Sunday, 10 January 2016

Blogging Tips | How to Keep on Top of Your Emails and Reply to PRs and Brands

Email overload?| Blogging Tips - How to Keep on Top of Your Emails and Reply to Brands and PRs
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)

Blogging Tips | How to Keep on Top of Your Emails and Reply to Brands and PRs


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 emails

Auto 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 replying

There 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]
Infographics, etc.
 

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 emails

Sometimes 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:

  1. It starts with "Hi [no name]," / "Dear website owner" / "Dear blogger" etc.
  2. It's short and impersonal
  3. It looks rushed and/or is badly written
  4. The offer bears absolutely no relation to your blog at all
  5. 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 reply

There 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 politely

It 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 time

If 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 RESPONSES

If 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:

  1. Click Compose to start a new message
  2. Type out your standard response
  3. In the bottom right-hand corner of the new message window, hover over the arrow and click "More options"
  4. Hover over "Canned responses" and you'll get a few options: Click "New canned response" to create a draft
  5. Give it a name to identify it, as mentioned above
  6. 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!

Catherine

Linking up to: Let It Shine, Brilliant Blog PostsFriday's Fab Favourites
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38 comments

  1. You know what? I was only thinking how awesome your autoreply was the other day. It's a stroke of genius and I'm not sure why I've never set one up but I'm going to ASAP.
    Thanks

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  2. This has been so unbelievably helpful - taken notes!
    Sophie
    x
    A Story of a Girl

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    Replies
    1. Sophie I'm so glad!! Good luck with that heaving Inbox :))

      Delete
  3. Catherine, you are always so generous with your tips and hints.
    This post is a Godsend as I was just getting confused (and bogged down) about offers and emails. I feel like I can begin to sort things out now!
    I have not even started a media card, I looked at yours and thought "wow" great stuff! But where does a teeny tiny blog person begin?
    If you ever feel like writing a step by step post about making a media card, what to put on it and why it is essential then I (and many others, I am sure) would be chuffed to bits!
    I was pleased that you used my question in this post. I am sure many other people have the same problem.
    I delete ones that don't even use my name....or people asking me if I would be interested in "kick posing"....erm?!?! No thanks!! Hahahaha
    Thank you, as always, for your great advice.
    XXX
    Samantha
    Fake Fabulous

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I second this request about a step by step post for making a media card! Great suggestion Samantha. Fingers crossed Catherine will if we flutter our eyelashes enough!

      http://petitesilvervixen.blogspot.co.uk/

      Delete
    2. Duly noted about the post about a media kit... It's been in my drafts list for a while, it'll definitely be done this year! And yes when they don't even use your name it's so impersonal - such a waste of their time, and ours!!

      I'm really glad it's been useful, I hope you find replying a little easier now! x

      Delete
  4. The last tip is really awesome. I used drafts in the draft folder and ??? instead of the XXX. But the canned option is a much better one as it saves the copy paste modify step.

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    Replies
    1. Oh gosh yes, Nicole - canned responses are brilliant! Saves so much time (doesn't seem like much but a few seconds saved each time all add up)! x

      Delete
  5. Thanks Catherine for another very useful post - especially for we newcomers. It's great to have you as a point of reference as you seem to have come across any of our problems many times over. And yes, I've cast my vote for you - good luck!
    Anna x
    Anna's Island Style

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    Replies
    1. It's my pleasure, Anna! I used to be in a terrible mess with my emails, not it's MUCH more manageable. Good luck with yours, and thank you for voting!!!!!!! x

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  6. Such useful tips as always, Catherine. Keep a clear inbox seems to elude me most weeks!

    http://petitesilvervixen.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jacqueline I know the feeling all too well, it still eludes me even now!! But I hope the tips help you (and I made a note of your media kit post request, it's a draft post that I haven't got round to writing yet. This year, definitely)! x

      Delete
    2. Thanks Catherine. Knew you'd be on the ball with a draft post already! As and when, no rush - something for us all to look forward too! x

      Delete
  7. thank you for sharing so much helpful information and the link to your earlier post.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks very much Catherine. As I am never publishing anything commercial on my blog, life is easy for me. I fear that with the number of readers I have I would never earn anything worth while. So I stick to my day job and enjoy blogging for what I started it: a hobby, an enjoyment, a vehicle to entertain people. Who knows what I will do when I hit 100.000 unique visitors every month, but that is a long, long way to go haha.
    Greetje
    Greetje

