Avoiding outreach failure, DistilledLive video discussion

With the launch of the DistilledU Expert Outreach module this week, who better to talk us through the subject than the team themselves. This week's video comes from Rob Toledo and James Daugherty, sharing their experiences on how to avoid outreach fails.

In this video, the guys talk through some more creative ideas when it comes to pitching your content as well as ways of successfully reaching out to people. You can read the full transcript below.

How involved in the creative process are you? How are you communicating throughout projects with your team? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

DistilledLive | Avoiding Outreach Fails

Rob: Hello and welcome to another episode of "Distilled Live." I'm Rob Toledo.

James: And I'm James Daugherty.

Rob: In light of our recent DistilledU module that just launched regarding outreach campaigns, we figured we'd focus on one of the key points that we brought up there, and it was a question that we get asked quite frequently is:  How do I prevent an outreach campaign from failing? We get this question a lot. It's on the mind of any outreach coordinator that the minute you launch that project:  How do I make sure that this is successful? So we thought we'd just kind of go over some of the key points as to why a campaign commonly fails and how to avoid those.

James: And we're all familiar with the purpose of outreach. So we're connecting with people online and sharing our content. But it always doesn't go as planned, and there are a few points that we run into a lot that always seem to lead to failures. One of the first things is unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the client automatically thinks that we're going to get a number of wins on sites like Mashable and USA Today and The New York Times, and places like that, which is true, you can get wins like that. We've done it. A lot of people have done it. But for every campaign, that's not realistic. So you need to take a look at your content, who your audience is, and who are you going to pitch those items to.

Rob: And very similar along those lines, one of the most common questions we get at the very beginning of a project is:  How many links is this going to get us? We think it's important to turn the conversation around and focus more on things like high-quality wins, reaching the right audience, putting the content we're creating in front of people who will be really interested in the brand and in this content that they're producing. It creates a better effect as far as like making sure that we're creating relevant content that will ultimately reach the right audience.

James: Sure. Along those lines, you want to stay flexible with your time because time equals, you know, how much prospecting outreach you can actually do. If the creative piece takes too long to create, you're suddenly only left with little time for outreach and prospecting, and the client is still asking you to deliver on these wins that you promised. So being flexible with your schedule, changing those around, and same with your resources, creating content, how that's going to be, how the time is going to take to create that content.

Rob: Yeah. And kind of along those lines with, you know, time is, a lot of times when you're doing outreach, you're not working on just your time or the client's time, you're also working on these people you're contacting time. So you might get a hold of an editor of a blog or a major news site who is really interested in your content, but their editorial calendar might be three or four months out. So making sure that you're kind of aligning those expectations from all three sides – from the client, your contact, and your own expectations as well. A good way to do that is just making sure that from the get-go, you've set yourself up really well as far as organization goes, getting a good system in place that you can track all the contact emails you've sent out, anything that's gone live. Making sure you've got yourself a good solid way to track all this stuff really efficiently is going to basically ensure that this project is a lot more successful.

James: Yeah. We use BuzzStream in-house. Some of our clients are pretty big, so we've got five or six members, team members working on the same project. So using a tool like that helps us collaborate easier. It prevents overlaps so we're not wasting time. We're being more efficient with our time [on average] too.  

Rob: And then also, just last and arguably the most important part is just ensuring that you have good content to pitch. A lot of times, you can kind of tell off the bat whether or not a project's going to go really well, or it might be a little bit slower, based off of the content that you have to work with. Anything from good, high-quality blog posts that act as really good resources, or something evergreen on the website that acts as a good tool that people can use, those things are really easy to outreach, and you're able to put them, if they're relevant to the brand that you're working with, it's a lot easier to go out and find the audience that will be interested in those types of topics, which then put your client's brand right in front of these audiences that are reading about these things that you've already created content for.

James: Something that Rob and I have always campaigned for with every project is to be involved with the creative piece from stage one, from step one because we're going to be pitching the content. So we know what's going to work, what's not going to work, what space it's going to fit into. So having your outreach team involved in that process earlier is going to help ensure success.

The Importance of Open Communication

Rob: Another thing that we think is really important is making sure you're keeping communication as open as possible throughout the whole project, whether that be with an internal manager, the client themselves, the contacts you've gained, and your team as a whole.

Here at Distilled, our team lead, Adria, loves getting emails from us with client updates. She loves seeing the project move forward, almost on a daily basis. She wants just quick little updates. We've set up a system, kind of a morning scrum, where we'll all talk about it, and it keeps everybody in the loop. What's really good about this is everybody is aware of how a project is going almost on a daily basis. What that really prevents is any surprises at the end of the month. Adria and our whole team are very aware if somebody needs to step in and help one of us out on a project, and that's become really valuable, just keeping those communication lines as open as possible. Specifically, with the client, you also want to make sure that they're aware of what's going on, and I think it's a really value-add to the project if you're keeping the communication back and forth, at least on a weekly basis. What this allows is they see the value of your work. They feel like they're more in the loop, and they can also offer feedback on how they think the project is going on a more routine basis. This prevents mostly just big surprises from coming up. Nobody wants to get to the end of a three-month project and have nothing to show for it and the client's going to be angry. This is all really preventable if you just keep that communication going real strong, back and forth, throughout the whole project.

