Todays’s post come from one of our favorite customers, Lexi Mills. Lexi has six years experience in online marketing and communications and spent 2 and a half years at an International SEO Agency becoming an SEO PR specialist. She now heads up digital for Dynamo PR.
She has designed and implemented PR, SEO link building, and social campaigns in the UK and USA for B2B and B2C clients. Her client experience covers everything from the music industry to debt, insurance, travel, tech, and luxury goods for both small start-ups and big brands.
Outreach is a tricky game, if you promote yourself too aggressively, you will turn off the very people you were hoping to build relationships with. Having worked in PR and outreach for several years I have relationships in quite a few areas however I was recently set the tasked of building relationships in a new market, specifically with design and decorating blogs for my client Bathrooms.com
I put a lot of thought into how I would go about doing this and thought it might be useful to share the strategy I mapped out with our head of social for contacting influential bloggers in a new market, so you can apply the tactics we used to your own outreach projects.
After the first few months of implementing the strategy I also went back and quizzed the key bloggers we were speaking to find out which parts of our approach made them want to engage with us. I have summarized these into 6 key takeaways.
Our Outreach Strategy
1.) Build list of influencers
Attempt to build a list of the 100 most influential bloggers in your target niche. (We actually built a list of 200 to begin with and then eliminated a hundred further down the line.)
2.) Follow them on Twitter
After we built our list of active influencers, we began to follow them on Twitter, both from the company account and from several of our personal accounts. Essentially, if we were going to reach out to them, we wanted to know what they liked, what they didn’t and what they would want to talk about. We also wanted to avoid just contacting them out of the blue, which leads on to the next part of the strategy.
3.) Start retweeting them and their content
The best way to get people on your side is to be genuinely interested in what they say. After all, interested is interesting! We knew this meant that we had to engage with what they were saying on Twitter, so we began to retweet them so we could begin to get on their radar as people who are interested in what they have to say.
Once we felt sure that they had become aware of who we were and how interested we really were in them, we could move on to the next step.
4.) Email them to introduce ourselves
We didn’t want to ask for something from them immediately, so we simply introduced ourselves and let them know who we are and – crucially – let them know that they were in control of how much or even if we contacted them. Check out the footer of our first email (below) to see how we did that.
“Important Message: I don’t email anyone I don’t genuinely follow but I also want to make sure you control my access to you:
If you don’t want to hear from my team again please press this link so we can make sure I can’t email you again
or if you’d like to introduce me to another blogger who covers inspiration/affordable design please forward this link.”
5.) Wait for the right opportunity- creating the right opportunity
After that initial introductory email, we left them alone for a few weeks. We would stay engaged, but we would just send them links to interesting things and have small conversations. For us, this outreach strategy has been as much about building relationships as it was about outreach, and we didn’t want our new friends to think that we were only after a link or a mention.
So we maintained the relationship until we saw an opportunity to work with them in a way that would be mutually beneficial. The key things was that we had lots of activity planned around the social channels and onsite blog, so we could let them know about the activity that we knew they would be interested in and we even tailored the planned activity upon getting to know the bloggers more.
One part of activity that has been really useful was asking some of the bloggers to be a part of our interview series and to suggest prizes for our competitions. This allowed us to get to know them better and helped drive traffic to their blogs form our site. We also found a way to point to our social channels, too, by suggesting that they could respond to questions on our Facebook page if that worked better for them.
We mentioned the bloggers’ interests, posts and even their pets, when they mentioned them on their site. We connected it back to our interests, our blog and our pets. This created a personal connection, which was based on honesty.
Give something back
We didn’t expect these bloggers to give us something for nothing. We knew they would need something from us to make it worth their while. So we gave them the opportunity to promote their blogs on our site, with no obligation on their part to promote us. Still, because we scratched their backs, they were more willing to scratch ours, too.
Provide opt outs at every stage
We really believed that giving the bloggers the ability to tell us to go away was vital to this campaign’s success upon speaking to them mid campaign it turns out this was true. That ability to control how we contacted them assured the bloggers that we weren’t just trying to scam them for anything.
Be human and humble
Having a stuffy corporate tone is great for terms and conditions, but it is inappropriate for bloggers. We kept our tone light and conversational, and we made it clear that we felt like it was our honor to talk to them, not the other way around.
Get to know your target audience
At every step of this strategy, we took the opportunity to get to know the people we were talking to. Why? Because we could come up with outreach ideas that fit with their interests or their own goals and this came out as something the bloggers really appreciated. When your outreach campaign builds in win-win situations for everyone involved, bloggers are far less likely to turn it down.
It’s easy to get disheartened when contacting bloggers who don’t respond or who stop responding, however they are busy people who receive large amounts of mail, so don’t give up if they don’t reply to one or two emails. Check their twitter feeds, make sure you comment on their site and then try again, especially if you have followed the above initial strategy before contacting them the first time. We found that 50% of bloggers did get back in touch with a little patience and perseverance.
We’re taking on feedback from our new blogger friends so the next campaign will be even more successful, one key thing they mentioned was making the contact real, creating events that they can go to and meet you face to face, so we are working on doing this over the next few months. And by sharing what we’ve done and what we’ve learned, hopefully you can improve your future campaigns, too.