3 Scenarios When Pre-Outreach is Recommended
Pre-outreach can be a confusing concept, but as a content marketer, you’re responsible for managing the entire process. Pre-outreach encompasses everything from building sustainable relationships with editors, journalists and bloggers to refining your outreach strategy – and even producing promotional content for your brand.
But, the pre-outreach I am referring to is very specific: it is the communication that occurs weeks or months before your content piece is published – perhaps even before it is written. It is the umpire who yells, “Batter up!” before you pitch your content.
Pre-outreach may not be right for all campaigns, but under the right circumstances it can elevate your content promotion strategy to a whole new level. So, when is pre-outreach appropriate? Generally, I only use pre-outreach in three scenarios.
1. When You Want To Offer First Access or Exclusive Coverage
It would be lovely if the “build it and they will come” approach worked for exceptional content pieces, but unfortunately that’s not always how content marketing works. Sometimes you need to create demand by offering a “first look” or access to exclusive materials.
Limit your use of this tactic only for your most prized and deserving content. This might include valuable industry research, an exclusive interview, or a well-designed infographic. When executed correctly, it can help you heighten anticipation and interest in your content long before it is actually released.
How to do it
Conduct an audience analysis to determine the best outlets to target. Send top contenders an email offering a “first look” at the content to the five people who respond first. This works especially well for statistics and reports, and could also be quite effective for any kind of timely content.
Once you have responses, stagger the release time of the content, giving outlets at the top of your list the biggest head start. Generally three hours is enough incentive, though this will depend on the type of content you’re releasing and the audience.
For exclusive coverage, conduct pre-outreach at least five days prior to your expected release. Offer the first responder exclusive coverage of your content.
Offering first looks and exclusive content can be a great way to build relationships with the publisher or journalist that covers your content, but also with those who do not. If they miss a shot to cover your content, they will be more likely to prioritize your pitches in the future.
This kind of assumptive pre-outreach makes it clear that your content has inherent value that should be competed for. Moreover, it increases the likelihood that the outlets that receive your content will cover it promptly, before others gain access.
Pro Tip: Lead with why they want your content (i.e. the benefit) and follow with what it is (i.e. the attributes)
Sure, it’s important to tell them about subject matter of your content, but it is perhaps more important to remind them why your content is so valuable.
Did you work with influential industry representatives to form your content? Did you invest a large sum of time and money? Have you done something that’s never been done before or approached an old subject with a fresh perspective? Did your last exclusive content piece go viral and get one million views?
If you tell them why they want to listen to you before you ask them to listen, then you have a better chance at keeping their attention.
2. When Your Content is a Venue for Building Relationships with Industry Influencers
One way to get your content in front of the right eyes is to ask industry influencers for their feedback on your project before publication. These experts have the ability to increase the value of your content and help it get the distribution it deserves.
It is best to avoid (at all costs) blasting 50 influencers a form email generically asking “what they think” about your infographic. If you’re asking their opinion for the sole purpose of making them feel invested enough in your content that they will feel obligated to share it, they will smell you out faster than you can say ego bait. Don’t do it. It makes every other content marketers’ job harder and wastes influencers’ valuable time.
How to do it
Instead, reach out to several hand-picked influencers. Do your research to make sure your content is exactly in line with their field of expertise. Consider why they might benefit from helping you make it the best it can be. To make it as easy as possible for them to help you, request that they contribute in a specific way instead of asking them for their general opinion.
Big-name influencers may want something concrete in return for their time. In your message, explain what they have to gain from contributing to your content piece. Will you quote them in your finished content? Will you promote their next content release on your blog and social media outlets? Can you offer them a fair monetary reward for their consulting services? Tell them explicitly what you have in mind.
Pro tip: Dedicate yourself to their thought leadership for the long haul
It’s much more pleasant to ask an influencer for their input or to share your content when they know who you are before you reach out. Read and comment on their blog periodically, share their best work on your social media channels and make it obvious that you are invested in their success.
3. When You Do Not Have Reliable Contact Information, Or When You Are Targeting a Non-traditional Audience with a Slower Response Time
Not all content marketing focuses on large publications with busy editors and journalists. Sometimes we need to target niche bloggers, small-town newspapers and even city officials. These targets can be difficult to reach, and contact information is often much harder to obtain.
How to do it
With only one chance to capitalize on the launch of your content, it’s important to give these folks a longer lead time. A week or two before your release date, send communication to your best contact asking who the appropriate person to receive your information might be.
They will either respond with a confirmation that they are the appropriate contact, or sometimes refer you to another individual. Some will not respond at all. No matter what, this is a great way to start a conversation and begin building new relationships. Once you have established contact, inform them of your impending release.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget the little people
As content marketers, it is easy to get tunnel vision and target only high-authority sites. But, in excluding smaller channels, you may actually limit your reach.
Niche bloggers and community newspapers might not have the most followers or the highest page rankings, but they often have unique, real-world connections to your audience. They also probably don’t get pitched by 100 marketers a day, and have more time to give valuable feedback on your content.
Even if you think your content strategy is perfect, there are always small tweaks you can make to help your work have more impact upon release. In the three instances mentioned, it really pays to invest a bit of additional time in targeted pre-outreach. It builds anticipation and value for your content, forms mutually beneficial relationships with thought leaders and can even help you find the perfect recipient for your pitch when you don’t have accurate contact information… all before your content is published.