How NOT to Pitch an Influencer – Influencer Marketing Education Series

This Influencer Marketing Education series by Linda Hoang is a 10-blog post series offering ethical, and effective influencer marketing advice aimed at educating would be and current influencers and content creators, the organizations that may work with them, and even the people who follow influencers. Topics around social media authenticity, influencer credibility and effective influencer marketing are ones social media strategist and influencer Linda Hoang is passionate about. Which is really just a nice way of saying she cannot stand fake influencers, fake engagement, fake followers, bad disclosure practices, partnerships that don’t make sense, misconceptions about the industry, and companies that don’t do enough research. 
The intent of these posts is to help make the industry better, from all sides.
Want to learn more?
  • Companies, you can hire Linda to help develop your influencer marketing strategies.
  • Influencers, read these blog posts, do more research, and don’t use “I didn’t know” as an excuse for shady behaviour. If you’re trying to be a content creator, put the time and effort into educating yourself. And if you do engage in shady practices, stop, and start being honest with yourself.

How NOT to Pitch an Influencer

Part Three in Linda Hoang’s Ten-Part Influencer Marketing Education Series

A new blog post in this series will be shared each Monday from Feb 24 to April 27, 2020. 

Influencer Marketing Education Blog Series - Linda Hoang - How Not To Pitch an Influencer
Share my Influencer Marketing Blog Post Series Part Three - How NOT to Pitch an Influencer

There are many ways an influencer marketing partnership can fail. 

Content produced might not be what the organization envisioned. Deadlines might get missed.

Metrics might be poor, based on the organization’s intended objectives. 

But most influencer partnerships actually fail at the pitch.

Without a well-planned, well-articulated pitch, your influencer marketing idea may never come to life. 

Consider your pitch like the very first impression you can give to someone you’re trying to work with. 

So much is riding on that first impression! 

If you were trying to recruit someone for a job, would you greet them with the wrong name? 

We’ve all done this in emails— forgotten to switch out names, or forgotten to tweak a customized sentence.

It happens. It’s happened to me and I’ve done it to others. (Literally, mortified). 

If there is no immediate follow-up apology/recognition of error, you likely won’t be hearing from that influencer, especially if the rest of your pitch isn’t interesting, relevant, or incentivizing enough. 

Bad Influencer Marketing Pitch
A real influencer pitch I've received. (My name is Linda).

If you were trying to convince someone to work with you, would you tell them you need to meet them tomorrow? Or the day after next. Or even, tonight? 

Pitching influencers in short notice is one of the most common ways you’ll get a “no” (if you get an answer at all). 

Good influencers shouldn’t want to work with a company that feels like they’ve thrown together an event in a day (unless they literally say, “hi, we recognize this is short notice but we literally just decided to put this event together today”). Good influencers shouldn’t want to work with a company where they feel like they were bottom of the list, no one else is coming so is that why the influencer is being asked to come now?

It’s usually a mixture of both—you as an organization didn’t give yourself enough time to plan the event, or, you as an organization didn’t give yourself enough time to pitch and receive anticipated rejections (plan for it!) before pitching a second or third round of influencers with enough buffer time so it doesn’t seem like they’re an afterthought.

These are important factors to consider. 

A good influencer should not want to engage in a rushed partnership. 

A good influencer is also probably busy one, two, three days, or even one week out.  

Respecting everyone’s time is a huge factor in a successful influencer partnership pitch.

Bad Influencer Marketing Pitch
A real influencer pitch I've received for an event happening two days from receiving the email.

If you were trying to get someone to work with you, would you fail to do your research about that person, and pitch them using points that are irrelevant for them and your organization? 

Relevancy is such an important “Pillar of Influence.”

Influencers should not work with a company, and companies should not work with influencers, who are not relevant in the type of content they share, and the type of audience they have. 

I will not partner with a company if I don’t see a clear fit. 

I will not partner with a company if I don’t think it makes sense for me and for my audience. 

And I’m always 1,000% more inclined to work with a company when—in their pitch—they’ve made it clear why they think we would be a good fit together. It’s an appreciation of research, of understanding of who I am and what I typically share, and tying together why what they’re selling matters to me.

Sometimes it might not be immediately obvious what the relevancy is, but then I appreciate that they’ve taken the time to pitch an angle that could work. 

Take for instance the real pitch I received below: 

Bad Influencer Marketing Pitch
A real example of a pitch via DM (it happens a lot) AND one that failed to do research about me.

It’s a friendly enough pitch, for a nice enough product, but it’s an immediate flag for me for a few reasons: 

  1. It came in a Direct Message (I’ll write more about why that’s not preferred, below) 
  2. It includes “just came across your profile”—indicating to me that this person literally just found me on Instagram and immediately sent me a pitch without really thinking through the relevancy and the ask
  3. It pitches me a product for kids probiotic bars—when I don’t have kids

Now the third point is huge for me, because not only do I not have kids, but I want to have kids desperately and am unable to have them. My infertility is something that I’ve been quite open about on my social media. I’ve blogged about it. I have Instagram Story Highlights about it. Unexplained Infertility is included in my social media profiles. So not only does this pitch tell me that this person did not even look through my profile to see if I even have posts ABOUT kids, but they failed to see that I’m struggling TO have kids. 

Now, I want to be clear that just because I do not have kids, doesn’t mean that this partnership couldn’t have worked. I have lots of kids in my life even if they aren’t mine. I’ve posted about my nieces and nephews on social media before, and some of my close friends have kids. And even if that information is not as easily accessible or visible in my content, researching enough to see that I don’t have kids, and I have infertility, could have then helped this person phrase their pitch in a way that might still have been relevant enough to work, for instance, positioning it as:

“I understand you don’t currently have kids. I’m sorry you’ve been going through infertility. I think this relationship could still work from the perspective of you as an aunt to the kids in your life.” 

or something like that.

