Knowledge is fickle. It can limit the impact of your content by making it hard to imagine what your audience doesn’t know. But it’s just as dangerous when you don’t recognize what your audience does know.

Content marketing best practices, for example, are a funny thing. They can be a trap, especially when you’re targeting other content marketers. You don’t want your idol — or any expert — to catch you not using best practices. On the other hand, any content marketing expert will recognize best practices for exactly what they are.

Why am I bringing this up now? I must have landed on some kind of “maybe-she’s-not-a-complete-dummy-after-all” list recently, because I’ve received several emails that are textbook-perfect examples of link-building outreach. And it isn’t that I’m not flattered that somebody would think I’m enough of a big deal to reach out to me like that, because I really am (flattered, that is). But those efforts kind of lose their punch when my first thought is, “Hey, look! A link-building outreach email!” And there’s no way I’m the only person who thinks that.

Selling to someone who knows all the tricks of your trade is tough. In a way, it’s a lot like selling fresh produce to a farmer. Or bringing your wife a bouquet of flowers when she knows good and well you only buy her flowers when you have reason to worry about being in the doghouse. All it does is throw up red flags and make people wonder what you really want.

What’s the solution? How about just being up-front? Stop pretending the influencer you’re targeting won’t recognize the “you’re-so-awesome-you-inspired-me-to-write-this-and-I-think-your-readers-would-enjoy-it” approach.

I’m not at all opposed to link outreach. I doubt many other people are, either. It’s flattering, and it’s fun to hear from people with overlapping or tangential interests and audiences. And there are real benefits on both sides of the equation. But don’t play a game with someone who knows the rules, OK? If you want to do some link-building with me, for example, just say so. Tell me what you think our audiences have in common and why each would benefit from the link-sharing. Give me a little credit and just get to the point. I guarantee to give it sincere consideration.


On the chance that this came across as an off-the-cuff-because-there’s-not-enough-coffee rant, it isn’t. It’s something that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, and it finally made it to the front. The point is that you have to walk a fine line when reaching out to people who do what you do. You don’t want to come off as an idiot by not using best practices, but neither do you want to imply that they’re too much of an idiot to recognize best practices when they see them. This is one of those areas where common sense goes a long way.