Do you want your business (or your client’s business) to grow naturally?
If so, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the term outreach.
What is Outreach?
Outreach is about “reaching out” to the people who can help you get coverage and backlinks. Coverage may include links to your site, mentions about your company, or an opportunity to guest post on another site. And the people who can help may include influencers, writers, editors, bloggers or journalists.
Why is Outreach so Important?
The ultimate benefit of outreach is that it will help increase organic performance.
Almost every link-building tactic involves some degree of outreach. It may be anything from pitching a guest post to asking for a link. Without outreach, you’re just pushing out content and hoping someone will bite. And we all know that doesn’t work.
Instead, you have to make connections and relationships that help your brand.
Why Outreach Can Be Challenging
Outreach is crucial to the entire link-building process, but there is a huge problem.
Influencers, bloggers, reporters, and editors are bombarded with requests from people who want coverage. They hear from public relations firms, business owners, SEO companies and other marketers daily. Everyone wants coverage and backlinks.
You’re just a fly on the wall.
Unless, of course, you know what you’re doing.
How to Handle Outreach the Wrong Way
You do have one thing going for you. Most people are handling outreach the wrong way. The majority of requests these people receive are cold. Cold emails, cold calls… cold outreach. It’s all about “Me, me, me!”
This is a huge problem because the influencer you’re trying to reach doesn’t care about “You, you, you.”
To stand out, you must provide value.
Anyone in link-building and public relations knows this. So why do they keep doing it wrong?
I believe it’s because it takes time to do it right. You have to do a little research and spend the time building a genuine relationship. Sending mass emails with an automated program is faster.
But what you save in time, you do not get back in results.
Some people may genuinely not know how to connect with influencers for the first time. So that’s what this post is all about.
How to Handle Outreach the Right Way
I’m going to cover five ways to make the first contact with an influencer or group of influencers. The beauty of these methods is that each leads with value. It’s not about you; it’s about them. This is what will help you stand out.
Method #1: Help an influencer, reporter or blogger by becoming an information source.
Most reporters and journalists are looking for great ideas and original sources. This is their job, after all. If you can help them come up with the right story, you are adding value. If you or one of your clients is an expert in a niche, that reporter may want your input or take on a story.
There are two ways to do this.
- Help A Reporter Out (known as HARO). Here, you’ll see requests from different reporters, organized by industry. Monitor these requests based on keywords and industries. Every time you see a request for which you could be a source, pitch your information to them. They may be able to use your information in an article or content piece.
- Use Twitter to track two hashtags. The hashtags to track are #journorequest or #prrequest. Your goal is to monitor the Twittersphere to see exactly what journalists and reporters want. When you find a hashtagged tweet that is relevant to your niche, reply. Just remember that your goal is to provide value.
Using either method –Twitter or Help a Reporter Out– you will monitor and potentially answer reporters’ questions. This is a great way to gain exposure for yourself or a client.
If a reporter uses your information or insights in their content, you’ve provided value. When they hear from you again, they will be more likely to respond in a positive manner. They may also keep your contact information on file for future requests of the same nature.
How will you know if they use your information?
Some reporters may reach out to you with more questions. This is the initial connection, and you can continue that conversation going forward.
Other reporters will just take your information and run with it. They may even copy and paste your message right into their article or content piece. This is why it’s important to monitor the Web. Look for brand mentions or your own name using Google Alerts or BuzzSumo Alerts. Also, set up alerts for various related key phrases.
Whenever you get an alert on a story about your brand, reach out to that reporter. At this point, you may compliment them on the content and thank them for including your reference.
This is how you provide value. And this is how you begin a relationship with an influencer.
Method #2: Monitor forums and question/answer sites (e.g. Quora) in your industry or your client’s industry.
Search for the questions and answers within your niche. Then narrow your focus to topics that may interest any influencers you’re targeting.
Once you’re involved in a topic that interests your influencer, you can ask for their opinion. You may even want to invite them to the forum to join the conversation.
This may look something like, “I know you’re an authority in XYZ and thought you might want to give your insight.”
