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How brands are helping people in need during the pandemic

You don’t need to look far to find another alarming statistic or piece of bad news about the current pandemic. 

But not all news needs to be negative, particularly at a time like this. 

In recent weeks, social media has platformed its fair share of positivity, including Italians hosting gigs on balconies, and help and assistance being offered around the UK and Ireland to those in self-isolation via the hashtag #SelfIsolationHelp.

Good news is on the agenda

Digital PRs will be spending the next few weeks figuring out how best to approach journalists with stories during this sensitive time. 

Like any topic, readers will only consume so much bad news about the coronavirus, before looking elsewhere. There have already been calls from editors and reporters at The Yorkshire Post and BBC News to remind us that “uplifting distractions and inspiration” are definitely in demand.

Which is why it isn’t surprising to see that many positive initiatives announced in the past few days have gone on to attract national press coverage. 

It’s worth thinking about what positive stories your brand can tell over the next few months, which could go on to support and inspire people who need it, or at least provide them with a welcome distraction.

Positive initiatives from big brands

We have already started to see brands recognise and react to the problems that the coronavirus outbreak is causing to certain groups of people. Below we have highlighted some of these examples, which illustrate how companies can utilise their products and services as forces for good.

Restaurants are offering free food and drink to NHS staff

pret-sandwichesAcknowledging the tireless work that NHS staff are facing during the pandemic, Pret has announced that it will give all frontline staff free hot drinks and a 50% discount on food products, such as cakes and sandwiches.

The coffee and food chain has also closed off most of the seating areas in its UK restaurants, which will reduce crowding and cater more towards those who are self-isolating, thanks to a greater focus on takeaways.

A similar initiative is being followed by McDonald’s. The fast food restaurant is offering free drinks to NHS staff, social workers and emergency services.


Domino’s Pizza is offering free pizza in selected stores to NHS workers on Friday 20th March.


RUSH is offering wash and blow-dry to NHS staff

Something as simple as a trip to the hairdressers can really rejuvenate a person after a stressful day. In this second example of support being offered to NHS staff, RUSH is offering them a complimentary wash, blow-dry & style throughout what is expected to be the virus’s peak months of March, April and May.


Bandcamp wavers its share of profits for a day

bandcamp-coronavirusGigs, exhibitions and public gatherings of all kinds are being cancelled in many countries for the foreseeable future, meaning those who work within the arts and entertainment industries , especially those who rely on it as their main source of income , will be severely affected.

In response to this, Bandcamp announced that 100% of the profits made from purchases on their site on Friday 20th March will go directly to artists and labels. Considering that Spotify pays out less than $0.009 per stream, the amount that an artist can instead earn from unwavered fees on Bandcamp for just one day could make a considerable difference to their personal finances.

LinkedIn makes 16 ‘remote work’ courses free to access online

Working from home for more than a day or two is something most of us aren’t used to. Recognising that people will need plenty of tips on everything this entails, from staying productive, to managing the wellbeing of themselves and other team members, LinkedIn announced that 16 of its educational videos (equivalent to more than 13 hours of content) are now freely available to watch and learn from.


Balance offers a free one-year subscriptionlinkedin-coronavirus

Coping with self-isolation will be challenging, and there is no telling the extent to which the pandemic may negatively impact on people’s mental health. As a helping hand, Meditation app Balance is giving people the chance to sign up to their app for a year’s free subscription , the offer is open for the duration of March.

Brewdog to make free hand sanitiser

Anyone who has ventured into a supermarket this month will know that hand sanitiser is at a premium. In recognition of the issue, Brewdog has announced that it will turn its attention to producing hand sanitiser in its Scotland distillery, saying it will be freely available to those in need of it.


The National Trust opens up parks and gardens for freenational-trust-coronavirus

Natural spaces will be an essential outlet for people who are self-isolating. The National Trust has promised to open many of its parks and gardens around the country for people to get out of their homes and “use open spaces to relax and refresh”.

Tesco changes operations to prioritise those in need

Stockpiling from some shoppers has meant many people in the UK have recently been missing out on everyday essentials. In response to this, Tesco announced a number of changes to how their stores will operate, so that they can “provide more of what people need in a clean and safe environment”.