That’s certainly going to capture and hold my attention more than the message I received in the screenshot example above. 

Before you pitch, ensure you’ve done your research.

Ensure you know WHY you’re pitching THIS particular person. 

And ensure you sell them on that “why.” 

Making your pitch relevant to the influencer will get you such a higher “yes” rate. 

Bad Influencer Marketing Pitch
Please don't Direct Message pitches. It's so hard to manage.

Now let’s talk about the platform you choose to pitch. 

Increasingly, because a lot of influencer marketing focuses on Instagram posts (but not all, of course), it’s become common for organizations to take to Instagram to make their pitches via DM (Direct Message). 

I mean it doesn’t help that you have influencers (“influencers”) with bios that say “DM me for partnerships or collaborations,” so that sort of perpetuates the issue. Plus okay, send a DM, feels casual, and you know this influencer is already on Instagram so maybe you’re more likely to get a response then. That’s just not the case, at least again, if you are working with legitimate influencers. 

If you’re pitching someone for an influencer marketing partnership, this is a professional request. This is a professional relationship you’re embarking on. This also, probably, requires more back and forth discussion, agreeing on deliverables, sorting out timelines, signing contracts, and having an easy-to-reference record of the discussion. That cannot and should not be done via DM. 

It also comes back to respecting time as well. 

It’s like when you don’t reply to a text or an email but you post on social media. You’re in a different headspace. Yes, I conduct a lot of professional work on my Instagram, but also, I need to be in the head space for it. Barging into DMs (okay, maybe you’re not barging lol honestly I do think most companies mean well and don’t realize the unintended effects of DM pitches), but it basically puts pressure on the influencer that there needs to be some kind of immediate response because, oh you’re still posting to your Stories so why can’t you answer my DM. And that’s not fair. 

Logistically, managing DM pitches is also just really difficult. There is no easy way for me to search for the contents of a direct message so it’s hard for me to reference back to the pitch message if I need to.

Please assume that the influencer you are pitching gets a lot of DMs, a lot of reactions to their Stories, and your pitch—even if accepted (you’ll note the example screenshot I have above I have not yet chose to “Accept” the request because I have not been in a headspace to respond yet), will likely end up getting lost in the day-to-day conversations they’re having. 

Often, if / when I do reply to DM pitches, the first thing I ask is if they person / company can email me more information and we can hash out the details from there. 

Now, not to say that DM pitches don’t work. It really depends on the pitch, you got my name right, you explained how this is relevant for me and or my audience, the incentive is clear and attractive, and also it is more likely to work if your organization already has a relationship with the influencer you’re pitching. I’m more inclined for instance to respond to local chefs I know because I’ve eaten at their restaurants and I like them and their food. But if I have no previous relationship with you, priorities shift, not because I’m trying to be mean, or I’m ignoring you. But simply because there’s so much going on and for something like this, there’s better and more professional ways to get my attention. 

Bad Influencer Marketing Pitch
Being upfront and clear about budgets, paid versus unpaid, and other incentives really help pitches.

The last thing I’ll discuss in this How NOT to Pitch an Influencer part of my ten-part Influencer Marketing Education blog post series, is budgets and incentives.

Budgets and incentives, and staying this clearly, certainly goes a long way in your pitch. 

If you know you want to work with an influencer, and you’ve done your research, you’ve developed a plan, you’ve determined the ask and the incentives, tell them this in your pitch. 

I am far more likely to respond, and to respond sooner, when it’s made very clear from the first pitch message I get, what the incentive is. Sometimes that’s stating exactly what your budget is, followed by a “would this work?” Sometimes that’s just stating you have a budget, and you are wondering what the influencer “might charge.” Sometimes that’s being upfront and saying you do not have a budget but you are hoping a particular experience or non-monetary compensation will work in lieu of payment, or really emphasizing the relevancy, and why this matters even if there is no budget.

Influencers prioritize paid versus unpaid pitches, or pitches with appealing and clearly communicated incentives over pitches where it’s not really clear what the incentive.

Not to say it’s all about the money. 

I’ve declined partnerships that had budgets but the turnaround time for content was next week. Not possible with my schedule.

I’ve declined partnerships that had budgets but it wasn’t a relevant fit.

I’ve turned down partnerships because I was upset they couldn’t even get my name right, or that they referenced that I lived somewhere I did not. 

There are many variables that play into a successful influencer marketing pitch.

There is certainly a strategy to it. 

And there’s a ton that can go wrong in that very first impression, that very first message you send, so I hope these examples of how NOT to pitch an influencer help ensure your pitches do hit the mark! 

Stay tuned for Part Four of my Ten-Part Influencer Marketing Education series, where I’ll write about How NOT to Pitch a Company (if you’re an influencer pitching companies), and be sure to share this post or give me your feedback in the comments below, or on social media. 

Influencer Marketing Education Blog Series - Linda Hoang - How Not To Pitch an Influencer
Share my Influencer Marketing Blog Post Series Part Three - How NOT to Pitch an Influencer

View all blog posts in Linda Hoang’s Influencer Marketing Education Series

A new blog post in the ten-post series will be shared each Monday from Feb 24 to April 27, 2020. 

ABOUT LINDA HOANG. Linda Hoang is an experienced Alberta, Canada-based social media strategist as well as a social media influencer and content creator. As a strategist she also regularly delivers social media training and develops strategies and content plans for a wide range of companies and individuals. As a social media influencer, she regularly works with companies to develop engaging content that helps reach their goals. This allows Linda to bring a dual perspective to influencer marketing and specifically, deliver an approach that focuses on authenticity and credibility. 


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