Influencer Outreach: We Asked 14 TOP Influencers How You Should Reach Out
We asked 14 top influencers to tell us the best outreach approach you should use.
When it comes to content promotion, cultivating relationships is everything. Getting your voice heard is less about what you know and more about who you know. You could have the most compelling and engaging content in the world, but without anyone to link to it, there’s little chance of the post ranking and gaining the traffic it deserves. Reaching out to influencers the right way will give your content a chance to hit its peak as quickly as possible. For new businesses trying to establish their presence on the web, engaging in influencer outreach to promote their content can seem daunting. But as it turns out, the simplest way to get a helping hand from industry figures is simply to ask – nicely of course. As the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Unfortunately, many bloggers seem intent on promoting their content using the spray and pray method, trying to reach out to anyone and anyone who’ll respond to their entreaties. Spamming every influencer who has a five-figure follower count in the hope of being heard is unlikely to do you any favours. Influencer outreach is an art that takes practice and good management to perfect. There’s a lot of speculation on which approach works best, but rather than add to the chorus of speculation, we decided to find a definitive answer. We went directly to 14 major influencers from a wide variety of industries and asked them the following:
So, let’s see what the influencers had to say in response:
“I get a lot of requests, but I only rarely actually grant link. The content being great and helpful is an obvious must. If I feel like the link would give my readers useful information and makes a good supplement to an article of mine, I'll include it. What also helps is that you don't just send me an article and expect me to find a place to link to it. Tell me where you think the link would be a good idea. Tell me on which article of mine you think it would be appropriate to link to yours. In other words, make it easy for me.”
When a brand or 3rd party site reaches out to me to request 'social shares', 'linking', or the like, I'm always weary. If it is an authentic email outreach from someone who has taken the time to 1. get my name right 2. actually have read my articles before 3. genuinely believes that their content is of value to my audiences (and can explain the 'why' behind it), then I'm open to exploring the shared materials. I vet the information and if it is something I truly feel can add value to my readers and audiences, then I'm more prone to share, link and talk about the info in general.
We get so many unpersonalized emails that we don’t even read the ones that don’t include our name in the first sentence. Any “Hello web owner” or other under-researched, impersonal introductions are going to be completely ignored. Also, cut and paste templates like “I loved this article https://goatsontheroad.com/generic-article” is going to be ignored. We respond to emails when they are up-front about wanting to advertise or work with us and what their dollar value budget is, and when they’ve clearly researched us, our brand and what we’re willing to promote on our site. It only takes 15 minutes of research to find out what the influencers are about and what would go well with their audience. Marketers who can’t be bothered to spend this time and give influencers the respect of pitching them something relevant will almost always get ignored.
First and foremost, people have to remember that our blog is our business. We make our living from it. That said, I normally charge for links or sponsored posts promoting a product or service. And the product or service goes through a review process by us. We don’t accept everything. I do occasionally promote a product or service for free if it’s something that we have used and really like. Anything on our website that we have promoted is something that we have personally used or a place we have visited. So if you have a product or service to promote, offer it to us to use first. Only if we like it and think it’s great would we do a free post or social media promotion. Make sure you look at our website so you know our target audience. Your product or service needs to fit.
I open and skim over every marketing email I get. If I see that it’s a generic copy paste sent to hundreds of emails, then I trash it immediately. There’s no bigger turnoff than that. But if it’s apparent that they did make the effort to write the email, then I’ll read through it more carefully. Whether or not I give them a backlink all boils down to their content. If it benefits the people who visit our website, then I have no problem linking back. If it offers little to no value, then I won’t. It’s as simple as that.
