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by Harry Gardiner on 14th February 2013
I’m going to start by saying the obvious: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Sorry I didn’t get you a card, I did try emailing you about some ideas I had, but you never replied.
It might have got lost amidst the tons of spam mail (and terrible flash-based valentine’s e-cards) that you never delete, but know you should. Maybe you saw the subject header but ignored it because it was too bland, or maybe, just possibly, you actually read it.
There’s a slim chance you took the time out of your day to read my email and in that case please tell me what it was that put you off? I included your websites name, told you who I was, and even told you what I wanted to write about. Why are you not replying? What is it you’re not getting?
Okay, so maybe I didn’t use your actual name, but that’s your fault for not including it on your ‘About me’ page. I mean I know you’re a UK Fashion blog, but I really do think your readers would be interested in the types of fish found downstream of Lake Tanganyika.
Come on, of course there were a few typos in my message; after all I’m only human. I’m sorry if my email sounded a little spammy, it’s not I swear, I was just a little tired after sending it out to the hundred other blogs…. oh.
Panic Over… Or is it?
The above text is every bloggers worst nightmare, yet it’s detailing the kind of outreach that most have to deal with on a daily basis (perhaps without the Valentine’s reference).
Go perform a search for ‘Blogger Outreach’. You’ll no doubt come back with countless articles on how bad most blogger outreach is and posts which detail exactly what people need to change in order to get better results.
Yes this is another article about perfecting your outreach, but this time I’m saying it with heart, because despite all this readily available, utterly bodacious knowledge, the web is still rife with poor quality outreach emails.
‘Relationship building’ is a term that’s been generating a lot of buzz for about a year now. With Google having updated their algorithms to penalise sites that contain irrelevant or low level links, a lot of people have begun to think bigger and realise that they need to go above and beyond building links, they need to build relationships.
Outreach is one of the many steps you can take towards doing exactly that.
You Need a Little Time
There’s a very clear reason why so many people are still relying on the standard template type email for outreach. It’s because building a relationship is hard.
Maybe you’re working against a schedule and you don’t have the time to invest in getting to know who it is you’re sending an email to. If this is the case, then be honest with yourself, because you’re relying on a very weak excuse.
Bloggers are not asking to be taken out for a romantic meal, they just want you to take an interest in their blog and talk to them like they’re a real person.
Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to learn their name and have a look at their social profiles. Go through their site and comment on an article you like. Don’t be selfish and choose the first thing you see, find something on there that you have a genuine interest in.
Not only is it a great place to get yourself involved with the site, it’s also a great topic to start your conversation with the actual blogger. You can use your admiration for said article as an icebreaker in your outreach later on.
Don’t be Scared to Commit
Maybe you’ve been burned before. It does happen; you may have spent hours carefully crafting that outreach email, after searching through the site and picking out a selection of articles that you absolutely love.
You’ve interacted with blog posts on that site before, shared one or two and even liked a few. You’re a long term reader, first time writer, and you’ve written an article that would be perfect for that site, you honestly don’t want to put it anywhere else.
You send the email, and all your hopes along with it, only to be sat there a week later staring mournfully at your inbox with no reply and a strange sense of shame you’re pretty sure you have your parents to blame for.
You can keep telling yourself that “They’re probably just busy” but in reality you have to face the fact that your email may have gone unnoticed. This may only happen with one of the emails you send out, it may happen with hundreds. You’ve got to be ready for a lot of rejection when it comes to blogger outreach.
If you’re dead set on writing for that specific blog, then let them know. Send them a message or two to remind them of your initial email if you don’t hear a reply after a few days. Remember though that in no way are they obliged to reply to your email, so don’t hunt down their personal email and barrage them with messages like you’re some kind of crazy ex.
Stay professional and keep your options open, hedging all your bets in one blog may not turn out as well as you think it will.
Just like an actual relationship, there’s not always an easy fix to make things work. Just like an actual relationship, sometimes to make things better you simply just have to try harder.
Larger Than Life
On the big screen, this whole process would be a sequel, with an overly gruff voice announcing the title, “Outreach 2: This Time, It’s Personal”. The original “Outreach” would have been a box-office smash about the wonders of a bloggers connecting over ‘The Net’ (which everyone knows looks just like the Grid from Tron, obviously).
