Influencer outreach is tricky, to say the least. As marketers, most of us aren’t sales people by nature; yet forming reliable connections with influencers requires a cold-calling mindset. You will be ignored, you will be rejected, and you may even be scolded for your outreach. But you must weather the storm and continue onward. It takes a strong backbone, a willingness to succeed, and some tricks of the trade to successfully foster influencer relationships.
How it Looks on the Inside
As a former reporter, and current editorial advisor for a men’s lifestyle media site, I can tell you that most outreach barely passes my sniff test. I receive multiple influencer outreach emails a day, in addition to my regular email, and sifting through everything is simply too time consuming most days. Some do catch my attention and some do make it through onto the site, but more often than not, the successful attempts are simply those that align with my schedule.
When an email, tweet, or other attempt at outreach catches my attention while I have down time, I am most likely to respond. Other times, the subject line so perfectly aligns with current projects or initiatives that it catches my eye. The right timing for me—which is impossible for anyone else to know—is often the strongest factor that contributes to my outreach responses.
The Finicky State of Influencer Outreach Today
Today, the current landscape of influencer outreach makes your chances at success all the more difficult. Influencers are often recruited into comfy programs where they can filter the outreach they receive. Some have non-compete clauses or long lasting relationships with others that would cause a conflict of interest by participating with other brands. Others may request outrageous payments for their services that don’t fit within your budget. Worse yet, the big names in the game even have agents with whom you’ll have to break through to even begin to get on said influencer’s radar.
Even though the process may be more difficult than it used to be, it’s not impossible. The trick is to think like an influencer, and abide by these recommendations from someone on the receiving side of media outreach.
1. Stop Trying to Chat, Start Trying to Excite
Every influencer has the same thought when he or she stares at their inbox: “If the subject line isn’t striking, I’m almost certainly not going to open your message.” For every person you reach out to, you should assume their inbox has 100 messages and the influencer has about 60 seconds to scan through them all. You need to differentiate your message from the masses, and your shot to do so is in your subject line. There are endless tips online about how to perfectly word email subject lines, but the truth is there is no foolproof formula.
Your goal is to get their attention with 35 to 38 characters, period.
To catch their attention, try catering to the loss aversion tendency by making the subject line seem as if that person will miss out on something amazing if they don’t open the message. Or, taking a tip from the Buzzfeed formula, make it seem as if the person will literally not survive if they don’t read more.
Again, as timing is important, a good rule of thumb is to scan the influencer’s social feeds ahead of time to see if you can notice a common theme in their interests. Align your subject line (and pitch) with their theme to catch their attention and you’ll greatly increase your chances of an open.
2. Stop Taking so Long to get to the Point
High open rates don’t equal success. Your success depends on the content of your message. If an influencer opens your message and is not interested in the content above the fold, he or she probably won’t read more, much less respond. Opening and closing an email takes a simple swipe, which we all know is painstakingly easy to do.
At this point, you have the influencers eye for a moment, and so your job then is to maintain it. Thus, your message should never start with a picture, nor should it start with a formal, dry introduction or anything else generic. Yes, this means you can skip the long formalities, crazy statistics and obvious information such as “I am reaching out to you because…”
The first few lines of your message are your time to make yourself seem worthy of their time. Work to perfect the skill of writing intriguing content that draws a reader in. To do so, state your most striking, fantastical information right away. The intros and the facts aren’t that important; getting to the point is.
3. Quit Asking Without First Giving
Remember, with influencer outreach you are asking for a favor, and as common courtesy dictates, you should give first and ask second. If you’re offering a sample or an invite, state that before you ask for a favor. If you’re not giving away something, you can still give the influencer something else, which is sometimes even more important: Recognition.
Cite them in your blog, quote them in another partnership outlet, or publically share their latest piece of news with someone else influential. It doesn’t matter if that influencer is making his or her own headlines, a link is still a link and a mention is still a mention.
This strategy accomplishes a handful of homeruns at once: It allows you to give a compliment; it proves you read, saw or interacted with their material; it personalizes the message in a fan-love way; it helps boost their influence; and—most importantly—it gives them something for free. And everyone, regardless of their status, still loves free publicity. Yes, it takes a little extra time, but if you use the rule of reciprocity to your advantage, your results will soar.
Media outreach is a finicky, if not cutthroat, job. Even the best outreachers and PR professionals have their work cut out for them. But by writing compelling subject lines, getting straight to the point, and offering them real value in exchange for their endorsement, you’re already ahead of the crowd.