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outREACH Conference with Verve Search

search marketing event recap - outreach conference london


outREACH London – Event Recap

Friday the 9th of June saw the first ever outREACH conference kick off in London. With a killer line-up of speakers, it’s no surprise that the event was a HUGE success!

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend outREACH or want to revisit the presentations, here’s a roundup of each of the speakers at the DeepCrawl sponsored event.

A BIG thanks right back to you Lisa Myers & Verve Search for organising an incredible event!

Mark Johnstone – Get Inspired to Make Better Content

“Think, how can this be more relatable, THAT’S where I believe you should spend 99% of your time.” -Mark Johnstone

Key takeaways:

1. Idea Generation – Ideas don’t ‘just come to you’. In reality, many things happen beforehand that get you to reach this point. Mark reflects on the do’s and don’ts of the creative process, and tells us how to get the juices flowing:

  • “All that glitters isn’t gold” – J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Be naturally curious – like kids – they look at things and think what can I do with this? Give them a gift in a box, they might just get in the box!

2. The Importance of Visuals – Visualisations make things more relatable:

    • How can we make things more concrete, and easier to understand?
    • Use practical tangible images that speak to people (see picture below)
    • Think about Persil’s advertising approach to parents since the 1980s – ‘kids get dirty, let us clean up after you’
    • Now think about its predecessor, Daz’s ‘would your whites pass the Daz Doorstep Challenge’
      • Which do you think was more successful?

laundry image

2. Find Inspiring Ways of Sharing Information – It’s important to show what we say:

    • Ask lots of questions, know your audience
    • Think about how you can do something different
    • How you can add more value, be more concrete, be more relatable

Here’s a little something extra, we caught up with Mark after #outREACH and asked him what he hopes people took away from his talk. Here is what he said:

“I think a lot of people equate creativity with brainstorming – sitting round the boardroom table and hoping they’ll get inspired. I think that focusses too much on the moment an idea comes to you and overlooks the rest of the work that allows those moments to happen. There are 3 very simple steps you can take to allow yourself to come up with more ideas:
  1. Gather examples of content that inspires you (different ways of presenting information)
  2. Spend lots of time researching your given topic to figure out what interests people (chunks of information)
  3. While you’re researching, always be asking questions: How could we present this information in a different way? How can we make it easier to understand? How can we make it more impactful?


Anyone who you consider to be naturally creative is constantly doing these things – absorbing lots of information, exposing themselves to other forms of inspiration, and continually asking questions, whether part of their work or not. They are naturally curious. The more you do these things, the more chance you’ll have of coming up with ideas.”

Mark is Director of Content at Mark Johnstone LTD


James Finlayson – Creative Campaigns: Innovation Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

“There are now more searches for penalty removal than for link-building.” -James Finlayson

Key takeaways

1. Creative campaigns = complicated – thus leading to Bowie-esque feelings of being ‘under pressure’

  • With all the emphasis and buzz surrounding the c-word, creativity creates a LOT of pressure to be original
  • This phenomenon and approach is not as useful to us as we may think….

2. Innovative campaigns = not complicated

  • Things that look complicated, are not. They are innovative, because they take something and make it better
  • How might the film Alien have been pitched? Like Jaws in space!? Or Deliveroo…Uber for food!?

3. Find something that nearly worked, be critical about it, and MAKE IT BETTER

  • Think about the article examining the 25 deadliest films of all time. This inspired the Verve piece for GoCompare which examines the top 80 deadliest films of all time. This in turn revealed that The Guardians of the Galaxy film has the highest on-screen death count – at a whopping 83,871k. This piece got links from 500+ domains and was even shared by the film’s director!

4. Take data from where it already exists, don’t do the work twice!

5. Tip: Use datahub for data collection

6. Look for things, they’re already out there! – Rather than spending a week putting something together yourself, see if it already exists

  • Don’t create data sets from scratch
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – IMPROVE IT
  • Find something with obvious flaws and fix them
  • Be critical always
  • Ideas are worthless without execution (if you build it, you’ll have made something)
  • The moral of the story is, it’s hard to explain the role of the Jedi, and someone should kill Jar Jar!


James is Head of Innovation at Verve Search


Lisa Myers – An outREACH Mindset


Key takeaways

1. Behind every great idea, are countless **** ideas

  • Verve Search launched 62 campaigns in the last 12 months, but came up with 350 ideas in total!

2. Don’t be afraid to fail – the more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed

  • Lisa taught us how to be good at failing; it’s just about mindset!

