Why are you so afraid of engaging online influencers?

We Can Blog It!

Tips for how your agency or firm should do outreach the right way

Unlike a few years ago, today everyone at least pays lip service to reaching out to influencers, the same way that PR people have always reached out to mainstream media. That’s what my company, Gerris Corp, does and lots of other companies try to do it, too. But I am still surprised that many companies don’t do influencer marketing, even today. My conclusion is that what is holding them back is fear. Simply put, online influencer outreach is scary.

And it’s not a completely irrational fear. It is true that influencers are unpredictable and we all know, thanks to posts by the Consumerist and the Bad Pitch Blog, that one false move and you’re public mincemeat. Publicly shamed, drawn, quartered and, finally, drummed out of the corps.

We all know this, except that it isn’t so. The biggest faux pas that most agencies commit when they test the waters with influencer outreach has less to do with the natural meanness of the influencersand more to do with the behavior of the agencies. In many cases, the bad experiences that many agencies blame on the rudeness of the influencer is square on the agency’s shoulders.

It is a case of the abuser blaming the victim, the influencer.

In truth, the influencer often has no context for a PR outreach, has never been part of the publicity machine, and often doesn’t know what’s expected, what proper and improper behavior is, and most often is just behaving naturally and not part of some insidious cabal aimed at defaming you or your brand or your personal reputation.

Consider your pitch from the influencer’s point of view

What’s happening is that a influencer has been blogging for a while, and eventually assumes that nobody’s really reading or paying attention at all. At that point that influencer drops the affectation that this blog is actually for mainstream consumption, develops a small coterie of passionate readers, they become an ad hoc community (maybe a few blogs are part of this evolving tightly knit emergent family), and then, uninvited, someone who is not part of this close-knit family elbows in and makes a big fuss.

This, often coming across to the influencers, as “Do you know who I am?” is very rarely taken well, especially after that influencer probably has had to fight insidious attacks from trackback and  comment spam only to receive an email that is poorly-targeted, insensitive, lies about the nature of the reason why he is emailing (“I love your blog and have been reading you for a long time,” when obviously that is not true because the influencer knows most people who read his blog), or he even just gets the name wrong, which means that the person who’s doing the outreach isn’t taking the time or attention required to at least give a good college try.

It’s not that the influencer is out to shame and embarrass PR agencies. Most vindictive influencers are already in the top of the blogosphere and receive tons of bad pitches a week. No, the typical influencer would really love to help. It really took a great heap of combined insult to get your client’s and agency’s shame and ineptitude raised up the flag pole for everyone to salute.

influencer outreach can be scary, but only if you aren’t thinking about it from the influencer’s point of view. If you stop and consider how to make good use of the influencer’s time, you might get what you are looking for with nothing to fear.

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