Outreach should be at the very heart of your digital marketing plan. It can be a fast-track to PR exposure online and in-print, and it’s your key mechanism for getting influencers on-board with your brand.

In addition, it’s one of the primary means by which you’ll build authoritative links to your website; thereby improving its strength and performance in search engines like Google.

Crucially, outreach is the best way to encourage people to link to your site – still one of the most influential ranking factors, according to Moz’s biennial Search Ranking Factors survey. The best outreach practices hit two or all three of these goals simultaneously.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the best outreach tactics for your startup.

Actionable outreach tactics

Conduct research
It all starts with preparation. Your outreach should be based on comprehensive research about your audience, and your industry’s influencers.

  • Identify which blogs, bloggers, websites, and webmasters would amplify your message to a wider audience.
  • Consider their social following, domain authority, activeness, and openness to engaging with outside entities.
  • Create a database of your target influencers, and monitor responses (or lack thereof) as you approach them with content and insight opportunities.

Journalist requests
Responding to journalist requests is one of the most direct ways to earn quality links and representation by some of the world’s most respected media sources.

The core mechanic is simple:

  1. The journalist posts their request via a request channel 
  2. You respond with relevant info, input and insights, and company blurb
  3. The journalist features the most pertinent and useful responses in their work

Of the many online channels used by journalists to request quotes and content, in our experience, these three have delivered the best success rate:

These channels can be incredibly fruitful for a business in any industry - B2B or B2C.

The vastly underrated Twitter #journorequest is used on a daily basis by representatives of the UK’s leading media channels, from The Guardian and The Telegraph to the BBC. You’ll also find content marketers looking to set up reciprocal arrangements, and it’s a good place to build ongoing relationships with PRs, journalists, agencies, and brands.

Meanwhile, HARO and Journalism.co.uk deliver regular journo request bulletins to your inbox, and facilitate your response.

Respond to journalist requests
These requests provide all the opportunity an outreach marketer could hope for, in return for a relatively modest effort – big readerships, outstanding social proof, and high authority backlinks.

But in order to succeed, you’ll need to consider your response carefully. Here are some revelatory tips that will help you increase your success rate and bag some coverage:

Move from direct messaging (DM) to email asap
DMs can be a great way of making initial contact, but transfer to email as soon as possible to harness that long-term and ongoing relationship.

Think like a journalist

Journalists will always be looking for quotes that clearly express an opinion, provide expert insight on the topic and add colour to their content. You’re looking to achieve three things with your response:

  • Stick to one side of the argument
  • Prove yourself an authority on the subject
  • Say something compelling

Get in there early
Within an hour or two, the average request will have received several competent responses. Respond fast with pre-prepared, ready-to-edit paragraphs on a wide range of topics that are relevant to your brand.

Attribute your quotes to a senior representative
Preferably a founder, CEO, CTO, MD or similar. Never attribute a quote to an anonymous spokesperson or member of marketing staff (unless the piece is marketing-related). Prepare a selection of professionally shot photos of your elected source(s), ready for use in-print or online.

Include a link in your submission
It pays to keep your responses as short as possible (within the parameters of politeness), so we recommend simply including a backlink in the introduction to your quote, rather than requesting one separately, e.g. Janina Robinson, CEO of ABCD Solutions says: “[…]”

Chase up missing links after publication
Remind the contact that a backlink would be highly appreciated – your company is still a startup/competition is fierce, and acquiring links from fantastic sites is your top priority. Show how well you’ve held up your side of the bargain by sharing the content on your social media channels.

The defining factor in any outreach activity is reciprocity – the people you contact are only likely to give you what you want if you can give them something in return. In the context of responding to a journalist request, that something might be an interesting and relevant quote.

According to current estimates, there are more PRs working in the UK than there are journalists (83,000 plays 64,000, so says The Guardian). This situation has created “buyer’s market” in which journalists have their pick of responses and PRs have to fight it out to secure a position on the other side of the bargain.

But, what if we were to turn this dichotomy upside down..?

Create a respected content hub

Savvy outreach marketers have realised that they can convert the link-hungriness of their peers into an asset for their own link-building and PR campaigns. By carving out a niche as respected content publishers, they establish themselves on the typically more empowered side of the reciprocal relationship.

They allow other brands to feature in their content, and in return they can negotiate to receive a reciprocal link, content shares on social media, or other outreach assets. There is a problem with reciprocal linking, however. The issue is discussed on this forum thread. (In a nutshell, don’t overdo it - as Google will frown on this kind of agreement between web properties.)

Regardless, the creation of a content hub, combined with outreach tactics, is a dream combination.

Here are some points to bear in mind if you decide to proceed along these lines:

Design your content hub
We can’t overstate the importance of careful planning in the lead-up to launching your new content hub. Here are some of the factors you will need to consider.

Medium: Will your content be published via a blog, a podcast, a video channel, etc.? This decision will be predicated largely by the nature of the content you intend to publish, and the goals you set for your business.

Content: Should be centred on subject areas in which your organisation possesses expertise. You should aim to maintain a harmony between the keywords and subject areas featured in your content, and your domain-level keyword strategy.

Quality: It’s vital. The aim here is not to create a competent company blog; it’s to establish an essential destination for people who are interested in your subject areas. Enlist experienced editorial staff or freelancers, and be ruthless with quality requirements.

Achieving outreach goals via your content hub

There’s much to gain by creating an exceptional content hub. You will attract traffic and organic backlinks, you’ll establish your brand’s authority, and as we’ve mentioned previously, you’ll unlock outreach opportunities from a position of power.

Here are some pointers on how to make the most of your established channel, from an outreach perspective:

Invite influencers to feature
Approach an influencer from a relevant field to feature in an interview, guest article or similar. This will boost perceptions of your channel and increase its reach, especially if the influencer shares the content with their audience. In return, the influencer gets a backlink and good PR via your well-respected content promotion and distribution.

Establish conditions and rules
Make sure they have fulfilled their side of the bargain before you make their link live on your website. If a contact is proving challenging, temporarily giving their link a “nofollow” value will usually provide the impetus to take action.

Compile opinion
Create content based on the opinions of experts in your chosen subject areas. Send out a question as a journalist request and watch the responses roll in. This is a very quick and easy way to compile the content to form an article, and it may carry the benefits of attracting traffic to your site, generating reciprocal on-site or social links, and catalysing debate around your content.

To sum up...

'Outreach' is essential to effective content distribution, and it's a very successful technique for widening reach and audience engagement. It’s also paramount to link-building activities.

Whether to offer expert comment on a news article, or to submit an entire guest article, targeted outreach activities build a steady and sustainable backlink profile from reputable web properties.

By building relationships with these influential webmasters, your startup can grow its presence on the web by harnessing large audiences in the perfect niche.

Outreach doesn’t mean haranguing international journalists with vague story pitches and thinly-veiled adverts. Instead, it involves the careful identification of those within your area that can - and are willing - to feature your expertise, whether it be by sharing your hosted content, referencing it in their own, or providing you with a dedicated  presence on their platform.

More insight from Kurve, here.