3. If it’s not working, change it – Sometimes you need new people that embrace uncharted territories, and that means you can’t focus on trying to change existing people into something else, you need to bring in different people, with different mindsets

4. Grit = passion + perseverance – that pit in your stomach that drives you to make it work…take that into the recruitment process

  • Attitude counts for a LOT
  • Don’t snub the rubber band theory – some think we start off as a tight rubber band and then stretch by experience. To Lisa, some people stretch by choosing to stretch (shout out to Alex Cassidy & his book!)
  • Ask questions that give insight into a person’s mindset: what browser do you use (maybe not for devs!) to see whether candidates accept the default (queue Safari) or download their own (queue Chrome), what would they do if there was an elephant on the tube?
  • POINT IS: the way a person thinks is more important wherever they went to school!

5. When you have the right people – You need to challenge and stretch them

  • Remember the importance of NOT being agreeable
  • Ideally, you want the ‘disagreeable giver’ type. Take Yoda for example (back at it again with the classic Star Wars SEO reference!), he holds a stick, but he also teaches how to use the force
  • Encourage people to ask questions
  • Listen differently, listen to the quiestest person in the room
  • Take diversity seriously
  • Be fun: Make use personal vision boards and/or appreciation days – (or weeks!) to foster cross-team collaboration and cohesion

6. What does Verve want to be? – THE destination for digital pioneers

@LisaDMyers #outREACH

Lisa is CEO & Founder of Verve Search, Founder of Women in Search and Co-Founder of State of Digital



Straight from the Horse’s Mouth – Expert Outreach Panel

Gisele Navarro, Pete Campbell, Bobbi Brant & James Congdon

Key takeaways

1. Tool tips – Gorkana, Buzzstream – for outreach organisation, Hunter – for email address sourcing, LinkedIn – for pitching, Yesware – for email tracking, Rocket Reach – which you can link to LinkedIn’s API, Buzzsumo – for prospecting and what themes are trending

2. Pre-outreach is a thing – try testing out your content before you launch e.g. within the Reddit community, this way you get an early indication of its potential success rate within your target community, also worth having journalists as part of your ideation team
3. Don’t focus on the pitch – focus on the prospecting, see who covers content on a similar topic and use this group for prospecting

Gisele is Director of Operations at NeoMam Studios
Pete is Managing Director at Kaizen
Bobbi is SEO & Content Executive at MVF Global
James is Senior Outreach Manager at Verve Search

Extra treat, we caught up with James and Bobbi after the conference and picked their brains on a few things…

What makes outREACH different from other Search Marketing events?

“What really sets outREACH conference apart from other Search Marketing events is the fact that all of the talks contain first-hand warts, and all experiences from genuine outreach experts.” -James Congdon

“It was great to be part of a conference focused solely on outreach. It’s normally something that is touched upon at search conferences but having the whole day dedicated to it meant we got really in depth advice. I enjoyed being part of the practical advice outreach panel and learnt a lot from my fellow panelists as the whole point of the session was to show that there’s not one fixed way to do outreach.” -Bobbi Brant

What do you hope people gained from your panel?

“We hope that people can take inspiration and tips on how to best approach outreach, while also being given the knowledge to develop their own effective communication styles.” -James Congdon

Willard Foxton – 99 Problems but the Pitch Ain’t One


Key takeaways

  • Most newsrooms are grossly understaffed, this means:
    • Editors at The Sun for example, are expected to make 16 stories a day, or 30 mins a story!
    • If you want them to feature your link, just ask – why assume or waste time when you can be clear
  • That pitch:
    • Pitch someone in a short form
    • Email subject lines (ideally emails too) shouldn’t be longer than a tweet
    • Check your email signatures, are they heavy? This effects how they load on mobiles
    • Are you adding attachments to your emails that you expect journalists to download and open? You can stop now.
  • What’s the link between farming and content?
    • There IS none, you’re not on a farm – you don’t produce content, you create it and tell stories!
  • Prospecting is important – spend time on it!
    • Look at what journalists write about to match your story and its links to them as best as possible, this means they’ll be more likely to open your email and read it
    • Be aware of time differences and be careful with phone calls as journalists work to tight deadlines

Willard is Development Producer at Blakeway Productions, Freelance Reporter/Producer & Editor at the Daily Telegraph

@WillardFoxton #outREACH


Paul May – What Studying Thousands of Outreach Emails Taught us about Effective Tactics


Key takeaways

1. There’s no point in building a big *** list, and hammering it out with impersonal emails

  • If you’re doing fake personalisation, it’s not working! You’re better of using a template.