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too am a long, long way from 100k unique visitors a month, Greetje... I can but dream!! But you're blogging for all the right reasons, and that is because you enjoy it. Kudos to you :))

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  9. Ooh, I'd never heard of Canned Response before - what a useful little trick.
    I absolutely agree about not burning bridges with PRs. I've worked as a journalist for 15 years, and you never know where a PR might next end up, or even if they approach you with something not suitable, what other clients or opportunities they may have. #brilliantblogposts

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    Replies
    1. Aren't they clever (canned responses), Cathryn?! I wish I'd known about them sooner! The polite route is always the best one to take as you say, I quite agree x

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  10. These are fantastic ideas. Thanks for the suggestions. I think the email account I have connected to blue host is really limited but i'll look into to it to see if i can create some auto replies. A great idea! Angela from Daysinbed

    Popping over from #BrilliantBlogposts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh I hope you can get something sorted with your email account, Angela - the auto reply is SO helpful! Thanks for popping by x

      Delete
  11. Fab tips! It can be overwhelming at times getting through all the emails. I use Gmail so I will definitely be looking into the canned response! I always send a polite no thank you if I'm not interested in the product or they think I will work for free. As you say it doesn't hurt to keep people onside for future opportunities. I have never thought of adding in what I would be interested in, that's another thing I will be doing in the future. Thanks for the great advice :) #brilliantblogposts
    Debbie

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    Replies
    1. The addition of what you *are* interested in is really helpful, Debbie - I've often had feedback from PRs thanking me for saying what I do like, they can then match you up to other projects that are current or about to happen. Glad you liked the post, thanks sweetie! x

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  12. I cannot stand having emails just LINGERING in my inbox... So I always keep the important ones UNREAD (if I am not at my computer) so when I get to my computer I can just treat them as if I never read them, and TAKE CARE OF THEM!!! I want maximum of 1 unread email in there when I go to sleep at night, LOL!

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    Replies
    1. Gosh Gigi you sound really organised, I often have emails that require a lot of research before replying so I wish I could implement that sort of rule before bed but I think it'd be impossible, haha!! x

      Delete
  13. This is such a great post. It's informative on a subject I had not even properly considered. Thank you so much for this advice, Catherine. I will be implementing it for sure. Although I am still new and don't get many unsolicited offers, most of the ones I've received have been inappropriate for my interests and audience. I have responded to the legitimate ones because I am so new and don't want to burn bridges, but I see where that is important no matter where you are in your blogging journey.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Regina - the fact that you now know to get organised like this early on will help you avoid getting in a total mess with your emails like I did...!! Goes to show that we do need to get on top of our Inboxes if you say you're already receiving lots of inappropriate offers...! x

      Delete
  14. This is fabulously useful advice, thank you. I've not really got to the stage where I need it yet, but it's brilliant to know about this post, so I can refer to it when the requests do start coming in... Totally agree about the not burning you bridges stuff. You have absolutely no idea what job that PR person or brand manager might be doing next year or even in 5 years time. Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. It's such a good point that many bloggers forget, Eb! Thank you, glad you liked the post x

      Delete
  15. Hi Catherine, excellent tips. I cold have done with this advice just before Christmas when I received my first approach by a company. The request didn't fit in with my blog so I turned them down as politely as I could,but had worried that I had done the right thing.

    Love the idea of setting up automated emails, I will look into doing that.

    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie you did exactly the right thing - for you, for your readers and for the brand! If you take on projects you're not enthusiastic about it'll show in the write up, so you followed the right course of action without a doubt. The brand/PR will always be thankful if you're honest but polite, I'm sure they'd rather work with bloggers who ARE enthusiastic about the product...! Thanks hun x

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  16. So many hours saved with these great tips!! Thank you.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this, I always worry if I do not respond to spammy emails that it will be a detriment but I also do not want to waste my time on an engagement that is not warranted. You have provided some great tips and suggestions.

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    Replies
    1. The truly spammy ones are definitely the ones to ignore, Linda! Glad the tips have helped, thank you! x

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