The relationship between brand and blogger is a fragile one, and I can say that with some confidence as I wear both pairs of these shoes. By day I work in digital PR, and by night I am a travel and lifestyle blogger.
As a blogger I love to get invites to relevant events in my area. It might be a party celebrating the opening of a new restaurant, or it could be a meet-up for other likeminded bloggers. Most of the time the emails I receive as a blogger make me excited, and I’m more than happy to engage with the brands or PR agencies who have been in touch.
In fact, you can spot me below in a group shot from a blogger event in Oxford. Go on! It’ll be like Where’s Wally? I promise. Apart from the stripy jumper.
But a small percentage of the time I am left rolling my eyes, or worse, completely offended with what has landed in my inbox. Luckily the instances of the latter are few and far-between.
Saying that, I have a few handy tips for sending outreach emails to bloggers, especially if you want to get them on side before holding an event! You don’t want to negatively influence a write up if it’s you who has caused the issue and not the event itself.
This may seem obvious, but getting an event “right” is often more challenging than you might expect. The admin side is laborious; you will need to reply to many emails and phone calls, as well as making decisions about tiny details which may seem trivial.
There needs to be a hook to get people to come to your event. If you’re a huge brand, bragging rights might be enough for your attendees, but most brands are going to rely on providing a freebie or an exclusive experience to entice potential attendees to say “yes”.
In the past I have had success with gestures big and small; free nibbles and drinks can be just as effective as a full day event packed full of activities if you understand your outreach targets well enough.
If you are a retail brand who organises events to reveal your new catalogue of products (I get emails like this from The White Company, Next, and Lush amongst others) why not try and create a more unique experience for bloggers? Press events are still fairly traditional; but bloggers are more likely to want to engage rather than just preview.
So if you are launching a new tea set, have a full on tea party – maybe even invite teddy bears as plus ones if it gives you a memorable edge. If you are releasing a fresh clothing line, why don’t you invite bloggers to dress up in the pieces and put on a fashion show, with them as the stars? It’s the experience people want to write about, not just the product.
Moving on to the outreach process itself, you’ll want to keep these considerations in mind…
There are many tools you can use to identify bloggers (something which I wrote about at length over on the SEMrush blog) but once you have a number of targets at your fingertips you are going to need to figure out how to actually contact them.
Depending on the information that you can find, you will likely have the option of a number of social media platforms, as well as by email, or even by phone in some cases.
Whatever you do, avoid contacting a blogger through the comment section on their “about me” page on their blog. Not only does this give your strategy away to competitors, but it can also reduce the chances of the blogger, and others who visit their site, of wanting to get involved with your brand. It looks impersonal, and it’s also less professional if it looks like you’re just taking the easy route.
Whether you use email or a DM on Twitter to contact the bloggers you have targeted, you should follow some simple rules for developing a better relationship with them.
Chances are you will take offence when someone addresses you with the wrong name, so try and avoid doing this to someone else. Spelling is important. For example, my name is Hannah. It has never been Hanna, Hana, and especially not Anna. I find it rude when I get an email addressed to any of these spellings as my name is accessible on my blog as well as on my social media profiles.
If you do go down the email route, be clever with your approach. Yes, carefully consider things like the subject line and the content of your email, but don’t forget about the smaller details too.
Have you ever received an email that contains different colour text and fonts that don’t stay consistent throughout all of the content? These variations are red flags for copy and pasted content. Not personal. Not original. Just one version of an email that has been quickly adapted for you, but not crafted for you.
Don’t be so obvious with copying and pasting content. Either adapt all content in one programme like Word or Google Docs and move it all over at the same time, or strip all mismatching HTML from your message by toggling between rich text to plain text and back again.
Oh yeah, and make sure you don’t reference someone else’s name or blog URL in your invite. That’s poor form. Bloggers talk, so don’t be a negative talking point between them.
Even if you have ample spaces on for your blogger event, it’s best to avoid your entire Twitter feed being filled up with messages to various bloggers. There are phases when bloggers like to know others are involved, and the beginning of the event process isn’t usually it.
The invitation is a thing of pride. Make sure you are fairly subtle in your approach by offering little teasers so people want to contact you for more information. Or if you are going to use social media, at least make it personal for each blogger.
Zomato UK have figured out the magic formula for community engagement on Twitter, and whilst it isn’t exactly the same in terms of event invites, we can still probably gain some ideas from their approach. Look at how they target individual people whilst still speaking to a large audience…
— Zomato UK (@ZomatoUK) November 4, 2015
Tone can be misunderstood when words are written instead of spoken, so keep the content of your email very friendly and positive. If you ask too much of people from the outset, they may think you’re trying to get the better side of the deal.
Ultimately people don’t want to feel like they have been used just to promote your brand, so be respectful. It’s OK to reveal a hashtag for an event to encourage community interaction, but specifying that your invite is only redeemable if a blogger writes a post on their blog (maybe featuring a link to a specific URL on your site with predefined anchor text) is taking things a little too far.
If you are organised in your approach, you will have invited bloggers to your event in plenty of time. But don’t let this be the one and only time you reach out to them before it happens.
Try and chat more so you can start building that all-important relationship. It will be of benefit because it means that the bloggers you have invited will feel more valued by you and your brand, and will help to properly commit them to attending. A few no-shows are usually inevitable, but good communication will hopefully give you more warning.
It’s wise to send an email to all attendees in the week running up to the event. Do not make the mistake of using the “to” field in your email if you’re going to send one email to all bloggers at once. Have the decency to use the “BCC” field so you can maintain a good reputation for privacy.
I’d love to hear your own tips for inviting bloggers to events. Please leave me a comment below or get in touch through Twitter.