I have over 55,000 loyal and engaged followers who I’m reluctant to bombard with anything that feels spammy or irrelevant. If you’re emailing me out of the blue and would like a response, I guess here are some tips: Make sure the email is specifically directed at me. If an email starts with an ambiguous or generic salutation, I’m likely to assume that it’s been sent to many people—this makes me feel much less guilty about simply ignoring it. Personalise the email. The email you sent probably is a template or an outline of some sort, but you need to customise it so show an understanding of what I do and, therefore, why I’m relevant to you and vice versa. Something like ‘Hey, Harry! I noticed you’re writing more and more about performance lately… I took the liberty of creating you a free account on My Performance Startup™ so you can have a play around. If you’re impressed by it at all, me and team would be really grateful for a tweet or two!’ Make sure I am actually relevant. So many people ask me to promote their Photoshop brush sets or SEO packages or free icon sets. This is another hallmark that you’ve sent out a mass-request to many other people. Keep it short. Much shorter than I have done here. Who are you? What is the email about? What direct steps would you like me to take? Be polite, but it helps both parties if you are clear and succinct. A lot of the above might sound egotistical, but it’s more about mutual respect—if you want me to go out of my way to look into and promote your work, do your research on mine first.
The biggest mistake people make is sending emails which are too limited in pitch information or are promoting products or asking for links to websites or products completely unrelated to organic gardening. And I never knowingly link to affiliate sites. Then there are those who have obviously copied and pasted template info which I've seen in a dozen other emails. Those are immediately deleted. Anyone doing outreach should spend at least a little time researching the website they're reaching out to. Why waste your time or mine? In content, I expect well-researched, well-written information on topics relevant to my audience. Even then, I usually edit every article. I no longer accept articles like 5 Reasons to..., because they do not get any traction from my readership. My readers are interested in information which applies to their own gardening and solving problems. So I would ask those reaching out to do their research on my website and pitch relevant content ideas.
Besides that, understand that we've worked really hard to build the audience that we have. Because of that, we don't just drop random links in unless they truly are a good fit. We always have sponsorship options, but when the conversation gets there, it gets equally frustrating. We're always open to negotiating, but only when it's reasonable. Usually what happens is that after sharing our rate card, I get a reply offering a tenth of what our standard rate is. I don't ever expect to walk into any store or hire someone asking them for a tenth of their rate. Either offer a reasonable negotiated rate, or simply say that your budget doesn't match at this point.
For me, it's all about whether the content is either newsworthy or otherwise would be of enough interest to my readers. If not, nothing makes it in. In terms of emails getting seen, I read them all. We don't get that many email submissions anyway, certainly only double figures a week, so it's more about what the thing is rather than how it's portrayed by the submitter. It does help if someone can very quickly explain what their thing is and if they limit themselves to one request per email. An example that asks for advice, a link, some opinions, etc. tends to get stuck in my inbox for a while. I prefer a simple heads up and then I can make the decision or ask further questions as necessary.
Every day I'm bombarded with emails, almost all of which are people who want something from me. Usually, total strangers who want me to do something to promote something for them, for nothing in return. If you want to get my attention, you have to let me know what is in it for me. What benefit is there to me in doing whatever you are asking. If there isn't a benefit, I will almost certainly delete the email or hit spam without a reply. I'm running a business and my purpose in life isn't to provide free marketing services to strangers. If you can't think of how something will benefit the person you are reaching out to, there is no point in even sending the email.
1st. The content should be well written, interesting, and easy to comprehend. 2nd. If you're promoting infographics, product, or service, you should write a complimentary 150-300 word introduction. That way when I receive your email, the ball is in my court and nothing is holding me back from publishing it right away. 3rd. When reaching out to bloggers be personal. Stop using those cheesy outreach templates you've copied and pasted from some random article. Just be yourself and keep it short. Bloggers receives dozens of emails per day, time is a precious commodity to us.
We get hundreds of requests a week from various different retailers and content providers from around the world. So what really makes an email stand out and increases our chances of responding are personalised emails. If you know my name, and can reference to something I’ve recently spoken about on the blog it shows your engaged and well aware how your brand might fit within my content.
If you want a chance to get a link from me, the first thing you need to do is to make sure I will read your email. For that, you need to write a catchy subject line, or I may even not open it. Once I open it, you need to be talking to me, I hate to read some mass email that I know was sent to thousands of people. You message should be very quick to understand, focus on the key points and link to a place where I can get more information. Never put too much information in the email as it will make my job harder. Keep in mind that your goal is to get your main message across, not to tell me everything about your product.
