For years I have been receiving numerous outreach messages I simply couldn’t reply to or act upon for a manifold reasons.
There seems to be a real disconnect between the outreach messages marketers or PR people send and the reality of actual bloggers who are meant to write about products.
I’m going to point out the most common reasons why these outreach attempts fail.
Learn from mistakes instead of watching perfection
I’ve explained in a previous article how proper outreach process works with agencies dedicated solely to outreach and relationship building. Showing what’s right and pointing at a perfect example didn’t make the article very popular. After all the “FAIL” pics often get more views than the “WIN” ones too. So this time I’ll tell you more about what’s wrong about most outreach messages. I’ll assume that you craft outreach messages yourself so that’s why you’re reading this.
You don’t value my time
I’m not Rand Fishkin or Jon Henshaw. I don’t own and run a company working 80h a week. However, I do write for several blogs and also work on other projects, which means I don’t have a spare hour to decipher your message.
While I work mostly for search, social media and blogging related weblogs, I still get most of my outreach messages for my by now private blog on cycling culture. I can spend about a half an hour a week on that, because it simply doesn’t make money anymore. In the case of this blog, I’m mainly just a hobby blogger.
The first and foremost mistake most outreach messages still make is not to value my time.
While some people get to the point within a few lines (which is perfect) many outreach messages require me to spend additional time to actually find out what they’re actually talking about. For example some messages require me to visit some strange pages where I have to search for the actual product images.
Recently I had to click through several directory links inside someone’s cloud storage to find the referenced images. When I did find them, they were mostly worthless. People doing outreach need to make sure they select just a few high quality images that are prepped for bloggers – preferably images that are around 10kb in size and 500x760px (ideally 640px) wide.
It shouldn’t be the blogger’s job to sift through dozens of huge images – many of which aren’t even related to the outreach message. Instead, always optimize the images for the blogger in order to get a better response from them and to not waste their time.
You don’t consider my circumstances
Like more than 95% of bloggers, I too am a hobbyist when it comes to my cycling blog. Strangely enough business people who approach me rarely seem to take that into account. Do I really want to spend the weekend testing or covering your product? No. No I don’t.
In most cases I’d rather spend the time with my family and relaxing. So instead of trying to push me to work for you for free on the weekend, make sure you find out how you can help me and make my weekend more interesting.
Figure out how you could can improve my free time so I can experience your request as not work.
Where do I live? What kind of bike do I ride? How old am I? Do I have a family? Do I cycle to work or just do it for fun? While these are all seemingly private questions, as a blogger I’m still partly a public figure. For example, I’ve been interviewed because of my cycling blog, so go read the interview to find out more about me. It’s very short and has been published more than once on the Web. You could easily find it via Google.
Instead of using a generic approach, you could customize it within minutes and have a much higher chance of getting my attention.
Most personal things about me can also be discovered by reading the bio on my blog. While I know that many people who do outreach are underfunded and have to resort to sending cold-call like messages, they can exponentially increase the quality of the message by making it slightly more personal.
You assume I must be interested in everything slightly relevant
So I write about bikes. Yeah. Does that mean I’m interested in who will win this year’s Tour de France? Will I love the latest spandex road bike gear? Am I exited about the newest pink bicycle helmets for women? These are all real life examples.
You could easily look up Tour de France, road bike gear and helmets using the site search of my blog. After which, you would have found out that the Tour de France is more of an annoyance to me thanks to all of its doping related scandals. Also, when it comes to road bike gear, you wouldn’t locate anything remotely related to it on my blog.
Just because it’s something new and you want it covered, that doesn’t mean I want to write about it.
In many cases, I have seen other products from the same brand that would interest me, but most outreach messages are clueless about that. The senders have your strict orders on how to conduct the campaign and they can’t (don’t) adapt to the reality of the blogger’s life. Outreach is not like TV ads where one size fits all.
You shout to a crowd of people instead of addressing me
The lack of relevance stems from the wrong approach of addressing people. Somehow, especially with low level SEO and PR people, they assume that sending the same message to as many people as possible will lead to success.
The equation goes something like this: Send the message to 100 recipients and if 1 person publishes, they’ve succeeded. Meanwhile, they’ve ignored the other 99 bloggers that they just ostracized. Even worse, they’ll end up emailing them again and annoy them further.
Have you ever talked to a crowd, group or team in an attempt to get them to perform a task?
Every one of them will assume the other people will take care of it. Nobody feel responsible. No one really feels you are talking to them specifically. So at the end of the day none of these people will do what you asked the group to do.
Outreach is one-to-one. So when you send me a message, don’t just enter my name, approach me personally.
You expect more for free than you do from paid freelancers
I work as a blogger too. I have some private blogs, some semi-private ones and I also get paid by third parties to blog for them. In fact, this is the case with Squawk. I offer publishers blog posting ideas and they decide which ones they want me to write.
I rarely write based on a topic someone told me to write. So the people who pay me for writing have a lot of respect for my work and they rely on my expertise. With outreach messages it’s generally the opposite of that.
Not only do they want me to work for them for free, they also want to tell me what to write.
Often times, they ask me to use specific anchor text in my links, to write 200 words or more and to publish within a limited time-frame. Guess what? I’m not your free workforce! I may write for free for my hobby blog, but that’s because I’m free to do whatever I like.
Limiting my freedom while forcing me to work for you for free is outrageous. I remember one particular store representative who sent me a gadget worth $20 for testing and she asked me for several revisions. Guess what I told her: “F**k off!”.
I have been doing outreach myself quite a lot. I know how hard it is. But I always make sure to not disrespect bloggers.
I say “yes” once and you assume we have a long-term relationship
Luckily not every one night stand leads to marriage or even a relationship. Otherwise, there would probably be a whole lot more dissatisfied and unhappy people. Just because someone says “yes” voluntarily, it doesn’t mean you can take the “yes” for granted the rest of their life. Unfortunately, that’s how many marketers and PR people operate.
Once you say “yes” top some people, you will start to get even more messages, even unrelated ones. They will even tell their friends so that you get messages from them too. In the worst case scenario, they will sell your address or the company the they work for will get acquired and you’ll get even more irrelevant outreach messages.
I remember a particular case. I had visited a cycling trade fair and had been talking to a PR guy from a bike manufacturer about sponsoring my cycling blog. I thought he was interested in dong so, but he wasn’t. Instead, he just sent me press releases for all the brands he represented. Even after he left the company, I still kept getting press releases. Of course, I have never published any of them, because I felt cheated in the first place. Also, they always were impersonal and only slightly relevant to my blog.
A reply to an outreach message or a connection with you is not an email newsletter opt-in.
Every time you approach me, you have to make sure you’re allowed to. If you don’t, I get more annoyed each time. Remind me where I know you from or how me met. Otherwise, I’m likely to throw your message in my spam folder.
With that said, I do welcome outreach messages and truly love to get the word out for innovative cycling solutions. Just don’t make it so hard for me. I also always wonder why nobody simply asks to sponsor my blog anymore.
I get inquiries for one-time sponsored posts but that’s not how things work these days.
Wouldn’t you rather have one outlet that people get familiar with, then to have dozens of random ones? I know that marketers and PR people need some impressive numbers, like 1,000 bloggers were approached and 100 wrote about us. Sigh. As I’ve told you, there is a real disconnect between what bloggers can offer and what marketers or PR people actually accomplish together.