I have been involved in the blogging industry since 2008. In that time, I’ve seen huge changes in how both bloggers and brands approach influencer outreach. Strategies have become overused and growth hackers have been offering tools that take all humanity out of the process.
What once worked is no longer effective. In this post, I’ll share the strategies and behaviours that will annoy influences and increase the chances that they’ll immediately send your email to the trash.
Many of the outreach strategies I’ll be criticising can be effective – if done correctly. Unfortunately, too many people are skimming the educational articles, ignoring the disclaimers and advice the authors give and take it to the worst extreme.
Round-up posts used to be an incredibly effective way to drive traffic and establish authority. It can still be quite useful, in certain niches, where too many people haven’t taken advantage of it.
It becomes problematic when too many beginners in the niche jump onto the trend. Many posts end up being poor quality – with generic editing and little background information – which can lead to the expert ignoring all requests.
Consider Chris Brogans perspective:
Make yourself the reader, the consumer of that “content” for a moment. (I’m glad I don’t have to pay for quotation marks. If you and I were talking face to face about this, my fingers would be sore from “air” “quotes” by now.) There’s no reason anyone really wants to read the opinions of a dozen or so “experts” on anything in particular.
Due to the saturation, it has less impact. The experts you consult are less likely to remember you if you are just one of many asking. It can get to a point where you see all roundup requests as a win/lose situation, one that favours the person making the request.
Additionally, bloggers are more discerning. They don’t want their name tarnished by association if they don’t agree with the principles of others who are consulted for the list. They also don’t want to be associated with a blog that is of poor quality.
The good news? You can still create an awesome roundup. You just have to put more work into it.
For ideas, check out How to Write a Great Round-Up Post and How to write great, data-driven roundup blog posts.
Using an obvious template
In May, Darren Rowse posted on Facebook about receiving an outreach email that wasn’t customized. It generated a lot of discussions, especially as many others had received the exact same email.
Later, Darren shared how easy it is to tell when something is a template:
“Don’t use formulas – even when you fill in the gaps correctly and send the 2nd version you have to realise that as a podcast host I get up to 10 pitches a day (I know other hosts who get many more) from people wanting to be interviewed and in almost all cases they follow the same formula and look very copy and paste.”
Many recipients can even recognize the source of the template, as shown in this Facebook post by Chris Brogan.
The issue occurs when people use these templates with minimal changes, rather than using them as a basic framework for their outreach. To quote from Seth Godin, “the art is to see patterns, but to use them to do something new, something that rhymes.”
Additionally, the fake flattery used in a lot of these templates mean little when the recipient doesn’t recognize you as being part of their community. Many bloggers will question your honesty if you say you are a huge fan but haven’t engaged with any of their content.
This isn’t to say engagement is necessary. Does Blogger Outreach Really Require Engagement? shows how you can successfully reach out to influencers without building prior relationships.
Not properly researching when link building
In a series of tweets, Joel Runyon shared the story of a person trying to claim he was “a more authoritative source on Bulletproof than the company that owns the trademark.”
A representative of a website contacted Joel seeking a link, based on the fact that Joel had linked to content on a similar topic. Joel tried to educate the person: asking whether his site did indeed have more authority and telling him that people are getting sick of templated emails. The representative then subtly guilted him, pointing out that the advice did work and he mustn’t have been offering enough value.
The original person was right. These techniques do work – when you have done proper research. People aren’t going to trust a person who gets information wrong in their first email. This especially applies to the social circle of that person.
As Joel later said,
“All these BS outreach methods don’t take into account that I’m FRIENDS with the people that they’re trying to get me replace their sites with.”
Most influencers are incredibly protective of the community they have spent years building. This means that are reluctant to lend their authority to those who were disrespectful at the outset. Many people now associate an appearance with an endorsement, which means that an influencer has to be more discerning about who they help out.
Here are the main examples I see repeated on social media.
Feeling Entitled That The Influencer Will Share
Paul Jarvis, one of the kindest creatives I know, elaborated on this in Not everything needs to be paid back in full. According to him,
The problem is when people go into these business relationships, thinking solely how they can give X at the start, simply because they need X in return from that person right after.
He later shared an example of how a person sent him four emails asking him to share an interview someone had done with him. They were so persistent that he regretted doing the interview.
Entitlement is a guaranteed way to ensure that a blogger never works with you. Reciprocity should be a bonus and not an expectation. As Nat Eliason said,
No matter how much of their stuff you’ve read, they have no idea who you are or why they should like you or help you, so you have to prove to them why they should care about you. Your ability to rattle off their past works doesn’t mean that you’re automatically friends, and them publishing things online doesn’t mean that everyone who reads them has the right to their time.
You can’t assume you’re entitled to their time, you have to show them why they want to give you time.
Guilting the blogger
Most people will just delete unsolicited pitches due to time constraints, but some will still respond. Often, this is to prevent the inevitable follow up emails.
One technique that is being used by cold contacts currently is guilt. Sol Orwell shares an example in Learning from terrible networking
Sol participates in many business-related networking groups and as a result, gets more pitches than most. In this example, the contact sent a copy and paste response stating that community is about sharing and support.
Asking for the share if you have an existing relationship is understandable, and often expected in many niches. Trying to guilt someone, though, is a surefire way to get marked as spam.
Amber Naslund wrote about four main problems with using guilt as leverage in The Worst Influencer Outreach Strategy Yet.
Being too persistant
I’ve been a blogging recluse for the past five years. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve received four emails from a person claiming that he found me on LinkedIn and wanted me to share a social media infographic.
I deleted my LinkedIn account years ago. That lack of research, combined with the sheer persistence, guarantees that I’ll never work with him.
Follow-ups are effective, as most of us are busy and emails can get overlooked. Chris Brogan – someone who receives a large amount of bad outreach – recommends that you send “no more than two emails. Ever. If someone doesn’t reply, take the hint. (After the 2nd email, not a 3rd or more.)”
there is a fine line between a person coming across as driven and passionate, compared to someone that is aggressive and uses people. Don’t be the latter.
How To Stand Out? Make Sure Your Pitch Is Relevant
Influencers know the rhetoric. Their audience is even aware of it. This means that they have to be more discerning about what they link to. Someone writes about them? Brilliant. However, outside of the ego boost and social proof, will that post be relevant to their audience?
Showing that you care about a persons time and ensuring your pitch is relevant will make you stand out above hundreds of others. Keep these strategies in mind for when you next ask for a favour.