take time to craft an email that shows you know who you are contacting and why you are contacting them, specifically.
Be Personal – Focus your outreach email on each individual influencer
- Include the blog name or one of the blog posts in the subject line of the email
- Find out what their name is and use it! Take the time to search around – Twitter, their About Us page, you can usually find the name of the blog owner somewhere!
- Include a comment about one of their blog posts that is relevant to your brand
- Take cues from their writing style to speak to them in a similar manner (if possible), using an appropriate range between formal and informal
- Remember to focus on what is in it for the influencer (and their readers) every time you communicate with them
Be Genuine – Don’t just act like you care. Really care. Take an interest in the people you will be collaborating with, their success, and their satisfaction in the relationship. Developing mutually beneficial relationships and opportunities is essential to future blogger outreach.
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Be Concise – Provide the most important information needed when you correspond with them and stay on point while still being personable. Bloggers receive a ton of email. They will be more likely to read yours if it is brief.
Be Flexible – Give bloggers as much room as possible to be creative and use their writing skill-z! Let them choose a topic to write about that complements your campaign goals, allow them to use the anchor text that fits their content and so forth. User generated content is far more appealing than content placement.
Ask if they have any collaboration ideas. Bloggers are a creative bunch! Be open to innovative partnership ideas that will inspire their readers – your target market. You will experience the most success by developing a promotion both influencers and their communities are genuinely excited to participate in. Bloggers know their readers best, so you will want to seriously consider their input.
Format and Other Tips
Structuring the email in two or three paragraphs makes it more visually appealing and easier to read than one big fat paragraph. Bullet points are nice, also.
Subject Line: Include their blog name or one of their blog post titles. This is an excellent attention grabber and creates some curiosity for the blogger. It also lets them know they aren’t being spammed.
Greeting: Greet the blogger by name. Greet the blogger by name. Greet the blogger by name. Got it?
Introduce yourself: Who are you and what company are you promoting? Link to your website so they can easily learn more about your brand.
Focus on them: Mention something specific about the blogger or one of their posts in the opening paragraph (use their blog name, not the URL, when possible) and how it relates to your brand.
Purpose: State your purpose in one or two sentences, also in the opening paragraph. Clearly explain what you want as well as what they have to gain from this. The second part is super important.
Second paragraph ideas: You‘ve kept their attention, so this is where you can add a little more detail. A third paragraph can be added here if needed, but keep these as succinct as possible.
- Provide information about your campaign goals if it influences blogger engagement
- Additional details about the incentive you are offering
- You could mention the landing page you would like promoted (that will give them a more focused topic to consider)
- If your time frame is short, let them know there is some urgency for their response (this doesn’t usually work to your benefit – better to plan ahead)
- Let them know if you would like specific social site promotion included
- Ask if they have any collaboration ideas
Call-to-Action: Provide clear instructions about what you want them to do next. Something simple like this, “Please let me know if you would like to participate and I will send you the details right away. If you need more information, just let me know.”
Don’t use templates: Create each outreach email for each campaign to fit the specific goals you want to achieve from the influencers you are truly interested in working with. Bloggers receive so many outreach emails that they can usually feel when they are being sent a canned pitch. This doesn’t mean you can’t start with a basic structure for your email. In fact, that would be wise, so you know you are including the most important components and not getting off track.
THE RESULT | Example Email
Subject: Partnership Opportunity with AwesomeBrand for Awesomeblog.com
This is Holly and I work with Volume Nine. We are in the early stages of developing a campaign for our client, AwesomeBrand (awesomebrand.com), a leading designer of women’s accessories. Your recent post on AwesomeBlog.com about the best ways to wear a scarf in the summer caught our attention. I’ve presented your blog to our team and we are all excited about the possibility of collaborating with you on a summer fashion grab bag giveaway. We would provide you with a great accessory grab bag.
We are rolling out a new line of accessories and would love for you to partner with us by presenting it to your online community. Social engagement, especially Facebook and Pinterest, will be an important component for this campaign.
Please let me know if you are interested in participating and what your requirements are and I will send you the details right away. If you have an idea that spins off this, let me know! We value your input and would be happy to modify our idea if you think of something that would be more appealing to your readers.
We are hoping you will collaborate with us and look forward to hearing from you.
It is a good idea to send a follow up email if you don’t hear back: An email could have been missed or forgotten. Something this brief is sufficient: “I’m checking to see if you needed any additional information to help make a decision regarding the AwesomeBrand opportunity I emailed you a few weeks ago. We would really like to work with you on this campaign.”
- Some influencers want to be contacted via social media. If they say that is a more effective way (or the only way) to contact them, do it. And ask for an email address so you can send more information.
- Provide realistic expectations for blog posts to go live. Two to three weeks should be enough time. Don’t ask for a blog post to be up in the next few days unless you are willing to offer an incentive to make it worth their immediate time and effort.
- Don’t offer a product review that requires too much effort on their part. For example, don’t offer to “let” them review a new phone system for their office. That’s too much work.
BE PREPARED –Be ready to send all the information bloggers need as soon as they are ready to start writing, including: content focus, a due date when you would like the post live, discount codes, URL/s you want promoted, payment instructions, social sharing expectations, images, contest rules, how winners will receive their prizes, etc.)
BE RESPONSIVE – Respond in a timely manner, even if they haven’t. This is SUPER important!
Also, if a blogger responds with a polite “no thank you” or with pricing that is out of scope of your current campaign, respond and be polite in kind. Thank them for their response and any posting requirements they provided and mention the hope of working with them on something in the future. This can still be a stepping stone to a future partnership.
When you run into a ‘difficult’ blogger, do all you can to soothe the situation. It isn’t worth having an online influencer enemy created by protecting your own pride (remember: you don’t have to work with them next time!).
BE THANKFUL – Send a thank you note to each blogger at the end of a campaign and provide some feedback on how well the campaign went (if you honestly can), and let them know you look forward to working with them again in the future. You might be surprised at how responsive bloggers are to a simple thank you. This would also be a smart final step toward nurturing relationships you’re putting time and effort into establishing, and at some point, maintaining.
All of this may sound like you are doing a lot of giving. You are! To successfully promote your brand, you are going to be doing a lot of giving. Let the party begin!
- Build real relationships with bloggers and influencers in your industry
- Give influencers freedom to be creative and engage their readers most effectively
- Collaborate to create an experience for bloggers and their following and you will succeed in promoting your brand
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If you have any amazing insights or suggestions for reaching out to bloggers, please share them in the comments. If you would like Volume Nine to do some expert influencer outreach to promote your brand, we would really enjoy that!