Influencer. Thought leader. Luminary. Icon. Star. Unicorn.

Ok, I digress, but each of these terms refers to a person that matters, for whatever reason, in some field. These are influencers, or someone that has "influence over potential buyers," according to Forbes. With social media becoming increasingly important and dominated by a certain few, it’s hard to ignore the ever present influencer and what they can do for your business and for your content. 

According to AdWeek, "A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

This is why I suggest promoting your content through influencer outreach if you want to amplify its impact. A social share from an influencer can dramatically increase views on your post and more views could mean more conversion. Good authentic outreach also opens the door for communication between you and a potentially business-changing customer, affiliate or mentor. 

With this in mind, I'm going to use this post to walk you through the various methods of influencer outreach from media list to pitch and show you examples of exactly how I've done it.

I worked in a top-ranked public relations agency and I'm pumped to share all the best tips I learned to help you reach out to influencers in a way that is authentic and mutually beneficial. 

  

To start, you've got to know what your promo plan is BEFORE writing your post. Generally, when I "PR a post" I think about whether I'm going to reach out to influencers in one of three ways:

  1. Before the post is created, which allows me to ask for a quote
  2. Right before the post is launched, so I can ask for a POV (a point-of-view) on my post
  3. After the post is finished, also asking for a POV, with hopes of eventually getting a social share

Whatever I decide is going to help me with the very first step...

MAKING A MEDIA LIST

If you’re asking the luminaries in your industry for a quote to include in your article, you’re going to want to create a list of people specifically relevant to your post topic. If you’re simply asking for a POV after the post is created, this list is much larger and more general.

For example, the very first post I wrote for Teachable was about hacking Reddit’s upvote systems using a tactic one of our instructors created.

To promote this piece of content, I could have reached out to influencers specifically in the Reddit space for quotes to include in the piece before it went live OR I could send the post to top content marketers after it was finished to ask for their POV. Obviously, content marketers make up a much larger field than specifically Reddit marketers.

In this case, we thought the tactic was unique enough to garner attention from big-name influencers, so we decided to promote the piece after it was finished. Spoiler alert: it put us in touch with Lewis Howes and drove thousands of dollars in sales and I'm sharing exactly how we did it. 

So how did I target my influencers? I made a good old fashioned, no-hack, time-intensive media list. 

"A media list is simply a list of reporters, their contact information and the name of the magazine, newspaper or website that they write for. A good media list is customized and researched so that each reporter or magazine covers the type of product or service that you offer. In turn, your product or service is appropriate to the readers of that publication."
PRinYourPajamas.com

Media Lists are the backbone of PR and a valuable resource you'll use time and time again. 

Here's what one of ours looks like: 

Want to save time by copying our outline? Download it by clicking below.

GET THE MEDIA LIST TEMPLATE

I then create sections for the different categories of people I'm targeting. In this instance, the post was sharing a hack that was extremely beneficial to content marketers. I created a section of peer-level content marketers who had 1-10K Twitter followers and a list of top-tier content marketers who I figured might not respond. They were my "reach" category where just 1 or 2 responses were considered a "win."I title the list something general about the field of people I'm reaching out to, but remind myself of my targeted focus right below the first line. This helps me remember my priorities when I start searching and vetting contacts. 

Your sections will vary based on the post you're promoting. For instance, if you've just written about monetizing a blog your categories might be:

  1. Top-tier bloggers (maybe they'll tweet out your post)
  2. Lesser known bloggers (someone who might be a peer who you can collaborate with and who might  link to your post), 
  3. Internet marketers (who are writing about the topic and might be interested in your data)

You could go on to target student bloggers, food bloggers, male-focused bloggers, cake-decorating bloggers, whatever, just be sure to set a time limit for yourself.

Media lists will expand to the time you give them. You can always think of another group tangentially related to your topic or another writer/influencer that should read your stuff. You will go down the rabbit hole. Make sure you keep you set your priorities. How many total contacts do you want to reach out to? How many hours do you want to invest? Create a limit and stick to it. 

You can change the titles of the columns, but generally I stick with the below: 

