Anyone that's been blogging for six months or more will probably have started to receive offers by email from companies. (If not, and you're wondering why the offers aren't flooding in, sign up to some blogger outreach programmes to get yourself connected.)
However, such is the nature of blogging that many of the offers will be totally unsuitable or downright spammy, and it can get hard to keep on top of your emails. But how should you reply to brands and PRs? And should you reply to the crappy ones at all?
After receiving a few requests from readers about how to reply to emails I've outlined what I do to keep on top of my Inbox - and how you can manage yours much more effectively!
(For more posts like this see my Blogging Tips page)
Should you reply to or delete unsuitable offer emails?Samantha emailed me last year to ask the following:
I am starting to get people offering me "quality content" [articles] for my blog and also offers of gifts that are not really my style (they have obviously not even looked at my blog content). Is it okay to delete these emails or is is better form to acknowledge them with a polite "no thank you"?
This is a typical problem, and it can be really annoying to have your Inbox clogged up with emails with offers totally unsuitable to your blog's content and readership. Depending on who sent it, it usually isn't a good idea to ignore the email completely. There are measures you can put in place, however, to help you deal with your Inbox quickly and efficiently.
Set up an Auto Reply to your emailsAuto replies are a godsend for bloggers. Most email service providers have the option of creating an auto reply (similar to an "Out of Office", but without actually saying "Out of Office"). Look in your settings to see if you can set one up.
Firstly take care of the subject line. Make sure the auto reply adds "Thank you for your email", or "I've received your email, thank you!" to the subject.
In the body of the email explain that you've received their email and are dealing with it, should it warrant a reply.
Suggest that they take a look at your PR page or media kit in the meantime if they want to work with you (if you don't have one, I strongly advise that you sort one out ASAP) - don't forget to give a link to it in your auto reply. They may find out the answer to their question and contact you again with further details.
DON'T FORGET TO GIVE A LINK TO YOUR PR PAGE IN YOUR AUTO REPLY. THEY MAY FIND OUT THE ANSWER TO THEIR QUESTION AND CONTACT YOU AGAIN WITH FURTHER DETAILS.
If you're able to give a time frame for replies, mention that too. If you work full time and only blog at the weekend, explain that you will reply at the weekend, and thank them for their patience. Or say that you'll get back to them with 2-3 working days, for example. That way you should receive less chasing emails, especially if they're the impatient type that chases you up less than 24 hours later.
How to give an answer without actually replyingThere is a great way to be able to "ignore" crappy email offers but ensure that the sender gets an answer. You can add a polite "no thank you" to your auto reply without having to actually type a reply yourself.
THERE IS A GREAT WAY TO BE ABLE TO "IGNORE" CRAPPY EMAIL OFFERS BUT ENSURE THAT THE SENDER GETS AN ANSWER.
If there are certain things that you definitely don't do - for example I don't publish pre-written content or guest posts - then list those things both on your PR page and in the email. You could include something like:
If you are offering any of the things I don't publish on my blog (see below) please accept this email as a kind refusal:
Guest posts/pre-written content
Gifted items that are not related to [your blog content]
The phrase "Please accept this email as a kind refusal" allows you to give a valid reply without having to do any work at all. Once you've read the email and seen that they've offered a guest post, for example, you can simply hit Delete knowing that the auto reply has given them your answer.
When it's acceptable to totally ignore emailsSometimes the email really is a total time-waster. I usually hit Delete immediately* if it looks like a mass email that bears some or all of these characteristics:
- It starts with "Hi [no name]," / "Dear website owner" / "Dear blogger" etc.
- It's short and impersonal
- It looks rushed and/or is badly written
- The offer bears absolutely no relation to your blog at all
- They have a Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo email address and there is no signature or company website link
Trust your gut - if it reads like the sender has obtained a mailing list and mass-emailed a ton of bloggers without having actually researched them, then delete it. It's likely they're not expecting a reply and will not be keeping tabs on who has and who hasn't replied - they're just taking their chances that someone (anyone) will.
*To avoid them emailing you again mark it as Spam rather than hitting Delete.
When you definitely should send a personal replyThere are times when you definitely shouldn't leave an email unanswered, even if your auto reply answers the question for them. Unlike mass generated emails, some unsuitable offers will come directly from the blogger outreach person who works for a brand or a PR person working on behalf of a brand.
Have a look at who's sent it. If the email and/or signature shows that they're an employee of the brand or they work for a [reputable] PR brand, then you should definitely reply. Reply even if they've been impersonal or overdemanding, or if they've offered you something ridiculously unsuitable.
No matter what the content or tone of the email, reply as politely as possible. Even if you blog about beauty products and you've been offered free dog food in exchange for three blog posts and a 10-minute vlog on the health benefits of dog walking. (And you don't own a dog.)
