Recently it was brought to my attention that I am apparently very hard to reach. I was surprised by this, considering I spend approximately 2/3 of my working day reading and answering email. But thinking about it, I have an idea where this might come from. As probably is the case for most bloggers and influencers about 90% of the email that I receive will not even get my attention because it appears irrelevant. And the remaining 10% I might read, but for various reasons might not respond.
For this feature I thought a bit about what differentiates those approaches that I respond to, and those that will get ignored due to a lack of time or some essential ingredient. You could see the following tips as a guide to an ideal world where bloggers and influencers will only receive relevant and well-written requests that will only prompt happy replies and fruitful collaborations.
Mass Mailing or Personal Approach
In a recent conversation with an experienced PR worker, I learned about the incredibly low return rate of a typical PR mass mailing. I was shocked. So, is the traditional, impersonal press mailing really worth it? When it comes to reaching out to bloggers and influencers, in most cases I would say: It’s not.
So my suggestion is, even if this means you reach out to far less people and it costs you more time to research suitable contacts, customize your emails with blogger and blog names (and make sure not to mix up names and emails of different bloggers as this can be quite embarrassing). You will surely have a better return rate.
The Right Communication Channel
But is email the right communication channel if you could just as well write them on Facebook or call them directly? I personally would caution you not to just call people out of the blue. If you’ve spoken with them about your project or product before, it can be a way of cutting to the chase more quickly, but otherwise it might not leave the impression that you want. Same goes for Facebook and Instagram direct messages. It can be helpful to not be drowning amongst a sea of press mailings with your request, but unless you are already on friendly terms with them, you might overstep the boundaries of privacy.
It’s a Match!
The most important thing in my entire list is this: How relevant is your request to the blogger or influencer? They will probably be interested in your request for two reasons: a) it perfectly fits their editorial concept and will work great on their media (generating a lot of clicks, followers, impressions or likes) – or b) it’s lucrative business. But really, the first reason is ultimately the more important one, because business or not, bloggers and influencers all have their editorial preferences, and these should be matched. So the more precise your selection for your mailing is, the better. I think this is also related to the reason why mass mailings to a huge list of publishers don’t generate much return: If you have a fashion topic and the publisher doesn’t even post about fashion, then it doesn’t make sense to even write them.
Respect the Business
It’s important to understand that the majority of bloggers and influencers make their business with brand collaborations. Of course your instinct is primarily to get whatever you want from them for free and you will approach them without offering them anything in return. Don’t do it. It’s not respectful. You probably already have a budget from your client and if not convince your client to have one. In your initial approach you should already either offer them a budget or ask for a quote. It’s than up to you and the publisher to negotiate the exact conditions.
If your request is about something non-commercial or non-branded it’s not going to be about big budgets. A smart blogger should be able to distinguish between a global corporation with big budgets and a small local business that can hardly afford to pay a PR. However this doesn’t mean you should not consider offering them something in return for their help in promoting your project. Invite them to your event if you do one, offer them a product sample if it’s within your means, or consider other types of incentives like rebates.
The Right Timing
Whether you receive a reply to your request by an influencer or not is also a matter of timing. When I take a look at my inbox, there are times where I receive a higher amount of mails than other times and in my life there are days when I am more busy than on others. Depending on the urgency of your request, you might want to avoid typically busy days such as Mondays, or busy periods such as the week before and during industry events such as Fashion Week, ITB, IFA, etc. You could even consider the weekends, when most bloggers don’t receive a lot of mail, but they will be still constantly checking their phones anyway. Most of them probably even work on weekends.
It also matters how early or late you write them with regard to your own timeline. For instance, if your request is attached to a release or event date, then make sure to give them enough of a head start to prepare a feature – like a week or two. Don’t approach them months in advance because they might forget about it if it’s too far away.
Evaluating the result seems to become more and more important for agencies and clients alike. Even though I personally wouldn’t want to measure the success of branded content purely on likes and clicks, I can understand the interest in the numbers. However, it’s not standard practice to supply exact numbers or even screenshots of statistic tools after a finished collaboration. If you need these numbers, you need to tell the publisher this before the collaboration so they can decide if they feel comfortable about it or not.
A Matter of Efficiency
To avoid a lengthy back and forth, you should include all necessary information and material in your first email. This seems like a logical thing to do, but you would be surprised how many emails I receive that are basically only half-baked. Is the project/product/event/campaign described enough to be able to extract a feature out of it? Did you attach enough high quality image material (most blogs only work with strong visuals) or downloads to such if they are bigger in file size? Is there a link to a website, Facebook event, or fan page? Did you include all dates, times and addresses that might be relevant? A phone number to call you back for more questions? It also helps if you state exactly what you are looking for, and try to do all of the above in the most brief and understandable way.
Understanding Bloggers and Influencers
For successful communication, it’s essential to know whom you are dealing with. The profession of a blogger, or any kind of influencers for that matter, is still fairly new and many people don’t fully understand how it operates. First: they are not all the same. But one thing is for sure: they are not like traditional media companies. They don’t have publishing houses, bosses, secretaries and payrolls behind them. Most of them are individual entrepreneurs, partially with small teams, but still you couldn’t consider them start-ups. Not everyone has a fully professional set-up, but also not everyone works from his or her bed. Professionalism itself is a term open to interpretation.
Keep all of this in mind when you plan your next outreach to bloggers and influencers. If you follow these guidelines and keep an eye out on other trends of influencer marketing, I’m confident you will receive the reactions you anticipate.