Each of my posts always has at least one link to another company, garden or website. So how do they get there? Firstly, I only recommended products that I or someone I trust has tried. I only talk about gardens or events that I've visited. So, sending the right kind of product or invitation is one way of getting a link. I really do value approaches from people who have spotted that my blog and their product/event genuinely have relevance to each other. And I understand that in these days of micro-influencers, PRs may trying to deal with several hundred bloggers as well as the mainstream press. It must be like herding cats. We're all individuals and work in slightly different ways. So, my advice would be: decide which bloggers you want, read their blogs, interact with them on social media (get the social media manager on board!), then dive in with a relevant proposition.
So in conclusion, having spoken to the influencers, recorded their responses and categorised their advice, some clear patterns emerge. If you want your outreach attempts to succeed, here’s what you have to do (ordered most to least important based on the responses above):
Research and personalise
By far the most popular response was personalisation. For outreach success, you must take the time to write a personalised message within your email. If not, the influencer won’t feel any sort of guilt when it comes to discarding it instantly. Personalisation is the single most important thing when it comes to crafting your email. Always show an understanding of what the influencer does.
Keep it short
Bear in mind that influencers receive dozens of emails a week and are pressed for time. Don’t go into too much detail and keep it to the point. In the words of Harry Roberts, “Keep it short. Who are you? What is the email about? What direct steps would you like me to take?” Remember that people are wired to take the path of least resistance.
Offer value such as a relevant, newsworthy link
If you don’t offer the influencer value, it won’t matter how much effort you’ve put into the outreach email. The content you are trying to promote must be high caliber or it won’t get anywhere.
No templates – they can always tell
In the words of Igor Ovsyannyko, “Stop using those cheesy outreach templates you’ve copied and pasted from some random article. Just be yourself and keep it short”. This is a big one not many people realise. Influencers come across the same templates being used on a daily basis and can spot a generic email a mile off. Always keep your approach original and be yourself. It’s okay to take ideas and perhaps draw your inspiration from the odd template, but never mindlessly copy one.
Do you have anything to offer the influencer? Social shares? Shout out? Product promotion? Get creative. You might not have their follower count, but you can surely find something you can do for them if you put your mind to it.
Quality, unique content
Any content you’re sending the influencer needs to catch their eye and do you and your brand justice. This means punchy and compelling copy with clear formatting and perfect spelling and grammar. You only get one chance to make a good first impression so make sure you get yours right.
Before sitting down to write that email, send them a tweet or DM announcing your intentions. Even if they don’t respond on social media, at least they’ll have seen your name and may be more inclined to respond to the subsequent email.
Address the person by name
This is the first rule of outreach. If you don’t address the influencer by their first name, you are at serious risk of getting your email deleted. Busy people will often only read the first line of the email in the preview pane. If it’s not addressed to them it will be binned. Don’t waste your time or theirs with impersonal mailshots – always address influencers by name. Oh, and make sure you spell it correctly.
Pick a good subject line
Don’t be generic with your subject line, but don’t resort to clickbait either. Ideally, your subject should whet the recipient’s appetite sufficiently to want to open the email, whilst conveying the gist of your request.
If you don’t abide by these rules, then:
The main ingredient for success is persistence. All of the foregoing factors are very important. But what’s even more important is that you take action, get creative and use different methods to stand out in the influencer’s inbox. A multi-faceted approach will deliver the best results, so don’t limit yourself to one method just because you’ve heard it works or have enjoyed success with it in the past. Influencer outreach is a game of experimentation.
Influencers lead a hectic lifestyle and their wisdom is highly sought. Thus, if you don’t hear back from a guru you’ve approached, don’t take it personally. Through trial, error and a whole lot of persistence, you’ll find people through influencer outreach who’s willing to assist, whether it’s giving you that precious link or sharing a post you’ve authored. Do it right and one day you could find yourself in their shoes, with a strong social following, and impressionable audience and outreachers who are coming to you.