2. There’s no point using a feather quill for handwritten personally crafted mail posted letters either

3. Balance is key – outreach emails that clearly explain the tie-in between themselves and recipient get better reply rates

  • Segmenting prospects into smaller, more targeted lists can dramatically improve response rates
  • Means you don’t have to say why you reached out – because it becomes very clear
  • Referring to relationship with recipient also leads to better reply rates

4. Collaborated before? Refer to this in your email – you will get higher response rates

5. Refer to past promotion in your email – you will get higher response rates

6. No reply after 2 emails? – Leave it there

7. Some people are volume senders, or SEO content marketers, or digital PRs – The real sweet spot is people that can do SEO, content marketing AND digital PR

7. Google is testing out new filtering features – likely to effect spammy mass commercial outreach

8. Links from high authority domains – lead to more links from more high authority domains

Paul is Co-Founder of BuzzStream

Mike King – Building your Outreach Machine


Key takeaways

1. You don’t need new tactics – just reposition old ones
2. Tool tips – use pitch box, buzzstream, bussmarker, bomb bomb bomb, brandfans, crystalknows, builtwith, people pattern, credit requests, research summarisation tools, build a chatbot!
3. Major key: the separation of concerns – see who’s good at prospecting v. research v. outreach

More treats: here’s what we learned from catching up with Mike about machine learning after #outREACH:

“Of course Machine Learning is everywhere these days and the latest advancements have made it much easier to solve complex problems at scale. We’ve been exploring ML a lot as of late with our clients and have been able to do cool things with lead generation, personalisation, etc, but SEO’s biggest scale related problem is in outreach.

Realistically, in most organisations, outreach is done by junior people or not at all because of how much effort it takes. With my talk, I’m highlighting some ML-based tools and methods to help achieve scale by automating some of the time-intensive components of outreach.”

Great points Mike!!

Mike is Founder and Managing Director of iPullRank, and and #ZorasDad!

Kirsty Hulse – The Business of Content: Getting Yes to Ideas and Justifying Investment


Key takeaways

1. Rejections happen, don’t pitch harder – pitch smarter!

2. Why do people object to ideas?

  • Because its…’off-brand’ – traditional advertising is the only thing that’s on brand
  • rejections like this are based on fear, or misunderstanding the closeness of SEO and PR
  • lots of people (like brand managers) are paid to not **** up, as opposed to doing brave, innovative, exciting stuff
  • this makes ideas diluted, and not as exciting as they could’ve been
  • when you face objections like these, make them feel safe
  • trust issues TAKE TIME, such as getting people to like you (long!)
  • building trust is invaluable, but time consuming, knowing this – make use of terms like SEO outreach instead of digital PR, in other words the appearance of silos can work in your favour so that your opposition doesn’t feel their jobs are being usurped (ain’t nobody got time for that!)

3. Quit the jargon
4. Links are the main goal of content marketing but people also think links are becoming less valuable. Diminishing returns, as over time the same effort will yield worse results from link building.
3. Invest less in content marketing – The aim should be to get links from lower level content not just hero content.
4. Use ubersuggests – find out what people are searching for
5. Look up editorial calendars – this way you can match up where your content/ideas align with the scheduled segments of the people/brands you’re reaching out to!
6. Pitching tips

  • Use questions – keep it conversational and interactive
    • Let clients think they have come to the idea on their own – as opposed to just being told and talked at
    • Diversify your objectives – links aren’t the be all end all!
    • Make sure you do things that have impact – but still sit within your remit (will it capture demand?)

Kirsty Hulse is Founder of Manyminds


Jim Lawless – Keynote: Taming Tigers

Key takeaways

1. Think about what you’ve earned the right to do

  • Does that include hiring? Or firing?
  • Just because you’ve earned the right to do it doesn’t mean it’s going to feel / be ok

2. Don’t let fear lead you

  • Don’t act less or stay within the lines for fear of messing up, and allow fear to guide you

3. Be lead by bravery

  • Stop waiting!

4. MINDset, mindSET, MINDSET

  • Mistake en route to success? Or a failure?
  • Embrace mistakes, even Tesla doesn’t land every rocket – but that doesn’t stop Musk from trying!

5. Stand apart from the crowd

  • Make stuff happen
  • With pride, passion & grit
  • If you’re out on the track, people will see you. Let them!
  • Do something scary every day – adopt a growth mindset
  • Remember, excellence is practiced
  • Don’t forget to tame those tigers 😉

Thank you to the host Hannah Smith, and all of the speakers – you rocked it.

Congratulations to the Verve team, nailed it!

Looking forward to Search Leeds later this week, and hope to see many of you there.

Avatar image for Alyssa Ordu
Alyssa Ordu

Alyssa is a keen traveller, cocktails & dad jokes enthusiast who does Marketing, in that order. A lover of outreach, connect with her for opportunities to collaborate, or exchange a pun or two.


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