Blogger outreach can be effective or it can be a total waste of time. It can make your day, or it can ruin it. It can either be a mind-numbing outreach exercise or an interesting research and networking exercise.
I've been working to develop relationships with bloggers and editors on behalf of a few of my most recent clients. Here are some things that I've learned.
1. Less is more
Tell me that you can't tell when you're getting a mass email. Sure, sometimes they are appropriate. Blogger outreach is not one of those times.
Spend more time researching the right people and crafting your pitch than you do hitting send, and you will have better results.
At some point, you're going to stop believing what you're pitching. When that happens, stop. Move on to something else. Write a fresh pitch. Call your mom.
2. Set goals and budget
At what point will you be satisfied with the work you are doing? What does success mean to you? This is as hard for me as it is for you, believe me, but I promise you it will keep you sane. Even if it feels arbitrary at first, it gives you a baseline that you can strive for. Once you hit that goal, you can always do more. From here, you'll learn what it will take each time you do a round of outreach, so you can plan ahead.
Your budget is equally as important as your goals. I'm not just talking about money, by the way. Your time is an asset too! Many bloggers have turned their platforms into businesses, so payment is totally fair and expected. Building a community is really hard work. You can request their media kits to see traffic numbers so you can make sure the investment will be worthwhile for you or your client.
3. Make it personal
Bloggers are people too. Blogs are intimate. They represent the creator's entire world, brand, person. Great bloggers spend a ton of time creating content for others to enjoy. Treat them with respect by personalizing your pitch - this is about them, not you. It's the first step to getting them to engage.
When it comes to online publications, like Refinery 29 for instance, adopt the same approach. Their jobs depend on them getting it right. You can either help them do their job well or put it in jeopardy by wasting their time. No pressure though.
For example, I did multiple rounds of outreach for a recent client, each time trying something new. The first round of outreach I did, I researched and built a list of 20 highly relevant editors that I wanted to pitch. I sent each one a SHORT personal email, which included a very specific request. Out of that list, I got responses from half of them. Out of those 10, 5 wanted to meet right away, and 1 of them has already written an article about my client. For the second round of outreach, I pulled a list of 100 contacts from a contact database and sent a less-personalized note (of course I still personalized the greeting and the first line of the note). Guess what? I got 0 responses! ZERO. Never in my life have I received ZERO responses to an outreach email. I was floored. So, moral of the story, don't cut corners. Spend your time wisely researching your prospects so you can pitch them something that's interesting to them.
4. Assets are key
When you do get a response from a blogger/editor, you better have your assets ready to go. This might mean imagery, factsheets, social media links, etc. Have it ready BEFORE you start your outreach, so you don't lose any time at all once you have a writer excited about your product.
5. Ask for what you want
What are you looking to achieve with your outreach? Do you want to build credibility and drive people to your website? Ask for a product review. Do you want to build your email list? Try a giveaway. Do you want to boost your google pagerank? Get as many posts out there as possible! FIgure out what you want and then ask for it. Don't overcomplicate this one and don't let anyone talk you into doing something you don't need.
6. Measure the results
Once you start getting coverage, you can track the impact through analytics. You'll be able to see how much traffic and how many conversions you received from each post (assuming you're set up to track that). You might be surprised to see which blogs are performing the best. For example, one of my clients worked with lots of blogs of various sizes. We were surprised to see that some of the smaller, targeted blogs (read: less expensive) actually drove more sales than the bigger ones we worked with. Just goes to show that relevance usually wins - these blogs were specifically aimed at our target audience, meaning their following, though smaller, was actually more qualified than a big-name blog.
7. Be grateful
The deed is not done until the blogger has a hand-written thank you note in hand. This is about relationships, not transactions. Make it count.