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