The changes include: designated hours of the week for the elderly and vulnerable to complete their shopping, a limit of 3 items per shopper on every product line, and new closing hours of 10pm to ensure that stocks can be replenished and its employees can properly rest.



Jameson donates $500,000 to Bartender’s Guild

With pubs and clubs continuing to empty or close down entirely due to safety concerns about the coronavirus, bartending is another profession at-risk of unemployment and losing out on a regular pay packet. In the US, Jameson Whiskey has pledged a $500,000 donation to the United States Bartender’s Guild, an organisation that helps empower and foster collaboration between bartenders throughout their careers. The whisky brand will also match every dollar donated by the public (up to $100,000) to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Programme, which has been established to aid service industry personnel who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the outbreak.


Further reading:

Outside of current events, there are plenty of companies that maintain strong ethical standards by giving something back to their communities and workers all year round. If you’d like to read more about them, check out the B Corps directory.

Adage is constantly updating this article with information on how big brands are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak.

This column from the NYTimes dissects how the coronavirus has quickly infected the content that we consume online.

Campaign Spotlight – Crep Check

Starting this month, we will be sharing with you an example of a campaign which has delivered amazing results for a client over the course of the previous month.

This month, we produced Crep Check for Farfetch, a luxury fashion retailer. The campaign looks at the most valuable trainers currently on the market, as well as those that have seen their value skyrocket since their initial release.

Screenshot 2019-07-30 at 16.11.18

We teamed up with Stadium Goods to provide a definitive breakdown of the most valuable and appreciative trainers in modern times, and an explanation as to why so many of these shoes have become worth such vast sums of money.


Costing £22,763, The high-top ‘Jasper’ sneaker from the Kanye West x Louis Vuitton line are the most valuable on the market. Released in 2009, the shoes designed by West himself have increased by more than 2500%. They were initially available in three colourways but the pink and grey version is the most coveted.


We found that Nike’s What the Dunk trainers had the biggest value increase. Released in 2007 at £91, they were designed as a patchwork of previous patterns, colours and materials used in old Nike SB models. Today, they are worth £3,793 , an increase of over 4000%.

We took inspiration for the campaign from high-profile trainer auctions and one-off celebrity releases, which have been sold for tens of thousands of pounds. The international news interest these stories generate inspired us to create a definitive list using data provided by one of Farfetch’s key brands.

We also liked the idea of showcasing trainers as alternative investments, a concept we previously explored with coins and toy cars. Lifestyle, fashion, and money journalists love to follow the most recent collectable trends and valuations in fashion.

Our designs took inspiration from ‘sneaker walls’, similar to those found in Stadium Goods’ stores in New York and Los Angeles. We also used price tags to show the rank number, making the campaign feel more like a high-end fashion index.  We then researched each shoe using Stadium Goods’ index to provide some context to their value increase.

Screenshot 2019-07-30 at 17.25.39

‘Crep Check’ launched on the 26th June, and to date, our outreach team have delivered 98 links totalling 3367 LinkScore (Verve’s own tool using a combination of metrics to measure the value of links). We were also able to build links in seven different countries.

Our outreach coincided with an auction of the world’s rarest trainers in New York set up by Sotheby’s and Stadium Goods. This included one of the first-ever shoes made by Nike in 1972, which sold for £350,000. The interest in this auction meant journalists were receptive to a report about the subject to inform their story.

It also coincided with a PR storm involving Nike removing a limited-edition shoe from retail following complaints about the use of the ‘Betsy Ross’ flag, which has since been associated with white supremacy after its use as the original US flag.

Both stories helped us to get linked coverage for the client in Business Insider, CNBC, GQ, Houston Chronicle, Yahoo Finance, AD (Netherlands’ second-largest newspaper) and CNN’s Style section. In addition, the BBC’s Newsround team wrote an article about the world’s most valuable trainers using the campaign data.

Screenshot 2019-08-01 at 14.22.50

outREACH Conference 2019

A huge thank you to everyone who attended this year’s outREACH conference! It may have been drizzly outside, but we had a great day and were honoured to host amazing speakers and enthusiastic attendees.