This does two things.
First, you are providing more exposure for the influencer. You’re doing the legwork and giving them the credit. You’re not asking for anything. You’re like a virtual assistant scanning the Internet for conversations that may interest the influencer.
Second, you are opening another avenue for them to connect with people who care about the topic. They can get involved, gain exposure and become more authoritative on the topic.
Later, you can follow up to continue the conversation.
Don’t worry if they don’t respond to your messages right away. Be patient and go ahead and send a few spaced-out messages to follow up on the same topic. Just don’t pester them either.
It’s important to know when to take a hint. If you followed up six times and they’re not receptive, find a different angle or move on to a different influencer.
If they got involved in the thread, they have taken advantage of your proposed value. That’s a win.
Now they know who you are. That’s all you really need from this initial contact.
Method #3: Provide data and insights that they can use in their work.
You may already have your own set of data and insights that influencers will find valuable.
Let’s say you have survey information about purchasing behavior related to e-commerce stores. You can provide that information to an influencer for their use. The only caveat is that the information must be new and accurate. Otherwise, it is unlikely to be useful.
Once you’ve recognized their potential need for your information, approach them with an email, tweet or call. You’re letting them know that you have data to help back up their story (or a potential future story).
If they reply to your initial message, great. The door to future conversations on various topics has flown wide open. If not, you have some more work to do.
How will you know if they use your information?
As we discussed in method #1, monitor their work. If they use your data, they will likely reference you and perhaps even link to the site that houses your data. Then you can reach out again to thank them for the reference.
Continue the conversation from there. Ask if they need more data or if they have more questions, and so on.
If you can continue providing information, you will establish an ongoing relationship. Your end goal is to provide so much value that they are happy to help you at any time.
Method 4: Help influencers gain exposure through interviews.
Your goal is to interview them on your blog, if you have a blog. It can be a video, audio or text interview. It could be on your own podcast or it could be for a report. Whatever it is, you want to provide value by interviewing them.
Many influencers and reporters would like to gain the media exposure. So asking them to take part is a great way to establish the first connection.
And the interview process itself gives you time to get to get to know them. Let’s say you set up an audio podcast interview. That’s 10 to 30 minutes of quality time with this influencer. This opens the door to follow-up interviews and other conversations.
The one challenge you may face will turn up if this is your first interview. Influencers want to know who you’ve interviewed in the past. And they want to know how much exposure they stand to gain.
If you’re having this problem, set your sights a bit lower. Try to build a database of interviews before approaching someone who is more popular.
When you do reach out, let them know you’ve interviewed a lot of people. This can increase your conversion rate.
Another way to approach potential hesitation is to play to their ego. Explain your post concept and why they are the only person for this interview.
Method #5: Pay to play.
Sometimes, the easiest way to gain initial exposure is to pay your way into the connection.
Does your influencer sell books, courses, products or services? If so, this may be a way to connect.
Sometimes, these products come with one-on-one consulting or access to a private group. These are great places to get a conversation going.
The initial value you’ve provided is your purchase. They’ll know you by name because you’ve provided value by buying their product. They have financially gained from your purchase, so that gives you chance to reach out to them.
If they don’t sell a product or service, find out if they belong to a professional or mastermind group you can join.
You can also connect with other influencers in that executive group. Leverage the opportunity to talk to them and build relationships. You can ask a lot of questions. You’ve bought the right to do so.
If you have the budget, pay to play may be the easiest way to establish a first connection.
To recap, the five ways to connect with influencers and bloggers for the first time are:
- Help a reporter or influencer by being a source of information. They’re going to ask questions. Respond with your pitch.
- Get involved in question-and-answer threads on Quora and forums. These threads should revolve around topics the influencers care about. Try to get them involved in the conversation so you can help them gain exposure.
- Provide data and insights that they can potentially use in their own articles.
- Interview influencers. You’re providing value by giving them exposure.
- Pay to play. Purchase their products or services. Or get involved with a group they belong to so you can casually reach out to them. You’ll be providing insights to the entire group, which benefits them as well.