Be genuine and polite in your initial outreach

If you’re writing to someone who consistently uses an online handle or persona, then go ahead and address her by her blog handle or persona first. If there’s no response to the first outreach, make note of that and use her real name in the follow-up email. Most people use their real names today, but in the old days, handles were more popular.

People want the credit; they want to be more transparent about who they are. Close with a request for a reply. You want to encourage more dialogue. Don’t ask for more than that, though—never ask directly for something of value in an outreach email, such as a link or a review.

The time at which you send your message can make a big difference. Each industry has different prime days and times. Look at the posting schedule if you can, and try to out the editorial calendar as well (if it’s a big blog, the blogger probably plans out certain themes for content on certain days or during certain months).

If it’s a tech blog and you know that the blogger publishes three stories a week, try to get her the day before a story publishes (or the day after), but not on an actual day. Most of the responses you’re going to get are early or late when people check email. Very busy people typically check email on a schedule.

Spammers send their email late at night, so try to be off-schedule from that. Send your email during the day in the afternoon to avoid the spam rush, but before the last email check of the workday in your influencer’s time zone.

Follow up

you haven’t heard back from your first outreach within three days, then you should send a follow-up. Following up is more crucial than many people realize. Michael Geneles, a developer of outreach tool Pitchbox, estimates that following up increases your response rate by 60%. You should have a separate template for follow-up emails; don’t send the same message you sent before.

Make the third attempt

If your first two emails didn’t get responses, then the third probably isn’t going to work, either. You’re going to have to take a different approach with your third attempt. Is there a different email address for this influencer? Some people list a Gmail account as a technical contact or as part of a regular Google account, but they rarely check it.

Look for an alternate email address for this person, and explain that you’re trying to get in touch and wondering if you’ve got the right address. You can also try to use in-network messaging through Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networks in which this influencer participates.

If you do this, come up with completely different content for your email; mention that you’ve tried to reach out and haven’t gotten through, note that you love his work and want his advice on something, and ask for a reply

Track responses Try other approaches

If you totally strike out despite your best efforts, then try a more indirect approach. Try to get through to the people whom your target influencer follows. These are her friends and close colleagues, and people she admires. Likewise, if you do manage to get a positive reply, ask the influencer who else she knows who could contribute to the article or provide a quote. Oftentimes you’ll get names, phone numbers, and email addresses of other influencers—and with a personal referral!

Last word

Nothing establishes initial contact like actual in-person communication. Go to industry conferences and meet your influencers in person. Have coffee with them. If they are not accessible in person, then build relationships with their friends; they will become your references.

Take a long-term strategy. Or play golf with them—or whatever social activity is appropriate to the industry.

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