  • Status: Write in who on your team pitched your contact and when. Ex. AH pitched 9/16. 
  • Notes: Here's where I include relevant information on the outreach process. Generally, I'll write: email sent/responded/asked for link/bounced/OOO (out of office). It's a good place to track progress so you won't forget who you've reached out to and when and who needs what. 
  • First Name: Make sure you spell this correctly or your risk reaching out to someone with the wrong name...YIKES!
  • Last Name
  • Tier: Sometimes you'll have more than one contact for an outlet. Choose tier 1 and 2 based on title and relevance. For example, the editor-in-chief- of GQ isn't going to get back to you about your course on menswear, so they're tier 2,  but an assistant editor might, so they're tier 1. See what email address you can find and list the most reliable contact as "tier 1" and the backup as "tier 2"
  • Contact Info: Email address is preferable, but don't be afraid to reach out via contact form. I've found that most content marketers respond to their contact form as fast if not faster than their email. 
  • Website: Where they're writing
  • Twitter Handle: Twitter information becomes important if you can't find someone's email address and want to reach out via Twitter. It will also help you determine who is the most influential, an important factor if you only have time to reach out to 10 contacts. 
  • Twitter Followers
  • Link: If you're doing promotion the right way, you should be reading something that person wrote before contacting them. More on this later, but a link to a post they wrote, or even better, a post related to your topic for quick access
  • Instagram Handle (optional)
  • Instagram Followers (optional)
  • Facebook Name (optional)
  • Facebook Followers (optional)

If you're doing time-intensive outreach or using the media list to invite people to an event, sometimes you need to look more closely at their social influence, so including Instagram or Facebook on your list might be a good idea. 

Depending on your campaign, your media list can range in size. At minimum, you should contact everyone linked in your post, but if you're promoting newsworthy content, your media list might have thousands contacts. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON CREATING MEDIA LISTS:
Hubspot: Creating A Media List 
Convince and Convert: 3 Steps to Building a Solid Media List 
Chron.com: How to Build a PR Media List

TARGETING YOUR INFLUENCERS 

Building out your list means finding influencers online, adding them to the media list and filling in their information (name, email, twitter handle, etc.).

Here are places I find influencers:

  1. Articles: I google the topic I'm writing about, find people who have written similar articles and add them to my list. Most of the time, if you click on the author's byline, you can find their email address in their bio. If not, go to their Twitter bio, it might be there, or they might list a personal website which should have a "contact" page.

    For example, if you want to contact me, you can find my byline at the top of my posts. If you click on my hyperlinked name, you'll be directed to my bio. By clicking the Twitter icon, you're directed to my Twitter bio where I list my email. (Yeah, I made it easy to find because of how often I've had to do this for other people).

  1.  Inbound: Since we're talking about promoting content, you might want to target content marketers. Inbound is perfect for this. You can easily search Inbound members, use the site's filter options and find people who would be ideal to target.

  1. Twitter: You can use Twitter to search for people Tweeting about certain phrases, using hashtags or Tweeting at a particular person and pull their email addresses in the same way.
  2. Google Alerts: When building out a large media list over time, or just trying to expand a company's media list, it helps to do a small bit every day. Personally, since I work in Ed Tech, I have an "ed tech" Google Alert set up. Each day I read the articles to keep myself informed, but also add the journalists to our internal media list. #trueconfessions
  3. Klout Social Rank: These are popular tools to help you identify influencers with an emphasis on their Twitter following. 

 This probably sounds like it will take a lot of time...it will.

Sorry babies, but sometimes there’s no hack around good hard work, and since a media list can be repurposed, it’s worth investing in and doing right. 

In addition, taking the time to investigate each influencer is a great way to get better at your job faster. You'll get to know thought leaders, read their work and notice how they interact with each other. Typing down their information reinforces the information in your memory and you're creating a list to reference.  

It's important to be in touch now, more than ever. According to Social Media Examiner, Constant Content polled 1,350 13- to 24-year-olds and found that 62% would try brands recommended by a YouTube celebrity. Just 49% would act on a Hollywood’s star’s recommendation. Bottom line, "Where older populations put more faith in success and glamor, clearly their children perceive those with less money and maybe even more scruff as more genuine and honest." 

Ok, now comes the fun part, finally contacting your influencers. 

WRITE A GOOD PITCH

I think the best way to explain what a good pitch is, is to explain what it's not.

A good pitch is NOT:

  1. Mass produced: Sure, for the sake of time, most PR companies create massive media lists and then automatically send them to their entire media list. The return on this type of "effort" is minimal, even if your message is stellar. If it's not and you accidentally typo, or misspell someone's name, you're going to ignored at best and end up on Gawker at worst.

    It takes substantially more time, but you're going to see dramatically better results if you tailor each email to the person you're contacting. In this sense, you're sending a message, not a pitch, which is exactly the point. People like notes about their work, they don't like being pitched. Trust me, I've tried both.
  2. Long: Who has time for long messages these days. Cut it down.

    Don’t take my word for it, Matthew Woodward is an awarded blogger getting over 600K views per year on his website http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/. When I asked him for one piece of advice to share about influencer outreach he said:
  3. Vague: While you want to keep you pitch short, it also needs to clearly explain who you are, what you do, why you’re reaching out and what you want. Emphasis on that last bit. The point of a pitch is to get something (information, a partnership, exposure, etc.). There’s no point in sending the email if you’re afraid to include "the ask".