James: The same is true for the blogs and sites that you're working with. Your point of contact needs to be in the loop. There's no such thing as emailing someone too much, so letting them know what's going on, keeping them up to date on the status of a post, of a creative piece, really just staying in touch with them, and the same is true for these contacts that we want to use long term.

If you feel that you've met someone that can be beneficial for other projects down the road, stay in contact, tweet at them, email. It takes a second just to add someone on LinkedIn, endorse them. Those things go a long way, and they'll establish a long-term relationship that you can go back to. Keeping it mutually beneficial is important, so referencing them, maybe in a future guest post that you have, letting them know that their work is great and you're behind it, that works awesome.

Rob: Yeah. Just generically promoting their content as much as you see fit. A lot of these contacts that you're looking to make are going to have a lot of great resources themselves, and helping them promote that is only going to make the relationship stronger.

Specific Tactics

James: So far we've been talking about the purpose of outreach and outreach failures. So now we want to go over some specific tactics to help you avoid outreach pitfalls. One of the first things to do when you're prospecting is find sites that host guest content. So use advanced search features and search for sites that aren't just maybe offering guest posts, but guest content. So they host cool stuff made by other people, so they just don't share their own news and own content. So that's an important thing that a lot of new outreachers, they fall into this trap of searching for sites that don't have opportunities.

Rob: Another really important thing to always keep in mind is making sure that the content you're pitching is ultimately on topic and relevant to the website that you're pitching it to. That doesn't necessarily mean you can't get creative with your prospecting, like there's definitely opportunities there to extend beyond just the specific niche of the product or client that you're pitching. But you want to make sure you don't overextend yourself. If you're working, with a dog treats company, you don't want to be pitching to the web design space online. However, you can think of it a little bit more creatively, is like you wouldn't necessarily just go after dog blogs. You might go after family blogs or health blogs, and talk about a variety of things that could come with this piece of content that this dog treat company could create, ultimately putting it on topic and in front of those audiences that are relevant to the brand.

James: When you're pitching these blogs, finding the right contact information. Sometimes you'll come across a site that seems like great fit, has cool content, but you can't find their contact information. There's no way to contact them. Usually those sites, they don't accept guest content. Sometimes it's best to walk away. If you feel it's really valuable, you can keep digging and use a tool to search for name and contact information.

Rob: Yeah, I think that's a common pitfall that a lot of people fall into, is that they just spend too much time looking for contact information for somebody that, for a variety of reasons, just might not want to be contacted. Another really important thing to always keep in mind is making sure that there's not a lot of overlap in who you're outreaching to, really specifically when you're working on a team on a project. If James and I both send a relatively similar email pitching the same content to a blogger or website, that's going to look negatively, both not on us, but also on the brand that we're working with.

James: Yeah. So when it comes to outreach, so the first thing you need is a name. If you don't have a name, chances are you're going to have a harder time pitching to somebody. I mean, you can still do it. I've done it before. I've been successful at it, but your success rate is going to be much, much higher if you can get someone's name and actual email address, not just a contact form.

Rob: Yeah. I think one of the most important things that you should do up front in the email is really make sure that you're qualifying yourself. Too many times, on any variety of websites that I've gotten contacted, where people are pitching guest posts to me, they'll just kind of blab about what it is that they're offering me. They don't necessarily qualify themselves, like why are they contacting me, why are they relevant to me. Why do they deserve to be featured on this website? It's really important that, up front, you're kind of positioning yourself in a way that makes it look like you have an authoritative view on this topic or piece of content that you're looking to pitch. James: Yeah. You just can't come out and ask for them to host your content. I mean, let them know why it's going to be a good fit for their readers, why it's going to fit well on their blog. Compliment them. Let them know why you chose their blog, why this is so cool and why it's such a good fit.

Rob: Yeah, and I think that just really comes down to understanding their readership. It is invaluable to spend at least a few minutes just kind of browsing through their website, browsing through previous articles that they've written, and really relating to that in your pitch. Talking about what it is that you liked about a specific article is really valuable. You want to make it look like you've put effort into this, because otherwise, why would they put effort into what it is that you're offering? It goes without saying that the more time you're willing to put into just getting to know somebody, the more likely it is that they're going to want to work with you.

James: Thanks for watching our Distilled Live on outreach. If you have any questions, comments, hit us up in the comments below, or tweet at us.

Rob: Yeah. I'm Rob Toledo.

James:  I'm James Daugherty.

Rob: Thanks for watching.

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