The outREACH conference is designed to give everyone a helpful insight into the professional strategies and experiences that make up the outreach world, and we at Verve are always humbled by the open sharing of knowledge we see in the expert talks and dialogues.

Kim Bjørnqvist kicked off the day’s talks with an engaging and entertaining presentation on the power of language in the clickbait age. Kim noted that all words are symbols and can be used to build worlds for communicating with the user , who, by the way, don’t see themselves as “users”…

“People want to feel unique, not just like walking wallets.”

Kim told us about the four new Ps, highlighting again how language is the strongest tool at our disposal and needs to be used to tie a product with emotions, which can then be transferred to the user. He included insightful advertising examples (and his alterations) that showed us how important it is that people have “at least one thought in their head” when viewing an advert. As he finished, Kim left us with a rousing thought!

“Brilliant ideas are seldom logical , until afterwards.”


Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 10.31.46

To any doubters of link-building strategies, Verve’s own Head of Innovation James Finlayson had one message: no industry is too boring, too competitive, or too regulated for creative marketing campaigns. In his energetic talk, James highlighted that consumers are looking to buy solutions to their problems rather than any specific thing.  

“Build your strategy around the user, not the product.”

James used Verve showstoppers Demolishing Modernism and Unicorn League as examples of linking ‘boring’ services and software to outstanding campaigns that, crucially, achieved top-tier links. Even B2B products , which, James argued, don’t really exist – can benefit from creative campaigns marketed and outreached in the right way. The most important thing is always to create a campaign that resonates , and manage your expectations while you’re at it.

James finished by telling us about the newly launched outREACH Slack channel available to anyone interested in all things outreach. Click here to request to join.

Shannon McGuirk of Aira Digital delivered an enlightening presentation on the roles of instincts and data when outreaching a campaign. Shannon stressed that “relying on gut feelings alone is not enough”, and that outreaching based on your instincts can yield successful hits or regrettable misses.

To find a better and more consistent solution, Shannon and her team set about scraping 35,000 articles across 6 websites. They revealed the statistically optimal days for outreaching across different news categories, which sometimes lined up with instinct, and sometimes surprised everyone.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 10.39.03

Next on the agenda was an exciting panel led by Hannah Smith, featuring Verve’s own Head of Outreach Alex Cassidy, Hana Bednarova of Bednar Communications, and Rise at Seven creative director Carrie Rose. The panellists gave us insightful tips on how to craft the perfect outreach email, as well as showing us the tools they use to contact journalists, track communications, and measure links.

An interesting question was put to the panellists: what would you tell yourself at the start of your outreach career? Alex would tell himself to “take time” and make sure to consider all angles; this may feel slow, but makes the process easier. Also, cutting data in different ways can create new angles and fresh links. Carrie advised herself (and the audience!) not to “get bogged down with metrics”, not to push too hard for a link, and to follow up on emails, showing journalists how much coverage can be gained from a fresh article. Hana highlighted the importance of building relationships with journalists and researching well.

In the afternoon, social media editor for MyLondon Sian Elvin led an insightful talk on the best ways to successfully outreach to a journalist. Her presentation was packed full of behind-the-scenes tips about best email practice, from the technical (keep to one font size!) to the practical (always read the publications you are pitching to!).

Previously a journalist at Kent Live, Sian also illustrated how important it is to tailor your outreach to local publications. Change the angle and make the data appeal to local journalists , they’ll definitely care more about your pitch.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 10.49.49

Lots of incredible advice and experiences were shared in the Q&A session that followed with Sian Elvin and freelance journalist Alistair Charlton, led by Alex Cassidy. One particular highlight was when both agreed that sending journalists all the data and assets (high quality and usable, of course) in a Dropbox link was one of the easiest ways to reduce time-wasting back and forth communication. And is it ever OK to ring up a journalist? Best not to!