NO MATTER WHAT THE CONTENT OF THE EMAIL, REPLY AS POLITELY AS POSSIBLE. EVEN IF YOU BLOG ABOUT BEAUTY AND YOU'VE BEEN OFFERED FREE DOG FOOD IN EXCHANGE FOR THREE BLOG POSTS AND A 10-MINUTE VLOG ON THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF DOG WALKING.
AND YOU DON'T OWN A DOG.
The reason being is that if you ignore them - or worse, reply impolitely or with the disrespect that they showed you - you have jeopardised your chances of a) potentially working with that brand in the future through a different contact, or b) potentially working with that PR for a totally different brand on a different campaign that you'd give your right arm for.
Never ever, burn your bridges with brands or PRs. You never know when you may want to work with them in the future.
NEVER EVER, BURN YOUR BRIDGES WITH BRANDS OR PRS. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MAY WANT TO WORK WITH THEM IN THE FUTURE.
How to say "no thank you" honestly and politelyIt is always wise to keep on the good side of PRs. Often they're just offering what the brand has told them to offer, or they've been given no budget to spend on bloggers. Don't forget they're just doing their job and may even themselves think what they're offering is pretty lame. Be polite - PRs and brands always remember nice polite bloggers, even if you say no.
DON'T FORGET THEY [PRs] ARE JUST DOING THEIR JOB AND MAY EVEN THEMSELVES THINK WHAT THEY'RE OFFERING IS PRETTY LAME.
Examples of how to say no thanks honestly and politely:
Thank you for the offer but XXX is just not my style, I hope you don't mind my being honest! My style is more XXX - if you have anything like that come up in the future please do keep me in mind, I'd love to hear more.
Many thanks for thinking of me for this campaign - unfortunately I don't generally review XXX on my blog. However I am interested in reviewing X,Y or Z, so I'd love to get involved with any campaigns along those lines if they come up!
Thank you for getting in touch about hosting a XXX giveaway! Unfortunately the timing is bad because I have just recently hosted a giveaway for XXX, but maybe if you contact me in six months or so we could arrange something then? I'd be interested to hear about any giveaways for XXX or XXX in the meantime, however.
Give PRs an idea of what your preferred style is, or the types of offers or products you are interested in. Give examples of brands you have worked with/would like to work with, so they get to know you a little more (they're not mind readers and can't study everyone's blogs in great detail). Honesty and courtesy are most definitely appreciated and you'll be the first to be contacted when a relevant opportunity arises.
How to save yourself typing out similar replies in full each timeIf you've had to reply to lots of emails in relation to your blog, you've probably found yourself typing similar replies each time, whether they're a Yes Please or a No Thank You response.
The secret is to save drafts of different replies. It will save you a ton of time when you know you've already written basically the same "No thanks" email to someone else the day before.
SAVE DRAFTS OF DIFFERENT REPLIES. IT WILL SAVE YOU A TON OF TIME WHEN YOU KNOW YOU'VE ALREADY WRITTEN BASICALLY THE SAME "NO THANKS" EMAIL TO SOMEONE ELSE THE DAY BEFORE.
Depending on whether you use Hotmail, Yahoo or Outlook, etc., there should be a folder where you can save drafts. If you've typed out a response email that you know would be relevant for other similar offers, copy and paste the main content into a draft.
Or keep your drafts in a document in your Google Drive or similar, but remember it will be separated from the email folders that you're working on.
Give it a subject line that explains what type of response it is so you can identify which one you need at a glance - just don't add any email addresses to the "To" field in case you hit Send by accident.
Word of warning: Be careful not to leave first names or product descriptions in the copy that you may forget to change when copying and pasting. I often replace obvious words to change with XXXXXXXXX because it stands out as something to change, or you could highlight it in bright yellow. Thanking Sarah for the offer of jewellery when you were offered beauty products by Claire is incredibly sloppy and will almost certainly prove you've copied and pasted a response.
Being careless with a response says you will probably be careless in any future work you do for them.
BEING CARELESS WITH A RESPONSE SAYS YOU WILL PROBABLY BE CARELESS IN ANY FUTURE WORK YOU DO FOR THEM.
Never ever, send a reply email without reading it back to yourself at least twice.
GMAIL USERS: CANNED RESPONSESIf you have a Gmail address, there is an even better system than drafts: Canned responses. You may not even know that these exist - I only discovered them last year. It saves opening drafts, finding the one you want, copying and pasting... It's much quicker than that:
- Click Compose to start a new message
- Type out your standard response
- In the bottom right-hand corner of the new message window, hover over the arrow and click "More options"
- Hover over "Canned responses" and you'll get a few options: Click "New canned response" to create a draft
- Give it a name to identify it, as mentioned above
- To use that response next time you reply to an email, go to the "Canned responses" options and you will see it listed as the subject line you gave it - click the one you want and it will insert it into your reply email.
Once you have several response drafts drawn up you'll find that replying will be so much quicker, easier and leaves you more time to get on with the fun stuff!
Depending on a few factors, you need to treat all emails differently. How do you deal with an overflowing Inbox and reply to unsuitable offers? Tell me in the comments or tweet me @notlamb!