PR or as I prefer to call it “Outreach” is a critical aspect to any off-page SEO marketing plan. Outreach plays a critical supporting role to many of the digital revenue driving channels including Organic, Direct, Referral and overall brand awareness. Conducting high quality outreach is often a major challenge for many digital agencies and brands trying to take this on in-house.
Why is that? Because outreach is very similar to sales and most marketers really suck at sales. I am not just talking about the presenting a deck type of sales, I am talking about actively reaching out to prospects or in this case media outlets, bloggers or influencers and pitching them on an angle so that they will write an article about you. It’s that prospecting component that many marketers are very uncomfortable with.
After years of struggling with how to improve our blogger outreach efforts here at Power Digital and trying to get our SEO outreach team to put their sales hats on and grow some hair on their chests we decided to invest in the future… What did we do? We hired a seasoned and hungry PR pro. This was one of the best hires we have ever made at our agency and our outreach efforts are now hitting on all cylinders.
Additionally, our clients and their P&L’s are really benefiting from this investment. I want to share with you some simple campaign types and tricks to developing a successful outreach program so that you can reap some of the rewards that a hybrid outreach approach can bring to your organization.
- PR pro’s are really good at outreach and are adapt at developing stories worth a publisher’s attention.
- They have some advanced tools such as Cision that aggregate millions of media outlets and bloggers. These tools help automate the research process that goes into building out a highly targeted media list. More importantly, they make your life much easier and allow you to focus on what really matters, pitching stories.
- Many PR agencies do not have much perspective on the other digital channels and how powerful they can be when coupled with PR. They tend to focus exclusively on PR and have blinders on. It’s a shame for them and great for us because their outreach offering is so much more valuable when coupled with data and the other major traffic driving channels.
Point #3 was an interesting one to me because I feel like most digital agencies that provide services like SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media do understand the value of PR and Outreach but just aren’t equipment from a personnel perspective to properly conduct real Online PR.
I feel like the PR industry as a whole is a bit snooty and at times places more value in a standalone PR campaign than it is really worth. At the end of the day the analytics don’t lie and I have seen awesome hits on publications like the New York Times, BuzzFeed and Forbes have a fraction of the impact that many of the other channels have on a brand in the same time period.
5 Outreach Angles & Strategies That Work!
Pull Competitor Link Profiles
Most SEO’s know this tactic and it is a real no brainer but I am yet to meet a single traditional PR person who knew this was possible or uses this strategy.
Using MOZ’s open site explorer tool (hyper link) you can pull any website’s “link profile” or in PR terms “Past PR hits”. Through this tool you can easily export the hit list into a excel doc and you will find nuggets of gold in these competitor profiles. You will see where they received media placements, what their angle or story was for that placement, who the writer was and you can gauge the strength of that article and how the publications audience received it by evaluating the Page Authority Metric, articles social media shares and the posts comments section.
If the article has a decent page authority 20 – 40 and strong social signals it was probably pretty well received by that audience and a good target. If the article has a page authority of 50+ than it was probably very popular and received a lot of engagement from that media or blog outlets readership. You should probably figure out how you can get your client onto that publication ASAP.
Do Something Newsworthy
This is a mind-boggling strategy for most SEO’s but it is common place in the PR world and it really works. This is the type of strategy that can net viral types of PR hits. Coverage of a newsworthy event can grow like wildfire if you have the right story and support it with the proper promotional strategy.
You want attention from the media? You need to do something that warrants their attention. Sometimes this is easier said than done but one easy example is throwing an event or making a donation to a group or organization that really needs the help.
It really varies for each client but I recommend putting your consumer hat on and thinking of the types of things that your audience would be interested in reading about in regards to your brand or market segment. Get a creative group together and hold a good old white board brainstorming session. Come up with a few newsworthy angles and feel the temperature with the media.
Create Great Content and Promote It
I know this is something that takes consistent work and dedication but it really works. If you create content such as blog posts, eBooks, online quizzes, infographics or videos that add real value for your target audience you can then conduct an outreach campaign around it.
