By Adria Saracino published February 20, 2012

How to Embed Outreach into Every Step of Your Content Plan

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:

  1. The content brainstorm: You and your team start coming up with ideas for an infographic.
  2. Content research: Data is gathered, and your team’s concept is finalized.
  3. Content creation: The idea and content are handed over to the designer.
  4. Content outreach: You launch your work and reach out to third parties to help you promote the content.
  5. 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!

Author: Adria Saracino

Adria is the Head of Outreach at a creative internet marketing agency. When not connecting with interesting people on the web, you can find her writing about style at her personal fashion blog The Emerald Closet. Follow her on Twitter @adriasaracino and stay in touch.

Other posts by Adria Saracino

  • http://twitter.com/davemhuffman Dave Huffman

    Great fresh ideas and reminders here Adria.  I know on the teams I’ve worked on or with, outreach typically falls short or isn’t included much at all…I’m super guilty of forgetting to include a well defined plan of outreach in my work at times..

    Bookmarkin’ this one ;)

    davemhuffman.com

    • Adria Saracino

       Awesome, Dave! So happy I provided something worth bookmarking :) I think everyone does it, they forget to think about content from the outreach perspective and get so wrapped in their own ideas that it leads to disappointment in the end.

  • http://www.reportcontentwriter.com/ Rachel Agheyisi

    Thanks, Adria — points worth reiterating.
    I agree with Dave that outreach does not feature much in content planning. My guess is that content marketers often assume (rightly or wrongly) that creating and posting content is outreach; meaning why do more?  As the need to demonstrate the ROI of content marketing catches on, I’m sure the importance of planning outreach will gain traction as have measurement and tracking.

    • Adria Saracino

       I think you are right, Rachel. As businesses start adopting the mentality of inbound marketing rather than just online or search marketing, outreach will definitely start becoming standard practice throughout the whole content creation process. I agree that a lot of marketers think posting the content is all that is required, and you know what, sometimes it is. Maybe you just want to get some great content on your site for other reasons – whether it’d be adding valuable content for search purposes or current readers. It wouldn’t be feasible for every piece of content to have a massive outreach plan. It’s when a team IS expecting content to go viral and take off that thinking about content creation with the end process of outreach in mind is vital to the piece’s success.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/EleanorPie Eleanorpie

    Can’t help but point out the affect/effect error. You don’t “effect change.” You “affect change.”

    Still, great content! I absolutely agree about thinking about your reader/persona profile early on. I guess I’d be surprised if others weren’t already doing that as part of their process? 

    • Adria Saracino

       Eleanor, you got me! Thanks for the spelling fix, completely missed that one whoops :) You’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. Outreach seems like such an intuitive process that people often wrongly assume that they know how people will react. However, you usually don’t know until you do it that there are countless roadblocks you will run into. Thus, having someone on the team who is dedicated to being the “voice of the Internet” will help make sure the content will take off.

  • http://www.showyourexpertise.com Carl Friesen

    For Step 4, Content Outreach: Bloggers are one way to get content accepted. But particularly in a B2B context, two other channels are particularly relevant: websites of professional and industry associations, and also magazines. Both platforms are hungry for well-produced content provided 1) it is relevant to their audience, and 2) it is not promotional.  These two hurdles are good discipline anyway. Your content should be consciously developed for specific audiences, and if it’s too self-promoting to meet the requirements of a third-party web editor, it’s probably going to just turn off the people you’re trying to reach anyway. These third-party sites are eager for non-text content, such as video (even if it’s what David Meerman Scott calls “business casual video”), audio podcasts, infographics and slide shows.

  • Harry Cruickshank

    Understanding in detail the profile(s) of your target customer contact(s) has to be a pre-requisite for effective marketing.  A good content marketing plan will include profiling and content tracking, to help you see if your content is hitting the spot.  It’s worth seeing what content is out there already and how well it’s gaining traction.  Everything you produce doesn’t have to be totally original and mind-blowing.

    Influencers form a more specialised audience but are equally valuable and can deliver great traction for your brand.  Once the top 3-5 are identified, a tailored content plan for this group will also bear fruit.

  • Perk Idea

    From the content brainstorm to the content tracking, notice it is how well you know your audience, knowing where they are online, crafting the message base on their interest, what influence them to make decision, what do they like to share, all of this show us that research is ongoing throughout the phases. If on either phase, we do not stop researching, we might not conduct an outreach effectively.