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 11.00.04

The chief growth officer at BuzzStream Stephen Panico gave a presentation on the components that make up a successful outreach campaign, and it was packed full of eureka-moment tips (when did you last deep-dive for all that archived coverage?) that got the audience thinking. Guiding us with examples of creative campaigns and link-building done well, Stephen took us through the various stages of outreach, careful to note that “not one size fits all”. For the ideation phase, we learnt about the importance of creating a campaign that resonates with current and recurring events, plus running ideas by journalists to get crucial feedback.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 11.09.10

Our last talk of the day was given by keynote speaker David Rowan, author and founding editor of WIRED UK. David delivered an engaging presentation on how innovation is connected to the way people think, giving us ten ways to achieve it in and out of the workplace.

Empowering your people and allowing people to “just do their job” was one of his highlighted tips, using Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen as an example of a leader who has a track record of putting important decisions in the hands of his employees.

David also suggested turning products into services, pointing our attention to a small bookshop in Mayfair that beat the looming online competition (looking at you, Amazon) by launching a personalised book recommendation service.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 11.11.15

Thank you to all our speakers and attendees for another fantastic conference. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

How to write an outreach email that gets links

Subject line

The subject line is the most important part of the outreach email. With some journalists at national publications writing eight to ten articles per day and receiving anywhere upwards of 100 emails a day, catching their eye with a newsworthy and noticeable subject line is essential. The idea is to make it as close to a useable headline for journalists. Here is an example from one of our more successful campaigns – ‘On Location‘:

“Look Familiar? These are the most-filmed locations in California”

The headline is short, punchy and is likely to entice the journalist to open the email to find the information they are looking for. We often vary our approach depending on the target publication. For example. using simple language and popular tabloid phrases such as ‘revealed’ often helps our open-rates with tabloid journalists. The subject line below helped us get national coverage from the Sun and Daily Express for a recent campaign:

“(Data) Revealed: London has UK’s most affordable fuel prices”

It is also important to make it clear what you are offering to a journalist from the outset. If you are pitching content to be used as a listicle, make that clear in the subject line. The sign of a great subject line for our team is when the journalist uses it verbatim as the headline for their article.

Opening Lines

It is important to get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, setting out the basis of the article in the first few lines. The opening lines should include the most newsworthy aspect of the story, as well as a concise explanation of the information you are pitching. Below is an example of the opening of the email for ‘On Location’ I highlighted above:

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 16.01.40

In three lines, this email clearly sets out what the journalist needs to know about our research. We compiled IMDb film location data to find the most popular locations for movie scenes around the world, and that Venice Beach is the most-filmed location in California. The most important points are listed in bold to help the journalist spot the story quickly.

Our team usually take three to five lines in an email to give the journalist the essence of the story in the campaign. If this appeals to them, they are more likely to read on.

The Link

Our outreach team prefer to be direct when asking for a link to a campaign. We make it clear that we are offering something of value to the journalist, and they should link to our asset for the story to make sense.

We use the line , â€œPlease credit via a link to our campaign page”, as it makes our request clear without it being too forceful. It also saves us vast amounts of time having to reclaim links for articles where journalists have used our story and/or assets.

Main Body

Now is the time to introduce the substance of your research, and to provide the journalist with all the information they need to write the article. There is no set rule to how much content to include, but you should include any relevant data that you think would be important in an article.

Writing clear headings with colour-coding can also be an efficient way of helping a journalist sift through the body of your email to find relevant information. Here is an example of a recent email we sent out for a campaign around AI Jobs:

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 16.55.04

 Top 5 Outreach Tips

  1. Write the subject line to match your target publication, using a tone of voice similar to that of the journalists at that news outlet.
  2. Keep the subject line simple and state the most newsworthy aspects of your pitch.
  3. Get to the point of the story as quickly as possible in the body of your email.
  4. Break-up the content of the email so you are not overloading the journalist with information and blocks of text.
  5. Sign-post headings and sub-headings within the email so a journalist can clearly see what you are offering.

My First Month in The SEO World

May has been an interesting month in my life. After a few months of job hunting, I was given the cool opportunity to become part of the Verve SEO team. I joined Verve Search at the beginning of May and officially became an SEO newbie.

