I recently received an email from someone at a New York-based social media agency, asking if I’d be interested in writing about a new dating app that uses LinkedIn to hook you up. Besides just sounding like a very bad idea, the email was straight boilerplate — it was the same basic, cut-and-paste pitch she probably sent out to hundreds of bloggers who had the word “dating” somewhere in their description.
Just a cursory look at my personal blog would have demonstrated that the pitch wasn’t a good fit. I write long-form columns, one per month, about the joys and humiliations of being a single dad. I write about dating, sure, but also about parenting, my family, and my journey to become a better, more communicative person. Every column is a self-contained story. I don’t review apps or products.
Normally, I don’t respond at all to such impersonal emails, but occasionally I’ll reply with a diatribe about proper blogger outreach — about not insulting the recipient by not reading through the blog first. And sometimes … rarely … I’ll do a 140-character rant on Twitter.
WideFoc.us excels at blogger outreach — we’re about to dig into a heavy-duty project in the coming weeks, in fact. What makes us so effective is that we take best practices in traditional PR (learning from our favorite PR partners), and apply it to ePR or influencer development.
1. We do our homework
Working with our clients to identify target audiences for their products or services gives us the first clues we need in order to find online influencers and gatekeepers who might be interested in providing coverage. We look closely at every single blogger or media outlet we find, and assess multiple indicators before adding them to our list. Not only do we look at overall presence, but we also check out engagement and interaction on the pages, what the blogger tends to write about, and the format of the blog itself.
2. We brainstorm value propositions
We know bloggers receive a ton of story pitches, so providing them with an appropriate story peg, access to a key leader for an interview, an incentive (review product, free trial, etc.), or even a giveaway for readers can cut through the noise. The key, though, is to offer up a value proposition that makes sense for the author/publisher.
3. We write personal emails to each influencer
After we’ve identified our first round of bloggers, we write messaging templates that outline the pitch and the incentive. But that’s just the beginning. Every blogger receives a personalized email, mentioning a recent post or acknowledging something unique about their online presence. Not only does it demonstrate that we did our research, but it shows we’re paying attention and value their time. Occasionally, just the act of writing that email helps us realize the blogger is probably not the right fit, which saves everyone a bit of dignity.
4. We work to develop relationships, not one-off transactions
The pitch we send may not be right for every influencer, but that doesn’t mean we failed. The majority of emails will be ignored — we expect that. But we follow-up respectfully, and we gracefully accept when a blogger declines our offer. Those few interactions can go a long way toward building an ongoing relationship with the influencer, which means a better chance of coverage and interaction in the future. When we start our research, we identify both bloggers with big audiences, and those who are emerging into their space. By being honest and authentic in our outreach, we often get to know the up-and-coming bloggers before they make it big.
We know that our outreach to influencers is more than a numbers game, more than yet another pitch. We understand that we’re representing our clients and our own company with every email sent. And we take that seriously. When I receive yet another spammy request for coverage in my own blog, my immediate emotional reaction is a potent reminder that I need to work with my talented team to help them understand why a personal touch is so important.
I wish everyone doing this kind of outreach would take the time to do it right.
—by Eric Elkins
As CEO and Chief Strategist of WideFoc.us, Eric brings nearly two decades of of experience to our clients. In his other life, he’s a single dad, a good eater, and a bourbon aficionado.