Not another post-conference roundup *sighs*. No — this one is different (promise). Organised for the first time in the UK by Verve Search, outREACH was packed full of actionable information and data. We loved the event because it was 0% filler content and fluff, and 100% sharing best practices with people who actually do outreach all day. As an SEO agency who specialise in editorial outreach, we were all over this one.
Specialist conference for outreachers
While other digital conferences attempt to grapple with a whole industry in a day, outREACH very astutely honed in on just one tactic: outreach. This specialisation made for a much more fruitful day with delegates openly sharing information and strategies. Here’s why we loved this specialist conference:
- More actionable advice and tips that you can actually implement
- An opportunity for productive networking
- A space to share best practices, tips, and tools — (including funny email fails).
During the conference opener Hannah from Verve made an eloquent point about how events like these help us make the industry better — and we couldn’t agree more.
Get inspired to make better content
‘All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost.’ Tolkien via @epicgraphic
Mark Johnstone’s conference presentation kicked things off with content. (Fitting, as the success of outreach largely hinges on your ability to create great content). As someone who is well-versed in what makes content really come alive, we were excited to hear his perspective.
Here are some pro-tips and insights from the man himself:
- Context is everything: only content that’s in context will work
- Look at how you reframe and visualise data — this is key for content success. Presenting information? Focus on being concrete
- Don’t be afraid to combine existing content elements, but add value with your specific compilation.
‘Find something that nearly worked and make it better!’ @JamesFinlayson
James Finlayson from Verve was up next, sharing his views on innovation and content. His points about originality being trumped by innovation were reassuring; rather than focusing on having ‘the best ideas’, it’s important to focus on having the best execution and being innovative.
- One of James’s key points was that you need approach pitches in a simpler way — simply take existing ideas and make them better, or reframe them. Definitely one of the quickest ways to get your point across
- James also stressed the importance of investing in creative content now — it will give your brand longevity
- Credible data makes for credible content
- Build platforms that allow for clever content recycling.
Building an outreach mindset
‘Look for people who are “disagreeable givers” (like Yoda). Be more like Yoda.’ @LisaDMyers
Lisa Myers shared how she built the right team at Verve for outreach work. A lot of it comes down to finding people with an outreach mindset — people who have GRIT (both passion and perseverance).
Here are some of the ingredients that go into designing a winning outreach team:
- Look at people’s achievements, not their CV and education. Can people stretch themselves? Do they ask questions?
- A diverse group of people makes for a good team (14 different nationalities at Verve!)
- Look at whether people give or take — don’t just focus on surface ‘niceties’ and being ‘agreeable’ — look at what really motivates people
- Listen differently to different members of the team — an introvert might have a great campaign idea, but they won’t be hitting you over the head with it
- Team spirit is super important: make people accountable to each other, not the business.
We laugh at terrible emails (knowing we’ve done far worse)
The expert outreach panel (Gisele Navarro, Pete Campbell, Bobbi Brant & James Congdon) was a great way to get a chance to hear from the experts themselves; it was refreshing that they all shared their outreach challenges and email fails with us. It’s so useful to hear about things that didn’t go so well — rather than just the usual ‘conference brag’.
It’s hard to distill all the knowledge and insight from this panel into a few nifty bulletpoints, but here goes:
- There are loads of different tools to use for outreach: Gorkana, Streak, Hunter, Yesware, Buzzsumo, Buzzstream, RocketReach — find the ones that work for you and your team. (Oh and Streak gets addictive after a time).
- Test your campaign before outreach by posting it on reddit — but use a trusted account and don’t abuse the community. Also, don’t waste your time on general threads — go straight to the niche experts, and don’t include the client’s name in case of backlash.
Email outreach pro-tips
- Get the reader to ‘be with you’ and reference their reality in some way (can you connect with what they’re doing on their screen right now?)
- If your prospecting is right then your pitch won’t be (that) bad
- Call back to similar stories to evoke curiosity, and be data-driven to underline reliability
- Generic subject lines aren’t that bad, and it’s always a good idea to use the words research/study/data in your subject line.
Avoid these when sending out emails
- Hating on someone’s country or state (watch out for closet patriots)
- Following up too aggressively during important events or leisure time
- Talking about yourself too much (nobody cares)
- Being vague, or telling someone why you think the story is good (patronising).
#99PitchProblems with a journalist
Willard Foxton is a successful journalist who gave us the low-down on how not to piss journalists off, and how UK newsrooms operate. Even on very little sleep (election), Willard was eloquent — his talk packed a punch.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Journalists write A LOT of content (up to 16 stories a day) — so help them out and don’t waste their time
- People on the frontline at a national paper are junior and probably stressed (best time to email a paper your story — before 9:30 AM)
- Journalists don’t know/can’t tell/don’t care if you are an agency/brand/PR person — they just want a good story. So give them a good story, make their life easy, and make it clear what you expect in return.
Paul May from Buzzstream takes the floor
We were kind of (read VERY) excited to meet and talk to Paul May, Founder of Buzzstream. (Gareth posing with Paul above — Paul very kindly agreed to be papped by us).
Paul’s presentation was all about data and what Buzzstream have learned from trawling through thousands (literally 30 K +) of outreach emails. Paul’s talk highlighted the tension between scaling and response rate — something that’s very important to us.
Here’s what we learned:
- Personalisation isn’t always everything; and half-hearted fake personalisation will actually decrease your response rates
- Finding contextual relevance or referencing a previous collaboration is the way to go
- It’s possible to do quality outreach on scale, but your lists need to be good
- Google is experimenting with Gmail — could some email changes be on the horizon?
Machine-learning with Mike
“Be super creative — not super aggressive — with how you approach outreach.” @iPullRank
Mike King had some very forward-thinking things to say about the future of link building and outreach. His presentation was all about the next stage of outreach, and how machine learning can help teams and agencies scale.
Some places where machine learning and outreach may take us:
- Outreaching via video — sending pitches to journalists in video form
- Replicating manual lists/prospecting using machine learning
- Text summary tools to help you digest information faster
- Email chatbots that respond to emails on your behalf
It was inspiring to see where things in the industry might be headed. Check out his presentation deck here.
How to sell your content to the corporate world
“Most people are paid to not fuck up.” @Kirsty_Hulse
Kirsty had some great tips on how to get more ‘creative’ campaign ideas accepted by clients. Kirsty emphasised how people are often afraid to take risks and put their neck on the line, so content creators have to get very good at justifying their campaigns!
- Get people to trust you, and pitch using questions so that people discover your idea for themselves
- Use the rule of three — pitch the actual idea you want them to accept after you have pitched a really crazy one that they won’t accept
- Links aren’t the only metric, so get to know what matters for the business — it could also be traffic or leads
- Break campaigns down into O(bjective), G(oal), S(trategy), M(easure).
Tame your tigers
The conference ended on an inspiring note with a talk from Jim Lawless who gave us the 12-step lowdown on how to tame your tigers and get more done with your life.
From becoming a jockey to freediving, the man is an ACTUAL MACHINE — he gave us all some practical tools on how to achieve more with our lives. Even with everyone looking forward to heading down to the pub for some conference networking, Jim had us all captivated; and he made ride imaginary horses (pictures on request).
Thank you to the team at Verve, the speakers, sponsors, and fellow delegates for an inspiring day. Here we are, staring wistfully into the future of outreach…..(and looking forward to outREACH 2018 already).