Identify your target audience and as you conduct outreach to the publications and bloggers that service those audiences come with a highly relevant pitch you will get PR hits and media placements.
Here are two resources that will give you tons of ideas for premium content frameworks that you can create content around and use as outreach bait.
Neil Patel (we all know him in the digital world): 15 Types of Content That Work
Russ Henneberry – Director of Editorial at Digital Marketer: Blog Post Ideas – there is gold in this article that can fuel your content calendar for the next year.
Promoting content through outreach is another more SEO and Content Marketing centric tactic that I think a lot of the PR firms overlook but it works. It’s a very valuable medium because it goes a long way to building the credibility of the brand. Not only is the brand getting a good PR hit and mention but they are also get referenced for their great thought leadership and clarifying their brand’s story and reputation in the process.
If You Are Not Newsworthy Get in Bed With Someone That Is
Aligning your brand with another organization that has a great story to tell can be a great Sherpa for your company’s outreach efforts. This Sherpa may be a non-profit organization, a university, a club or even a start-up with a really great mission. Find an organization that you can help who is doing something that you believe in and scratch their back. If you truly help them, it will pay off and you can share in their PR wins.
These 5 outreach angles will work best if you commit to one or two and put in the effort it takes. You have to make this a consistent daily focus or you will not win. You have to be prepared to get lots of “NO’s” before you get that “YES”. You can probably expect that ratio to be 30 to 1 if not greater. Make sure that you have a substantial prospect list so that you can get plenty of NO’s but still get enough prospects to get the YES’s and make them worthwhile.
8 Quick Tips To Remember When Conducting Outreach
- Come up with the most compelling pitch angle possible and not just one, come up with a few and be ready to pivot pitches based on feedback.
- Create a substantial but highly targeted list of publications you can reach out to. Do your research to get a good feel for the type of stories and content they typically cover. The more you understand their audience the more convincing your pitch will be.
- Craft a customized pitch for each of your targets. Take step #1 and the research you do in step #2 and modify your pitch angle to really hit home with that outlet and writer. It is critical when you reach out to these outlets that you show some personality. You don’t want to be non-professional but you also don’t want to sound like a robot. Put your research to work and connect with them on a personal level. Show them your personality.
- Have your critical materials ready to go so that when a publisher or blogger responds with interest you don’t let time kill the deal.
- Be ready to follow up with your targets with “pleasant persistence!” I recommend that early on you air on the side of persistence vs. passiveness. I would keep pushing until they say NO. Be sure to be respectful and professional but don’t be afraid to ask for the order.
- Keep going until you hit your goal. Like sales, outreach is a numbers game and activities really do drive results. This means that the more outlets you reach out to the better your odds will get. If you reach out to hundreds of qualified sources and get the answer NO then you need to rework your pitch. If you get no response then you need to find a better medium to get to the contact (via social media for example) or continue to follow up.
- Once you get the NO, thank them and try and start to build a relationship. These targets may not be a fit now but you will likely have another angle in the future and they will likely have another story to write.
- Nurture a relationship with the writers through Twitter, interact with them and show them you are smart. You would be surprised at the impact you can make with some great engagement and commentary on other content they are pushing through Twitter.
Getting to the Point
PR and Outreach is a major channel and by combining the traditional PR mindset and techniques with that of a digital marketer you can really see the fruits of your labor in your analytics profile across several channels including referral traffic, direct traffic, organic traffic and even social. Don’t ignore the value of real outreach and if you are in PR don’t be too good to think about the channels that produce the majority of your client’s traffic – 9 times out of 10 it’s the Organic Traffic Channel.
If I can leave you with 3 takeaways they would be:
- Come up with your core outreach strategy
- Craft tight pitches, pre-call plan and don’t send generic pitches to your entire list
- Don’t give up, don’t be ignorant and keep your head in the sand if people are hating your pitch angle but also realize that you will get way more NO’s than YES’s so keep at it and refuse to lose.
In closing, if you understand all that goes into outreach and why it’s important and this sounds like way too big of a effort for you to do yourself or in-house, don’t hesitate to call in the pro’s. After all we have several team members that do this all day, everyday.