Do you ever get those moments when you open up your email inbox in the office and want to hurl your computer out of the window when you start reading your emails? This happens to me on a daily basis as a blogger when I get emails from companies who supply products and services to the digital marketing industry; they’re either pushy or really boring!
Here is one recent example:
Oh go on then, here’s another:
Would I be interested? Uh, nope. I’m good thanks. This is the point where I have to press delete very quickly, or I get distracted by all of the things that are just wrong, wrong, wrong with the outreach attempts. Sorry if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied, but it’s really just better that way.
Most of the time (apart from here!) these emails come and go quickly. Many of you probably wouldn’t even bat an eyelid; as an industry we’re pretty desensitised to outreach as it’s a tactic that we engage in ourselves. But are our own outreach emails this dismal?!
I really hope not. When we represent the brand(s) that we work for, whether in-house or on the agency side, we need to make sure that the emails that come from us to bloggers are engaging, and free of any potential gaffes. Because, guess what? Bloggers will notice.
So if you’re reaching out to bloggers by email, try to avoid doing what I’ve included below, or there’s a very good chance that you’ll lose the chance to work with them from your very first point of contact.
Skip your research
When you’re busy working on a load of projects at once, it can be tempting to take little shortcuts here and there. However, if you’re going to send a blanket email out to all of the people on your list, you’ll find that your lack of research and personalisation will be a massive turn off for bloggers.
You can find out a lot by taking the time to get to know the people you’re reaching out to. At the very minimum, you need to check a couple of blog posts, the ‘about me/us’ page, the ‘contact’ page, and any PR/advertising policies for each blogger.
Make research into the human elements more of a priority than going straight for the metrics of domain authority, number of subscribers, etc.
When I got an email to my food blog beersandburgers.co.uk with someone inviting me to a beauty event, my verbal response was “WTF?!” before I had to reply and let them know the nature of my blog (which as it goes, should be pretty obvious considering the URL).
It’s an irritant, and these things can add up to general annoyance. Other basic things that bug me as a recipient include; brand representatives getting my name wrong, clear use of copy and paste (hello mishmash of fonts!), and lack of relevancy for topic or my location.
Talk about yourself (a lot)
When it comes to the actual outreach email, you can be sure that bloggers will be moving their cursor over to the delete button as soon as they realise you aren’t really interested in them.
This becomes apparent when there’s a noticeable lack of personalised content in the email, as well as a whole heap of these words: “us”, “we”, and “our”. If there are is more emphasis on yourself as a brand than the blogger, they’ll probably wonder why you’re actually reaching out to them – what makes them different from any other blogger?
Therefore, you’re going to want to include these words instead: “you” and “your”, and then use the word “we” as your brand partnership with them, not just when you are speaking about the brand you’re reaching out for.
Now to the point of your email. Why are you reaching out in the first place? There has to be a true value to a blogger to get them to take action; this will either be to enrich their blog with content they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, or because you’re rewarding them in another way (usually monetary).
The emails I shared with you above do neither of these things. One of them is asking me to do their job on their behalf (potentially “we couldn’t get enough eyeballs on this content so we need you to share it, but it’s a bit of an afterthought”) and the other has given me almost no context or a prompt for me to take action. A simple way to get my attention would be to identify some pain points or open to my eyes to data that reveals how I’d be reducing my chances of converting customers through poor imagery.
In the past, I’ve received emails that have more unrealistic expectations than the ones I’ve shared here. The main issue with the examples I’ve highlighted are that they’re too vague to give me an opportunity to engage with them, whereas some outreach emails do the total opposite and give far too much information and instructions.
One example that comes to mind is when a brand contacted me to get me to take part in their campaign, which was effectively a competition but had too many parts. I was told that I would be in with the chance of winning a prize if I wrote an in-depth blog post, and then shared it on social media and included some specific links back to the brand’s website. Can’t. Be. Bothered.
The level of investment versus payoff is instantly weighed up by bloggers. Put it this way, you won’t be the only brand contacting them for their time.
Get specific with your link requests
It isn’t at all unusual to see outreach emails that are really specific with instructions on how a blogger should link back to a website – please don’t do this! This can be most peculiar for some bloggers who may be totally baffled by our industry jargon like do-follow, no-follow.
What bloggers say
Then again, the bloggers who are wise to this don’t like it either. Check out what Twitter user @HeelsInBackpack had to say about it:
This week I’ve also been asked to lie about the co I booked my travel through and been asked for do-follow links on paid collabs. WTF.
— Heels In My Backpack (@HeelsInBackpack) August 10, 2016
It’s a pretty ugly practice, and certainly doesn’t need to be in your first email. If you’re putting the blogger into the position as your puppet with you as the master, don’t expect them to stay on the strings. Instead, find a way to make your relationship mutually beneficial.
Digital Exec and lifestyle blogger Cat put it this way for other bloggers: “You aren’t about to get arrested if you use do-follow links for a sponsored post/review. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to agree to do-follow links when collaborating with brands. HOWEVER – always, always add a disclaimer for any sponsored content.”
Therefore, be conscious that you should be honest and share the knowledge you have as someone who works in the digital marketing industry. Ultimately you will be reaching out to bloggers as you want to work with them, so make sure you respect them too (plus, that way they won’t shame you on social media…).
Keeping bloggers happy
The landscape of blogger outreach continues to change as search engines change their guidelines and as bigger brands begin to invest more into building more worthy partnerships. It’s important to be aware of what else is going on around you to make sure that these influences don’t impact on the results you want to achieve, or you might need to re-examine how the tactic of outreach fits into your wider campaigns.
I’d love to hear about your stories – both good and bad – when it comes to outreach. What makes it into your inbox that makes you cringe? Or has your past self sent something out yourself which your current self wouldn’t do anymore? Let me know in the comments below!