Recently I posted a tip on Facebook regarding the wrong way to contact bloggers for exposure after being “cold call” emailed myself. The cliff note version is that a marketing person sent me a form letter asking for book exposure, and supplied 4 attachments that contained book covers, press releases, links, etc.
This prompted some discussion on Facebook and in email about what the protocol is for contacting bloggers or website owners for a promotion opportunity, especially if one does not have a strong online presence and so can’t reciprocate (such as trading guest posts). I know reaching outside one’s comfort zone to ask for help can be a difficult thing to do, so based on my personal experience from both sides of this fence, here’s some tips on how to ask!
1) Do your homework
I’ll be honest…nothing bugs me more than to be contacted by someone who has looked at my blog’s SEO score or glanced at my traffic meter (which is way off the mark anyway) but knows nothing about The Bookshelf Muse. Asking me to review business software, jewelry, iPad products or anything else that has nothing to do with my blog’s focus is NOT going to win me over. So, when you are looking for online exposure, research blogs to understand what they are about, what they typically post, and only add them to your list to contact if you see a strong fit. This means knowing YOUR audience before you get started. Also, if you are looking for a book review, make sure the people you wish to contact actually DO REVIEWS, and if so, that they REVIEW YOUR GENRE. If they have instructions for contacting them, follow those instructions.
2) Show respect
First off, while it certainly is easier to send out a cut-and-paste email to 50 or so blogs or websites asking for help, what saves you time will cost you in exposure. Anyone with any measure of success online understands that relationships are paramount. If you did your homework in step 1, you have researched the person you are contacting. Personalize email by introducing yourself and demonstrating that you have visited the person’s blog, and understand & enjoy the content. Be authentic and friendly, and respectful of their time.
3) Offer information, but don’t go overboard
Whatever exposure opportunity you’re asking for will require some specific information. Be clear and concise about what your offering, be it a book, product or service. Convey why your product is a good fit for the blog/blogger and their audience, showing you have knowledge of this person’s site. Provide a link if needed to the product online, or lacking that, links to how to reach you. DON’T send them your book or product proactively, or a bunch of press release attachments and book covers or promotional information. Would you send your manuscript along with a query letter to an agent who has not asked for both? No. So offer to forward these things if the blogger wants them and welcome the chance to answer any questions they may have.
4) Provide value, not promo
Your goal is to get a YES when it comes to asking for an exposure opportunity, so make it easy for them to do so. When you approach a blogger, know what you are asking for. If it is a review site, then ask for a review and in turn offer something of value. A free book to the reviewer will be expected, but consider also offering one in a giveaway. Giveaways usually increase traffic, so the expense will be worth it if you have chosen a site that exposes you to your ideal audience. If it is a product or service, or book exposure that is not a review, consider what this audience might find valuable. Can you guest post on a topic that fits well with this blog’s focus? Can you offer your expertise in a way that readers will find helpful (a Q & A about something you know a lot about, for example.) A freebie of some sort, or something else? Whatever you can offer, lay this out. Offer a few options (for example, list out a few ideas you have for a post), but be flexible and open to whatever ideas they have for you, too. Exposure is an opportunity to CONNECT with an audience and build a relationship with people interested in what you have to say, not a way to spam people with promo. Always add value in all that you do.
5) Be easy to work with
Bloggers are busy people. The bigger bloggers especially have a lot to juggle, because they are likely active across different social media platforms, plus have their own lives and work to attend to. Once you’ve secured a guest post or exposure opportunity, make sure you send them whatever is required in a timely manner. Also, don’t just “dash something off” (especially if you are a writer!) Write something you’re proud of and make sure it offers insight and value. Check carefully for typos and grammar. Bloggers appreciate it when you do a good job the first time so they don’t waste time sending it back to you for editing. Provide links that are easy to follow for the audience, and make sure there is a way for readers to find out more about your product. Include a small bio about yourself and where you can be found (twitter, facebook, website, etc.) so the blogger doesn’t have to spend time looking for these things themselves.
6) Show up, interact and share
The day your post goes live, stop in and interact with people in the comment section. This is your opportunity to make yourself memorable to people who took the time to read what you had to say. Thank your host for having you. Continue to add value by answering questions, both the day of the post and a few check-ins afterward (some people won’t see the post until the next day or so). Wherever you are online (even if you only use Facebook, or Twitter, etc.) make sure you share your post with people who might be interested in the content. When you ask someone for exposure, you thank them by trying to drive people to their blog however you are able to. Don’t spam, but do share the link with people who you feel might be interested.
7) Keep on asking
Maybe you might strike out a few times, but that’s okay…keep going! I know asking for things can be intimidating, but here’s the thing…most people are caring and helpful and want to build relationships. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t blog, or be on facebook or twitter. So try to set your nerves aside and be genuine. When you are, it comes through, and often leads to a Yes!
Other posts you might find helpful:
Any tips on contacting bloggers that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!