Before I started here, my only encounter with SEO was a 4-month internship I did with a digital marketing agency, where I was mainly writing content and slowly getting introduced to SEO. For that reason, this opportunity at Verve Search has been a real, eye-opening, and captivating experience. I had the chance of meeting amazing people that made the beginning of my career so much easier and smooth. I feel lucky to have such a cool mentor to guide me through this new path, and to be surrounded by this refreshing work environment.

In this article, I will summarise the main things I learned during my first month as an SEO Executive.

Lesson 1: Wasn’t SEO just spamming links around?

Before I started working on SEO, I had this idea that SEO basically meant throwing links around every blog, directory, or web page you could find, and by doing this, you would magically rank better. Well, that is not even close to being true!

The truth is, one of the first things I learned here was that backlink quality is essential to improve your rankings. Ideally, you should focus at ensuring your external links come from relevant and high authority domains.

A high quality backlink comes from a site that will make search engines trust your website to be one of the best results they can give to the searcher to answer their query.

Lesson 2: White-Hat SEO is the way to go.

In SEO (like in most things in life), there is a proper way to do things, and a sketchy way to do things. White-Hat SEO refers to the cleanest and most honest way to improve a website’s visibility.

Why is this the better way? Well, because when you break the rules Google does not like it and tends to penalise your site, which can be very harmful, and could take you a long time to recover from.

White-Hat means following Google guidelines, to provide the searcher, with the best results. On the other hand, Black-Hat SEO, can be anything that you think might increase your rankings but does not follow Google guidelines. For example, stuffing your content with similar keywords, hoping to rank better in the SERP! Google is too smart for this mate! It probably won’t work!

Lesson 3: SEO is a world of constant change.

Google is constantly changing and developing new algorithms, and better ways to provide the best search engine service. They come up with algorithm updates and major changes all the time (and for some reason they name most of them after cute animals). These sudden updates call for SEOs to be in constant alert for news and tools that could harm or help our websites. We need to be ready to inform and act right away, and the best way to do this is to keep track of all the latest SEO updates and news and to carefully monitor your client’s organic performance.

Lesson 4: SEO and content go together!

Content Marketing plays a huge role in SEO. Content marketing and SEO are partners in crime, they go together like avocados and toast! I see it as simple as this: there is simply no SEO without content, SEO needs content, and content needs SEO.

In my case, content was pretty important since day one. My first main task when I started, was to carry out extensive keyword research. This helped me understand how important the on-site content of a website is, and how much effort actually goes into it.

Lesson 5: Practice, practice, and practice.

These past few weeks I realised how important it is to learn by doing in this industry. There are so many tools to use for different purposes and analysis, and the best way to get your head around it is to jump straight into using them.

At the very beginning, the most frustrating part for me was trying to master every step I was doing, without really having a full understanding of the theory behind it. Nonetheless, this is something that came with time, and it was definitely better that way. It was very satisfactory to slowly learn what the data meant, while at the same time getting to experiment with the tools and materials available to me.

SEO is something you want to learn less by reading, and more by getting your hands into it. Of course, having the proper reading material at hand is always helpful, and learning with the SEO theory from the start is just fine too, but in my experience, it is definitely faster and easier to put the theories to work, play around with the tools at your disposition, and experiment as much as you can.

And that’s a wrap!

4 Things You Never Knew About Sitemap Submissions

Whenever a sitemap changes it’s important to notify Google and Bing of the change by pinging <searchengine_URL>ping?sitemap=sitemap_url . Whilst these URLs are meant for bots, they do return an actual html page. When you look at Google’s responses though, you’ll notice four interesting facts:

1. Google is Tracking Views of the Page

It’s fair to say that 99.9% of page loads for the URLs are by automated systems that do not run javascript. It’s interesting, and surprising, then that Google includes the old GA script within the code:


For reference, that UA-code appears to be a property within the same account as Google’s Search Console, but not part of the actual Google Search Console property (UA-1800-36).

2. still refers to Webmaster Tools

If you load up you’ll find that the page’s title is:


Yet, if you load up any other English-language TLD for the same page (e.g. ) you’ll see this:


3. Google shows a different response for different languages

If you load up non-English Google TLDs you start to see that Google’s taken the time to translate the text into the primary language that TLD targets. For example, here’s the response on

google sitemap fr

and here’s the response on

google sitemap de

Each language gets its own translation of the text…. except for

google es

I guess the sitemap country-manager was out the day they wrote the translations! In any case, it’s surprising that they bothered to create all these translations for a page that, I would imagine, is very rarely seen by a human.

