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What we learnt at the inaugural Verve Search OutREACH Conference

Holly Barry
Holly Barry
Digital PR Executive
19th June 2017

This year at Distinctly has been a successful one, as we continue to firmly integrate PR led campaigns into our SEO and PPC activity. The coverage we have received so far ranges from local news publications such as The Hertfordshire Ad and The Watford Observer, to national titles such as The Telegraph and The Daily Express.  

As we continue to strive for more ambitious press opportunities, we needed to establish the best approach to making our entire campaigns stand out right from the get-go, from inspiration for campaign ideas to striking outreach strategies which would be sure to capture the attention of target journalists. On Friday 9th June, the Distinctly team ventured down to the Congress Centre on Tottenham Court Road to gain insight and inspiration into what it really takes to achieve effective and creative outreach campaigns at the first ever outREACH conference, brought to us by Verve Search.

OutREACH conference

Inspiring ideas

The conference kicked off with an insight from Mark Johnstone, Director of Mark Johnstone LTD, on ways you can generate inspiring ideas to create better content. Mark has been the driving force behind campaigns which have received:

  • 20 million visits
  • 1.4 million likes
  • 14,000 links

His secret? Be naturally curious, as ideas won’t just come to you. Give numbers impact by transforming them into visuals that people can relate to and understand. His biggest tip was that sometimes it is hard to let yourself fall down the creative ‘rabbit hole’, but he suggested you should let yourself, as your best ideas will often emerge if you allow yourself enough time to explore what is already out there.

Innovative is the new creative

Our next guest speaker was James Finlayson, Head of Innovation at Verve Search, who personally blew me away with his opening quote that “…innovative is the new creative”. He went on to suggest that “…there is such an emphasis to be original in your campaigns when you don’t have to be, as nothing is ‘truly original’ “.

To save our time in constructing something afresh, James recommended investing in formats and resources, suggesting it is wise to use credible sources rather than build our own data sets.

The first two hours of the conference ensured that we were ready to return back to the office with a ‘99% perspiration and 1% inspiration approach’ to content ideation. However, as anyone in digital marketing knows, your campaign idea could be absolutely flawless, but if your outreach pitch is inattentive to language and target prospects, your campaign could fail very quickly. Our next step was to establish an outreach mindset and for this we looked to Lisa Myers, co-founder and CEO of Verve Search.

She suggested we should “…listen differently – tune into people and respond to them. It is important to express different personalities and to give everyone a purpose. Let people express their personal vision”.

This was a valuable message to share as everyone’s perceptions and ideas differ. Your colleagues are there to brainstorm and shed light on new creations and if you are not asking questions, you are not being challenged.

To ensure that we were equipped with the right tools for outreach, an expert panel who had 20 years of experience between them provided us with their top tips on the best (and the worst) processes to undertake. A tip that stood out for me was whether to use “Drink this in” as the subject of an e-mail, which is apparently not altogether successful.

Be a storyteller

This was later acknowledged by Willard Foxton, a freelance journalist at The Telegraph, who was able to shed light on how not to approach journalists. He revealed journalists will produce 16 stories throughout their 8-hour working day, as well as sourcing the appropriate imagery for each one. Essentially, they create a story every half an hour.

He said “Outreach isn’t often interesting to a journalist….they are usually not targeted and come in gargantuan amounts”. He suggested that you should keep e-mails like tweets – short and concise. If it takes more than two seconds for a journalist to read a subject heading, they will not read it.

The final note from Willard, that “…nobody produces content, produce a story – be a storyteller”, left us with much to consider in our day to day approach.

Overall, it was gratifying to learn that we had already been making steps in the right direction with the outreach tools we have already adopted, but it was interesting to learn that our efforts would not be wasted using LinkedIn to pitch our outreach by using ‘Yesware’ and ‘Reddit’ to test any pre-outreach for feedback on our campaigns.

There were many other key speakers throughout the day who presented insightful, beneficial topics. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, I would highly recommend jotting this down on your “SEO – Things to See and Do” list.










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