What We Learned at outREACH 2017: 9 Key Takeaways

14 June 2017

Posted in: Events Outreach

Kudos to Lisa and the team at Verve for putting on such an engaging and actionable conference in London last week. The excitement in the room was palpable as marketers, PRs, and SEOs all packed into the Congress Centre to share outreach best practices and knowledge.  Here are some of the most important things we took away from the day. (Read our ‘not another conference round up’ here).

It’s all about mindset

Something that’s not talked about enough is mindset and attitude, so we were glad that Lisa from Verve Search addressed these important issues in relation to outreach and hiring an outreach team.

Grit is definitely something that’s needed in outreach: a mixture of passion and perseverance will take you far. Another important element is the need for a diverse and committed outreach team: you need people who are going to go above and beyond on campaigns because they really care.

Another important reminder shared by Lisa was that people who are all smiles and sweetness, aren’t always your best bet. Behind that sweet smile may lie a ‘taker’.

A good team needs a good mix of people, but try to find people who are genuine givers; people who aren’t afraid of getting disagreeable for the right reasons are better than people who are always ‘pleasant’.

Journalists write A LOT of content

It’s easy to glamourise and mythologise journalism: the rush of finding a story, the interviews, the camera, the typewriter….

The truth is that modern journalists are more akin to cogs in a huge content production machine (to put it bluntly), and are expected to churn out up to 16 stories a day at national papers. This goes to show the level of stress and pressure that journalists are under to produce new stories.

This is obviously good news for PR agencies and SEOs who are looking to get their stories or content featured online. Help journalists out by producing ‘ready to publish’ content with high-quality images and you may get lucky…

Focus on campaign deliverables

Outreach and content marketing can easily spiral out of control and become VERY EXPENSIVE. It’s very important to clearly define campaign goals and outcomes before you begin so that everyone stays on target.

From small businesses to multinationals — everyone needs to be clear on what you’re actually trying to achieve.

Though we think links are still important and are a big part of our outreach, consider whether other deliverables like leads, brand awareness, and exposure are equally important for your campaign.

Personalise less, target more

Personalisation is a funny one. On one level, you’d think that sharing a really insightful and witty anecdote you’ve crafted specifically for that person would be the best way to go — but the truth is that people are busy. A long story about how you read someone’s post and loved it won’t necessarily yield results.

Online content operates on a very transactional model, and people will only engage with your email if they feel that they can get something out of the transaction.

The lesson: built better lists and target the right people with the right content. If the content is right, you will probably just get away with “Hi |FNAME”. Remember: people are responding to your offer, not you (I know — it hurts).


If you want to improve outreach results, your best bet is to reference a previous interaction. People like to work with people they already know — it makes you a vetted source.

Another thing to try is contextual relevance — reference why the story you’re offering is mutually relevant and beneficial.

Data talks

People love data and research — so give it to them. If you are trying to promote a piece of content, it’s a good idea to highlight all the research and data that’s gone into it.

Outreach tip: put the word data/research/new study into your email subject lines — journalists and editors love having content that’s vetted.

There are plenty of free data sources out there that you can harness — you just need to package up the data in a format that people find compelling. Visual content elements are perfect for breaking down complex data, but remember: no one loves an ugly infographic.

Don’t be fake

Dancing around the topic isn’t always the best way to go — being open and up-front about what you’re looking for in exchange for your content is a good idea.

Being open and transparent will keep you from getting into sticky link situations, but it will also ensure that you weed out any time-wasters.

It takes courage to be open and transparent, but it’s the right way to go.

Don’t waste people’s time

People get a lot of outreach emails. (We’re talking hundreds every hour). So it’s very important that you cut straight to the chase.

  1. Don’t waffle and whine in your email — get to the point fast
  2. Don’t be misleading and pull people into something if it blatantly isn’t right for either party
  3. Don’t waste someone’s inbox space with ridiculous follow ups.

Basically — don’t be a d*ick.


*this rule is probably also something to live by.

Get people to be with you

The best way to create a connection over email? Get people to be with you. Reference what they’re doing or thinking right now and you will immediately break down barriers. Get them thinking “how did you know that?!”

Creating a connection will help you build relationships with people — stand out in a sea of beige outreach emails.

You have to innovate to stay ahead of the game

In digital you definitely need to have your finger on the pulse. Stars fade fast, tactics get penalised, and people move on.

If you are playing the long game with your business, then you need to invest money and time into innovation. Don’t just stare at what’s in front of you right now — look ahead to the upcoming trends and industry disruptors.

In digital, if you’re only focusing on what works today, you are already behind the curve.

Work less, win more = goals

Content marketing is hard, and outreach tactic can be even harder. As marketers and agencies, we should strive to be working less and winning more.

The law of diminishing returns means that we need to keep an eye on what we’re doing and the results that we’re getting back. There is no point in doing the same thing over and over again and getting less and less back.

Whether we lean on machine learning, people, or contacts — we need to focus on outreach agility and ROI.

Outreach is its own kind of elaborate game: in order to succeed you need to know the rules. How do you measure outreach success?

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