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Content marketers new to media relations are under pressure to get influencer marketing right first time.

As a flurry of ‘best practice’ posts hit the web, one thing seems to missing: how to actually build relationships with – and pitch to - influencers.

The answer lies in understanding their audience, without whom there is no ‘influence’, and working back from there. 

The Google Trends data speaks for itself. Influencer marketing is going through the roof, probably due to Google’s focus on diverse and authoritative links, and the rise of ad blocking.

What used to be one area of public relations – media and blogger outreach – has now forced its way onto the remit of content marketers keen to build links and attention.

'Influencer Marketing' in the UK (Google Trends, April 2016)

For all the positives for influencers – more press trips, freebies and paid gigs – there is also the inevitable rise in spam.

If you are a content marketer finding yourself doing more and more influencer outreach, the below steps should help.

And to find out more about this topic, download Econsultancy's Rise of Influencers Study.

Influencer marketing from both sides

Having been in UK tech PR and media since 1998, I've seen media relations evolve from press releases being faxed and posted to print, radio and TV, to modern social media pitches linking to rich, embeddable media to bloggers and vloggers. 

As a tech journalist, my audience was IT managers. I spoke with them regularly to understand their challenges, and what kept them awake at night: security breaches, down time, capacity etc.

Without understanding my audience, I couldn’t talk to them effectively.

As a football travel blogger, I can tell immediately the pitch from a PR – whose chief objective is often ‘coverage’ and opportunities-to-see (OTS) – and an SEO, who wants a backlink to a target URL.

It’s clear that I write about football travel from the ‘About us’ page, and yet that means I have ended up on a few generic ‘lifestyle blogger’ lists and been invited to the launch of new restaurants and cocktail bars.

This breaks the first rule of influencer marketing: personalisation.

If you don’t understand the blogger – their motivation for blogging, the way they work and their audience – then you cannot tailor the unique content you need to in order to gain traction.

You’re aiming to build a long-term relationship with influencers. Today’s upstart with a few thousand hits per month might be tomorrow’s Zoella or Jim Chapman.

Way before approaching them, follow them on social media. Get on their radar somehow (a Like, a relevant retweet). 

How to pitch to influencers

After the homework stage, you’re ready to pitch. You already know the blogger is relevant and who their audience is. You’ve seen if they’ve covered your brand or competition before.

You’re clear on what unique experience or content you are ready to offer. Don’t forget to check on social media to see that they’re actually around and not on a boating trip in the Adriatic or on their way to a photo shoot.

You’ll be most likely pitching by email and they – or the people paid to filter out the bad emails - will receive potentially hundreds each day, so you really need to stand out. 

The key to successful pitching includes:

  • Subject line: Keep this to less than eight words. Get to the point, make it click-worthy, and don’t use caps, it looks like shouting. A catchy subject line is the difference between earning a click and being deleted instantly.
  • Personalise approach: Address the influencer by name. Never say ‘hi there’ or ‘Dear Blogger’, absolute no-nos! Also, is there a polite and relevant segue you can add, such as ‘I saw your recent piece on X and our recent research on Y could build to the story…’ 
  • Offer something unique: Is there something exclusive that you can offer to help that influencer stand out, like unique content, an experience, an interview? 
  • Keep it brief: The influencer has got plenty of other emails to check. Get to the point quickly and leave a call to action. Manage expectations.

The key thing is not to hassle the influencer. If they’re not interested, so be it. One of journalists’ key complaints is the “did you get my email?” PR follow-up call.

If they are interested in your pitch, follow up quickly and manage it all the way through, thank them when the piece appears and share on your social networks.

Don’t ever ask them if you can proof their copy first! 

Always remember that both parties need to disclose their interest in online content and social media.

Now you need to build a database with relevant information to capture all the data you need on your influencer outreach.

This should include contact information (email, social feeds etc.) and influence markers, such as domain authority (DA), estimated traffic, community size etc., and a history of your contact with them.

Capture other data that might help ease a conversation with them and show you’ve actually researched them – where do they live, which football team do they support etc. 

Nothing beats meeting influencers face-to-face, so try to do that when you can.

Influencers and those organisations hoping to work with them can create successful, symbiotic relationships, but many approaches can go horribly wrong – with some irate bloggers and journalists taking to social media to ‘out’ bad agencies.

If you’re new to influencer relations, aim to be helpful and put yourself in the influencer’s shoes. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

For more on this topic, see:

Chris Lee

Published 19 April, 2016 by Chris Lee

Chris Lee is a freelance digital consultant, trainer and copywriter. He is also @CMRLee on Twitter.

9 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

William Yates

William Yates, Client Services Director at Novacom Corporation

Great post Chris, thanks. Influencer marketing is becoming a big focus across PR and digital alike, as marketers look for new ways to reach their audiences. We just posted a new article on improving B2B influencer marketing - please take a look: http://www.novacomcorporation.com/blog/2016/04/b2b-influencer-marketing-5-tips-on-how-to-work-it-and-improve-your-market-share/

about 1 year ago

Chris Lee

Chris Lee, Founder at Silvester & Finch Ltd.

Thanks William. My piece aims to go beyond the 'why?' and into the 'how', which is the next step for organisations who have done their research, built their lists and are ready to approach influencers.

about 1 year ago

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Dara Lin, Lead Generation Specialist at Callbox Australia

Great article you have here Chris. The world of marketing is getting broader and broader which marketers are gaining due to the wide variety of strategies and skills that this change can offer by the result of different types of strategies and ways in reaching there audience. Influencer marketing is an effective marketing strategy in which a marketer or a team of marketers would focus on individuals but not on the whole target market.

12 months ago

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