Content marketing brings visitors and links to your site. As long as you’re producing high quality content, getting it the attention it deserves should be easy right? Well, that’s not always the case.
Outreach is an important part of any content marketing campaign, but even a robust outreach strategy can have lackluster results if it is simply tacked on at the end of a campaign. Instead, you need to embed outreach into your marketing strategy every step of the way.
Here, we’ll take you through some best practices for integrating outreach considerations right from the start of your content marketing strategy. We’re using an infographic as our content example, but keep in mind that this process can be applied to most forms of content creation — from articles to apps and more.
Traditional content marketing campaigns
A typical marketing campaign for an infographic consists of (roughly) the following phases:
- The content brainstorm: You and your team start coming up with ideas for an infographic.
- Content research: Data is gathered, and your team’s concept is finalized.
- Content creation: The idea and content are handed over to the designer.
- Content outreach: You launch your work and reach out to third parties to help you promote the content.
- Content tracking: You follow up on your launch efforts and measure how successfully your content performed.
If you only start thinking about your audience at Step 4 of your creation process (as in the phases above), you’ve already missed some key opportunities to connect your content with your audience.
How to embed outreach into every step of your strategy
1. The content brainstorm
Why outreach planning makes sense here: If your primary purpose for developing an infographic is to attract a lot of visitors and/or gain a lot of links, it makes sense to have a clear picture of your target audience before you even start brainstorming.
What you should be doing: Make sure there’s someone on your team who understands the internet and knows what messages spread easily. Think about who is most likely to be engaged, and build a profile of them — where do they spend time online, what are their interests, and what do they value (humor, transparency, freshness, etc.)? If you do not have someone on your team experienced in outreach, consider using market research to get to know your audience better.
As you brainstorm, check your ideas off against these user profiles, and either eliminate or tweak any that wouldn’t be appealing. Be tough — it can be hard to ditch an idea you love, even if it doesn’t fit your audience.
You can also estimate how far your infographic will spread based on your user profiles. For example, if you are working with a niche topic, either confirm that your client/boss will be happy with a small but focused reach, or come up with ideas that can broaden the scope of your subject matter.
A tip from the pros: Anything that is cause-based usually does well (e.g., the environment, poverty, and animal welfare subject matter). The reason? People want to spread the word in order to affect change.
2. Content research
Why outreach planning makes sense here: With an idea in place and a profile of your audience developed, gathering data that speaks to your outreach targets is essential in ensuring your project is a success. If you gather data that alienates readers, your efforts will have been for naught.
What you should be doing: Consider what you know about your audience: What do they tend to write about? Are resources and credibility important to them? Do they prefer information that is funny or information that is to the point?. Apply these questions to the data and only use the information which results in positive responses.
A tip from the pros: Have a third party review your data to get honest feedback. Have them pick apart the data and ask tough questions, no matter how minute their concerns may be. Thinking about your content from all angles and covering your bases ahead of time will effectively help pave the way for the outreach phase and prepare you for any curveball thrown your way.
You may also want to test your outreach plans on the people who were sources for your data. This is a form of egobait, in which you build relationships with the people who helped build the infographic in hopes of getting coverage for your piece on their sites.
3. Content creation
Why outreach planning makes sense here: There are many approaches you can take to present information in an infographic, from fun to no-nonsense. A businessperson is not going to share something that looks unprofessional with peers, no matter how engaging the content, so you’ll want to keep your audience in mind as you develop the look and feel of your content — including your design, tone, and voice.
What you should be doing: Use your audience profiles to create a brief style guide for your infographic. Consider reaching out to a few people that fit within your audience and use their feedback to help you edit and perfect your project. This phase can also create a bit of buzz.
A tip from the pros: Determine whether you’re presenting this content in the right way. For example, infographics are fun but expensive and they work best for presenting data-heavy information that is more digestible in a visual format. If your source material doesn’t fit that description (i.e., you find your infographic is essentially blocks of text telling a story), you’ll get a better ROI if you go with something simpler, like a data-rich article.
4. Content outreach
Why outreach planning makes sense here: This one’s obvious! You need to conduct outreach so that people know about your project. You want to acquire new traffic or linkbacks. So if you only post your content on your own website, only your current audience will see it.
What you should be doing: Use as many different tools and methods as you can to source prospective contacts. For example, use advanced queries to find bloggers who are discussing your project topic. You should also use social media platforms to find people who are talking about your infographic. For example, maybe people are tweeting about your content, but aren’t hosting it on their sites. Reach out to them and ask them to host it. Remember, using your infographic’s organic social success will help you find new leads and develop creative ideas for getting more coverage.
A tip from the pros: Make your audience’s lives as easy as possible — it will greatly increase your conversions. For example, you can give contacts an embed code so they can easily post your infographic on their websites and social profiles, and even suggest some intro copy, if appropriate.
5. Content tracking
Why outreach planning makes sense here: There is no point in just watching from the sidelines as your infographic gets going online. If you know your audience well (which you should by now), you’ll be well positioned to get involved and push it a bit harder in the right places.
What you should be doing: Keep an up-to-date record of who you’ve reached out to during your launch, and make sure to follow up with anyone who hasn’t responded. Use language that’s appropriate to your profiles and, if the situation is right, consider picking up the phone instead of emailing.
A tip from the pros: If after all your attempts you still do not succeed in getting coverage from a specific contact, ask them for constructive feedback on why they aren’t interested. This will help you better understand your audience and hopefully create more successful projects down the road!