4. Google makes the weirdest grammar change

If you load up the the, .ie, or any ‘international’ English version of Google’s sitemap ping URL you’ll find this message:

google sitemap update uk

(we’ve added the highlighting)

If, however, you load up the .com you receive this:

google sitemap submission com

The ‘that’ in the second sentence disappears.

Why would Google do any of these things? Maybe it just doesn’t care about updating these. Maybe all of the international English-language versions share a single ‘international English’ text and, when someone last updated it, they forgot to update the .com version. Here’s the more interesting question, though. If the ping URL’s frontend is different for each Google TLD, then, does that mean the backend could be different – maybe feeding into their different indexes? Does which Google you ping make any difference? Should you be pinging your ‘local’ Google rather than just the .com?

We pinged our test site about 40 times from various TLDs to see, through our log files, if Google was visiting from different IP addresses when you pinged from a different TLD. It wasn’t. Next, we reached out to John Mueller to see what he had to say:



…and now you know.

What’s The Limit On Google’s Live Inspection Tool?

Last year Google launched the beta of the new Google Search Console, but when it first launched it was pretty empty. By June they had added one of the features I now use most often in it, the URL Inspection tool. It allows you to quickly see details as to how Google’s crawling, indexing and serving a page, request that Google pulls a ‘live’ version of the page and request that it’s (re)indexed:


The Live Inspection Tool will soon replace the ‘fetch as Google’ functionality found in the old Search Console and so it’s worth considering how moving to the new version might limit us.

The old fetch and render used to be limited to 10 fetches a month – and had a clear label on it allowing the user to know exactly how many fetches they had remaining. This label disappeared in February last year, but the actual limit remained:

Since the Live Inspection Tool is far more about understanding and fixing problems with a page than the old ‘fetch as Google’ tool – which I, at least, mostly used to force a page to be indexed/re-crawled – it makes sense for the Live Inspection Tool to have a higher limit. Yet there’s no limit listed within the new tool. We turned to Google’s documentation and, honestly it could be more helpful:

So, dear readers, we decided to put the Live Inspection Tool to the test with a methodology that can only describe as ‘basic’.

Methodology: We repeatedly mashed this button:


..until Google stopped showing us this:


We quickly sailed past 10 attempts without a problem, on to 20, then 30. At 40 we wondered if there really was no limit, but, just as we were about to lose hope, on the 50th try:


 tl:dr: The daily limit for Live URL Inspection is 50 requests.

How is knowing this actually useful?


If you’re planning a domain migration, you can add in to your migration plan a step to pick out your 50 most important URLs and manually request indexing on those pages on the day of the migration.


Taking that a step earlier, you could take the 100 most important pages and, once the redirects are in place, request indexing of 50 of the old URLs, through the old domain’s Search Console property, to pick up the redirects, whilst requesting indexing of the remaining 50 through the new domain’s Search Console property to quickly get those pages in the index.


This is the ‘let’s try to break it’ option.  50 URLs is nowhere near Bing’s 10k URLs a day, but what if you could actually end up with more than 10k indexed through this technique?

Remember that you can register multiple properties for the same site. As a result there’s an interesting solution where you automatically register Search Console properties for each major folder on your site (up to Search Console’s limit of 400 in a single account) and then use the Live Inspection tool for 50 URLs per property – giving you up to 20k URLs a day – double Bing’s allowance! None of this would be particularly difficult using Selenium/Puppeteer; we’ve previously built out scripts to automatically mass-register Search Console properties for a client that was undergoing a HTTPS migration and had a couple of hundred properties they needed to move over, which went without a hitch. We didn’t use that script to mass request indexing, but, if you did, it could allow for a migration to occur extremely quickly. We don’t recommend doing this – I can’t imagine this is how Google wants you to use this tool, though equally I can’t think how they’d actively penalise you for doing this. Something, perhaps, to try out another day at your own risk. If you do, let me know how it works!