The sequel is a much darker, ‘grittier’ toned reboot of sorts (à la everything from Hollywood at the moment). We pick up a decade or so after blogging has become well established and we discover that not everything has come up roses. Spam-writers terrorise innocent bloggers whilst a small establishment of bourgeois blog-keepers do their best to rip off the dwindling numbers of lowly, honest authors.
Our hero is an intrepid young copywriter (Donald Glover) who must build up a trusted relationship with an attractive blogger (Anna Kendrick) in order to remind everyone of the importance of quality human interaction and save ‘The Net’. All the while he’s rallied on by his wise-cracking web designer and best buddy (a younger Jonah Hill).
Excuse me while I take this call from Lionsgate…
Well you can’t blame a guy for dreaming. Although my film analogy is clearly a vast generalisation and hyperbole filled exaggeration of the current blogging landscape, there are no doubt elements of it that may ring true for many people.
You Talking to me?
I wasn’t joking when I said bloggers are terrorised by spam mail, but terrorised may be too strong a word, something akin to burdened or barraged probably suits better. Many bloggers don’t include their own email on their site because they’re sick of constantly having to deal with the influx of trash-filled emails.
Your aim is to make sure you email doesn’t get mistaken for trash.
Sound easy? It’s actually a lot harder than most think, as there is no set way of making sure someone reads and replies to your email. You’ve got to make sure your emails hit the mark, and sadly, unlike the theme of today, guest bloggers don’t get help from a cheeky cherub with a bow and arrow.
(Disclaimer: If you start trying to fling actual arrows at bloggers then you’re going to have a lot more problems than just getting them to notice you.)
How do you get noticed? Get personal. You can always tell if someone is talking to you with an ulterior motive in mind, and often it can quite off putting. There’s nothing wrong with asking for something, but nor is there anything wrong with just striking up a conversation.
Play to your Strengths
Make every email you send unique. Yes this does require both time and effort, but this is real life and not some hypothetical (yet awesome sounding) film. Therefore, everything worthwhile requires effort in order to gain results.
There are certain things you’ll always have to include in an outreach email, such as your contact details and the idea of what you want to write about. As far as necessities go though that’s your lot, everything else in the email is up to you.
There are no set rules to how we should contact people, manners and common sense dictate what we shouldn’t do, but there’s no ‘secret email police’ telling us exactly how we should and shouldn’t communicate. As long your email is personal, topical to that blog and legible, then you can pretty much do as you wish.
If you’re an artist, create a visual representation of why you should write for that blog, make an awesome Infographic or draw a picture of you and that blogger holding hands… you get the idea. One word of advice though, it’s preferable to keep your email short. Bloggers have normal lives too, and no one likes having to read an essay when their expecting a quick message.
People Help People
Throughout this entire process, the most important thing to remember is that bloggers are people too, and the best way to build a relationship is to get to know them personally.
Get on blogging communities like My Blog Guest. They’re filled with bloggers of all kinds, and are a great way to begin interacting with people. Find blogger hang outs on Google+ or create groups for like-minded bloggers and organise meet ups to get to know each other.
There are events held all year round where bloggers can connect in person and get to know one another. These are the ideal situations to network and increase your social circles. The process doesn’t end at just making friends though. Once you establish a relationship, you’ve got to keep it going.
Whilst staying in regular contact with every blogger you connect with may sound like a lot of effort, the whole process is made easier with social networks.
Communications can be easily managed if you keep on top of them. Set up a column on your TweetDeck (you should be using TweetDeck by the way) for your blogger contacts and be sure to get involved with discussions.
Try inviting other bloggers over, no not for dinner, but for a guest post on your site. Not only will this help strengthen blogger relations, it’ll introduce your readers to a refreshing new perspective and help spread the word about the blogs of each involved party.
So this Valentine’s Day, take some time out to send some love and begin building a relationship, not because you have to, but because you want to.
How do you feel about the current state of blogger outreach? Do you have any great or horrendously awful outreach email examples? Want to turn my movie pitch into a fully-fledged film? Sound off in the comments section below and let me know what you think.
Heart Graffiti image from BigStock
Business man pressing social buttons image from BigStock