So, what exactly goes into the making of good outreach agency? Sugar and spice and all things nice? Not really. Here are some of the actual skills and behaviours that make for a good outreach agency — without them, you will find it hard to scale and you won’t get the results that you need.
Outreach takes communication to the next level; it can put serious pressure on a team’s ability to manage internal communications. In order to make the most of all your team members and minimise stress, you need to all get very good at talking to each other in the right way.
Bad communication will lead to campaigns stalling and lost opportunities, and will increase unnecessary errors and stress levels in the office.
Here are some communication tips:
- Use online chat platforms like Skype and Slack for team comms, but encourage team members to not bother each other all the time (use ‘Do Not Disturb’ when you have to)
- Try to set out different channels for different objectives: content briefing with a deadline goes via email, project comms belong on Basecamp, social chat is on Skype, urgent things face-to-face etc. It helps sets out clear communication expectations for everyone
- A platform only works if everyone adopts it — so listen to your team and see what they feel the most comfortable with. If they don’t like it, they won’t use it (which defeats the whole object)
- Meetings and catch ups are very important to ensure that things keep moving along nicely, but don’t schedule meetings during peak productivity times. Why not move meetings to less productive afternoon slots instead?
- Underline the importance of clarity — communication needs to be boiled down to who, what, why, where — cut the rest.
Reliable content production
When you live and breathe content, you need to ensure that you have a watertight production team working behind the scenes.
Not only do you have to be awesome at writing great content fast, you also need to move with the times and be reactive with your content production. In a busy agency setting, a lot of briefs that come out of nowhere — you need a reactive writing team who are able to change tact fast.
How to ensure that you can rely on your team’s content? You have to set high standards, and ensure that writers have everything they need to really nail that brief (work environment, tools, knowledge, reliable editor etc.). Targets can also help the team stay accountable, but some flexibility is needed so that people aren’t being sapped by unproductive tasks.
Freelancers can help you scale content production fast, and will enable you to match writers up with briefs that play to their strengths. The wrong writer on the wrong brief is a potentially expensive failure.
Don’t let the creativity fool you — outreach and content production are very data-driven processes.
Imagine if you couldn’t tell who was writing what, or whether a post was finished and sent off yet? An accurate content tracking process is absolutely essential to managing outreach: bad data logging can lead to lost revenue fast. It’s imperative that teams are confident spreadsheet users, and that 100% accuracy is the standard. (We like to use shared documents on Google Drive for 100% accountability).
The same goes for managing contact databases and address books: data management is key to being able to make the most of media contacts. Using lists and tagging features are great things in theory, but only if they are used in a way that will work in practice.
Fostering outreach culture
Outreach can be a strange master at times, and you need people who are willing to really grapple with outreach in order to succeed as an agency. As a company, you need to foster the right sort of culture to attract the right kinds of people. Some core behaviours you want to encourage: flexibility, adaptability, independence, pro-activity, confidence and reliability.
You also need to encourage a slightly less ‘sexy’ behaviour: discretion. Confidentiality and class are outreach must-haves.
As a team, you need to all pull together to make campaigns successful. Setbacks and mistakes are inevitable, it’s how you deal with them that matters. A very transparent and open framework works well and helps keep people honest.
The difference between good content and bad content is research. You need an agency that’s full of people who are comfortable with researching at a high level — and who are good at digesting complex information fast.
The biggest thing that will put people off content is inaccuracy: if you want to be published as experts on big industry sites, you need to be able to walk the walk. Make sure that research forms part of your content production, and that everyone has adequate training.
Outreach isn’t all about spreadsheets and number crunching — it’s also very important that you have a creative team who are able to put ideas to editors and site owners that are going to make them say ‘wow’. Being creative and different can help convince people to work with you, as it shows confidence, flair, and belief in the concept.
Creativity can help make a boring topic interesting and transform a ‘blah’ post into something striking and unique.
Working with influencers can sometimes take you into the territory of sponsored content or advertorials — after all, money talks.
As an agency you need to keep a close eye on margins and profit to ensure that campaigns are profitable and healthy. Reporting and good financial management will help you stay on the right path.
Different niches and industries will attract very different fees, so factor this into any quotes if you’re venturing into new territory.
Charm will get you anywhere! It definitely helps to cultivate friendly relationships with editors and journalists. This doesn’t mean you have to engage in loads inane small talk, just that you have to listen to people and not act like a robot. Cut to the chase, but cut to it with style.
Try to see other people’s points of view, and think how you would want to be spoken to or followed up with. With relationships, a little can go a long way. Jokes, apologies, referencing something that’s important to them: all done in a matter of moments.
Always acknowledge previous contact or precedent when reaching out to a site or publication: it will help you convert. (And when people make a request for something: just do it, OK?).
100% accurate reporting
Good reporting, both external and internal, is an absolute lifeline in outreach agencies. You need to be able to quickly see where campaigns are going.
With different teams and departments handling different elements of outreach, it’s crucial that you have 100% visibility on what’s going on. Whether that’s in the form of spreadsheets or verbal communication, speed and accuracy are key. Make sure everything is documented and that you have permanent records of everything.
Thinking on your feet
With outreach, milestones whizz by and goalposts change halfway through projects all the time. You need an agile team who are able to throw themselves into a new task at a minute’s notice. As a team you need to get things up and running fast, and not sit on good ideas for too long. Give people the tools they need to get projects out the door rapidly.