Like it or not, bloggers are the digital gatekeepers of your target audience. If you want to make your product instantly known to any online community, being inaugurated by a relevant industry writer is usually a must.
Still, effective blogger outreach remains a mystery for most aspiring entrepreneurs. No matter how many polished press releases they send out, it’s always radio silence on the other end.
To help you get the word out, here’s a simple 4-step guide to building long-lasting relationships with any writer online:
Step #1: Do due diligence
Assuming you already know your target audience, the first thing to do is identify the blogs that are truly relevant to your product. Pitching a new CRM software to a cooking blog is clearly going to be a waste of time. However, not all industry sites are created the same either.
Use content discovery tools like AllTop, Technorati or, you know, Google to find the relevant blogs in your niche. To check whether an industry blog is really a good fit, you’ll need to dig deep into the content. Scavenge through the last several weeks of posts to get a general feel of what the website’s about. What kinds of stories are they covering? Who seems to be their target audience? Did they recently review one of your competitors?
Next, you want to make sure that the site is actually open to your type of outreach. This is where most bootstrapped startups intentionally turn a blind eye. Look, if you have no marketing budget, avoid sites that only write feature pieces for cash. It never works (trust me). Most blogs have at least some form of outreach guidelines. Find them and make sure your pitch meets the requirements.
You’ll also want to filter the blogs by relevance. The quickest way to determine a site’s influence is by checking their Domain Authority. The DA directly correlates to the blog’s traffic and search engine rankings – crucial factors if you’re fishing for links. Needless to say, blogs with higher Domain Authority have larger audiences, and will require more ‘wining and dining’ to give your product a chance.
Step #2: Establish rapport
If pitching them a story is the first time you’re interacting with a blogger, you already failed.
Popular writers receive dozens of press releases and feature requests a day. Most of them come from complete strangers and follow the same exact pattern. To stand out from the crowd of daft subject lines, your outreach efforts need to begin weeks before the actual pitch.
To create a relationship with an influencer, you should get on their radar much prior to your first email. The easiest way to do so is to by taking an actual interest in their work. Introduce their content to your own audience by sharing it on social media or your company blog. Bloggers scour the web for mentions. Become a raving fan of their brand, and they’ll have no choice but to take notice.
It’s also a good idea to leave comments on their articles. However, don’t you dare make this generic. ‘Awesome post, Ted. You rock!’ is not gonna cut it. Instead, add real value to the discussion. Share some of your own experiences, expand on a point or even propose a counter-argument. Whatever you do, being genuinely helpful is key.
If you really want to up your outreach game, you can even do part of the writer’s job for him. With some basic SEO knowledge, you should be able to easily scan the blog for any broken or outdated links (if the site’s dishing out daily content, there’s bound to be a few). Then, rather than just letting the writer know about it, get back to him with the appropriate alternatives.
Bottom line – nobody likes being used. If you want a blogger to open the email with your name on it, make sure you give him a good reason to know your name in the first place.
Step #3: The anti-pitch
As you might have already noticed, bloggers are not big on formalities. Matter of fact, there’s an unwritten rule against dealing with anything resembling a press release. To that end, you need to make sure that when you finally do reach out to them, your email pitch reads nothing like an actual, traditional pitch. Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy.
At least in substance, selling to bloggers is little different than selling to customers or investors – identify their pain points and propose an effective solution. In doing so, however, you want to avoid all corporate speak, and address them as fellow human beings. Also, unlike your landing pages or investor reports, keep it concise – anything more than two short paragraphs, and you risk losing them entirely.
Most writers look at their influence as currency, and you should treat it as such. If you’re not planning on paying them for the exposure, you’ll need to find another way to reciprocate. Often times, it can be as simple as offering a story with real value to them and their audience.
It’s not enough that the story you’re ‘pitching’ is exclusive, though. Nothing stops an exclusive story from being downright boring. Instead, try walking in the blogger’s shoes. What kind of content would he likely find worthwhile? Does your post have the potential to go viral? Can it attract more traffic to the site? Does it provide a new angle to one of their most popular articles? If you answered ‘no’ to all of the above, it’s back to the drawing board.
Step #4: Aim for the long haul
If you haven’t heard back from a blogger in a few days, it’s perfectly acceptable to give them a little nudge. Following up via email is fine, but it’s much better if you already have an ongoing relationship on social media (read: step #2). Most bloggers live on Twitter, so sending them a DM is often the preferred option.
However, know when to let go. Sometimes, the story just doesn’t hit home for the writer, no matter what you do. Rather than pushing, you want to focus on maintaining a long-term relationship with the blog. Because sure, this story didn’t work, but there’s no reason why the next one shouldn’t.
It might also be that your timing was just wrong. If you notice the writer covering similar topics in the future, it can be a good idea to revisit your outreach efforts. Let them know how your story effectively ties into this newly-created narrative, and why now’s the perfect time to feature it on their site.