How to Build Relationships With Key Influencers, Part I

4 minute read

Upland Admin

Recently, I did a series of posts digging deeper into the content marketing best practices of Kapost’s Top 50 Content Marketers of 2013.

Image Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis

Image Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis. Image resized and text added.

One of the things these content rock stars had in common?

They had relationships with key influencers in their field.

American Express has their influencers write content for Open Forum, increasing engagement exponentially. Red Bull highlights influencers in their space by involving them in kick-ass video projects that build an ever-stronger foundation for their bold, extreme brand. And Xerox displays their influencer-savvy with their ongoing, useful relationship with Forbes.

With these top marketers (and more) leveraging influencer relationships, other savvy content marketers are starting to catch on and try to do the same.

Smart, right?

Well, yes.

Except that many content marketers are having trouble getting influencers on board, even if they reach out to hundreds.


Two reasons, really:

The first? Most marketers have no idea how to approach influencers.

I run a growing, reasonably popular travel and inspirational blog and I hear from PR agencies and companies pretty regularly asking for my help. Will I promote their contest? Write an article (or 10) for them? Watch their super-cool video that they know I’ll love?

99% of the time, the answer is no—and not because I don’t want to work with brands.

The answer is no because of the way these companies approach me, what they offer (or fail to offer), and how little they respect my time and my business.

And I’m not the only blogger who feels this way.

In fact, almost every single week I see one of my fellow bloggers—many of whom have larger audiences than I—complaining about these very things. One of the top humor bloggers in the world even created a page on her website to help brands understand why their pitches suck.

So, what is making these pitches hit our trash folders, often without a response?

The answer: a lack of relationship-building.

In a nutshell, what all these marketers are doing wrong is simply that. They’re not treating their influencers like people. They are starting the conversation with me-me-me, thinking that if we like their me-me-mes more than the next guy, they win.

But that’s not how it works.

Big bloggers and other influencers care a lot about what they’ve built. They have reputations to maintain in their industry. They have readers who trust them. They have niches they work within.

And they get a lot of pitches.

So if you want to work with them, your pitch has to stand out. It can’t be just about you, but also must be about them—why you want to work with them, why you think it’s a good fit, why what you are doing will matter to their specific audience, and what you can do for them, not just what they can do for you.

So, the way to stand out? It’s actually very simple:

1. Say something they care about.

2. Respect their time (keep it short, folks!).

3. Offer them something of value (most influencers won’t promote you for free).

4. Listen when they do get back to you (if they say they don’t do guest posts on their blog, but offer you something else, don’t write back and ask again about guest posts).

5. Know who you are writing to (read their work and familiarize yourself with their goals and audience before you reach out; form letters will get you nowhere).  

Wait, didn’t you say there was a second reason?

Stop by next month for a detailed look at the second reason influencers can be hard to reach—and what you can do to help your chances.

And in the meantime, leave any of your own influencer tips in the comments. As always, we love hearing from you.

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