    I know this feels weird. It does for me too. I’m a people pleaser and I hate asking people for things (why I don’t work in sales), but as long as your message is authentic and your influencers are chosen wisely your information should be as mutually beneficial to your influencer as their help is to you.
  4. Demanding: While your initial email to an influencer can’t be vague, it also cannot be demanding. Do you really think Seth Godin is going to respond to twenty interview questions if he doesn’t know you? Probably not. Set expectations knowing that if someone is a true influencer they are busy. We all are. Be respectful of people’s time and make your ask quick and easy to complete.
  5. Corporate: Dear John, My name is Ashley and I’m x. I’m interested in X because Y…
    NOOOO!!! If your message is cookie-cutter, it will be assumed you are as well. I personalize every pitch I send. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
  6. Forced or cheesy:  Be authentic. I know that makes me sounds like a hipster, but making a note overly emotional, forced or branded conveys that the note is coming with an ulterior motive or that it’s being mass produced. Write like yourself asking for advice.
  7. Irrelevant: Do you know how often I open emails about men’s mustache grooming? Absolutely never. That just doesn’t pertain to me. No matter how well written and authentic your email is, if you’re asking a content marketer for advice on financials, you’re doing it wrong.
    Make sure that what you're asking for relates to your recipient.  
  8. BS:  Ok, I had to be blunt here, but that’s because we’ve all been pitched by someone who is clearly feeding us BS. The email probably goes something like this:

    Dear Ashley, Your experience looks fantastic! I’m x at Y and would love to schedule a time to talk….
    How many of these do you have sitting in your LinkedIn messages? It’s not enough to say you like someone’s work, tell them specifically what you like or it sounds like you’re making it up.

    You can’t fake true interest. Read what influencers are writing (you should be doing this anyway) and site their interesting work in your outreach. This is why I had you initially include links in your media list.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON PITCHING
CrowleyWebb: Short and Sweet Pitching
Buffer Social: How to Promote Every Piece of Content You Create

Phew! That’s a lot. I know. But now, let's talk about what a good pitch actually looks like and I'm going to share a few that I've written that have worked!  As we mentioned before, you can decide to promote your content well before it goes live, the day before or after it is published...

If you're promoting your post well before it goes live, you have the opportunity to ask an influencer for a quote in the piece. This is a great way to share stellar advice with your audience and gives you a natural opening for sending the piece to someone who has the power to promote it. 

Here is my email to Matthew Woodward:

Before I sent this email, I knew who Matthew was. I read his posts, I tweet them out and right before I sent, I made sure to retweet one of his recent posts as a "soft touch" to get on his radar. 

This is key. Adding someone on Twitter, commenting on their blog or contributing to their community before asking for anything is going to dramatically improve your results. This is a lesson I learned from Alex Turnbull in his post "How We Got 1,000+ Subscribers from 1 Blog Post in 24 Hours", which is one of the most impactful marketing articles I've ever read. SO MANY GOLD STARS. 

If you're promoting your post right before it goes live, it adds a sense of urgency to your message. Craft in the same authentic manner, but mention that the post will go live soon and that you'd love a POV.

Here's an example of my email to Lewis Howes who has 97.5K Twitter followers and ended up hosting his online course with us at Teachable as an outcome of our email chain! 

Notice how in the above I'm sharing a piece that is extremely relevant to my reader. I read Lewis' stuff all the time, knew who he was and made sure to tailor my message to reflect this. 

Not to mention, Lewis' contact page outlines how he likes to be contacted. READ THIS! Seriously. People are telling you exactly how you should reach out to them, all you have to do is listen.

Recently, I wanted to get in touch with Chris Ducker (52.4K Twitter followers and a well-known entrepreneur) and send him an email, but his website says he prefers to be contacted via Twitter. I fought my instinct and sent a Tweet instead of a heartfelt email, and guess what, it worked! I got a response that night. Awesome!

If you're promoting your post after it goes live, I have one major tip. DON'T send a link in your first email. Instead, introduce yourself, prove that you're a reader of someone's work

By not sending the link right away, you're not forcing your work on anyone, but giving them the option to engage. Most of the time, since I assume you've picked relevant influencers, the recipient will want to read your work, especially if you're contacting them because you've linked to them in your own work. #karma

Additional Resources on Outreach Methods:
Kissmetrics: 17 Advanced Methods for Promoting Your New Piece of Content
SearchWilderness: Get More (High Quality Twitter Followers) By Stalking Influencers

AND THAT'S IT. That's how you conduct influencer outreach from media list to email sent. So tell me, do you have questions? Have you done something different that's worked? Please let me know in the comment section below this post and I'll get back to your questions.

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Ashley Hockney

Written by Ashley Hockney

Ashley Hockney is the Content Marketer & Writer at Teachable (Create & Sell Online Courses). Her knowledge spans both the marketing and literary fields. Her background is in food & beverage PR i.e. she wants to talk to you about single malts.