Outreach is an important part of promoting any business or brand, especially when it comes to online marketing strategy. It's how and when we reach out to others to build a connection, share content we've created, or ask for something like a tweet or a backlink.

Sometimes outreach can feel a bit like professional sucking up, because you're essentially courting other individuals online that you want or need something from. Despite the sometimes uncomfortable feeling that can come with outreach, we do it because there are pretty amazing benefits to be had, especially for PR. One retweet, feature, or reference from the right person can be all it takes to put you on the map. Making connections, spreading influence, and increasing your digital footprint are a big part of online marketing; when done successfully, it can bolster your brand quickly and in ways other methods can't.

The Problem with Outreach Emails

Let me preface this by making myself clear: outreach is a fine and necessary strategy for any and all online marketing efforts. You should definitely do it.

But the inherent problem with it is that there is a thin and frequently crossed line between outreach and spam. Think about it: you're messaging/emailing someone soliciting something you've done or created and are hoping for something in return, without them suggesting you do so. You're already being positioned as kind of a pest.

Though most people expect to receive outreach emails because it's so widely practiced, it's as easy as ever to ignore those emails. So, if that's the case, what is the right way to reach out? How can you get your point across without seeming spammy? What can be done to increase the success rate of your outreach? Adhering to a few cardinal Dos and Don'ts for outreach can help answer those questions.

Don't

· Pitch Average Content/Ideas: Asking someone you don't know to share your content or consider your idea is already a stretch, and pushing average content and ideas only makes that process more difficult. If you pitch something average and unimpressive, then person you send it to will probably ignore you and never even look at an email from you again. Instead...

Do

· Pitch Your Best Content/Ideas: You could even go so far as to create some for the specific purpose of outreach. If you're going to even bother asking someone to check out your offer or share or link to your article, then it better be so good they can't say no. if you don't have something high quality, super thorough, and really impressive, then go back to the drawing board and try to put together an outreach-worthy idea, offer, or piece of content.

Don't

· Target Everyone Under the Sun: Mass emails are spam, even if they have the intent of being outreach. There's no sense in trying to reach out to a bunch of individuals you don't follow or are targeting at random. If you aren't at least a little familiar with the people you're reaching out to and the kind of content they produce, then your chances of making a connection or getting a link back are low. Don't just target every last person you follow on Twitter or blindly select people you think might be useful for your outreach initiatives, because door-to-door promotion will get you ignored. Instead...

Do

· Show What You Know: Target people you follow whose work you really are familiar with and interested in, individuals you could have a mutually beneficial relationship with, or people you really have something of value to offer. It might be someone whose content you admire and have learned a lot from, or maybe it's a short list of individuals who are at a similar level with you in terms of following and industry. Make the targets of your outreach specific so you can show what you know when you contact them, like being able to reference some of their work or mention something that specifically relates to them. Choosing your targets deliberately and strategically will make your outreach efforts much more convincing and increase the likelihood of a response.

Don't

· Use a Generic Template: One of the fastest ways to sabotage your efforts is to use a generic template. Automation and templating are great for some things, but for outreach it creates an element of predictability that's largely ineffective. Here's an example of a painfully common outreach template I get all the time: "Hey Adam, I was just checking out your blog and noticed ______. Awesome stuff! It reminded me of something similar I did that you might want to check out: ______. Keep up the great work!" However well-meaning this type of email is, it's generic, boring, and easy for me to ignore. From the first sentence I know exactly where the message is headed, because I've seen hundreds of emails just like it before. Don't use the same tired and easy to identify template for all your outreach. Instead...

Do

· Be Real and Be Interesting: The easiest, most effective way to conduct successful outreach is to put personalization into your messaging. Set the template aside and actually think about why you're reaching out and what you have to offer. Put specific research and compelling takeaways from your content into your outreach email, and then address what the recipient stands to gain by checking it out or sharing it. There has to be something unique and convincing in your outreach email that separates it from all the other templated attempts. By treating outreach on a strategic, individual basis you'll come up with more authentic and effective messages that are much less likely to be ignored.