The outREACH Conference 2017 Roundup

June 30, 2017 - 9 minutes read

The Pole Star Digital team recently attended the UK’s first outREACH conference hosted by Verve Search.

This event was one of a kind as it provided content marketing and outreach specialists with a platform to share their knowledge and experience. Having attended (and spoken) at a wide variety of SEO conferences, it’s refreshing to see this discipline being given the attention it deserves.

This was the first time Verve Search has run the event, but if you didn’t know that you certainly couldn’t tell. It was packed full of fantastic speakers that each provided actionable insights and learnings.

One of the things we enjoyed most about the conference was the honesty. Rather than solely focusing on what works, speakers explored what hasn’t worked for them. This is so important when looking at any specialism, you need to know what mistakes you’ve made in order to learn from them and evolve!

Get inspired to make better contentMark Johnstone

Mark is a Creative Content Consultant and the Founder of Mark Johnstone Ltd. He’s responsible for a whole host of innovative infographics and data visualisations that generate thousands of visits, engagements and links. During his talk he explored his ideation process and revealed what sparks the inspiration behind his content.

The core message we took from this talk is the importance of taking time to immerse yourself in content during the research phase. Fall down the information rabbit hole to find out what content has already been created, what data exists that you could use as the basis of an asset, and follow the tangents that may lead you to the initial concept. When you go down this path, take notes and collect links so that you can draw on these inspirations at a later date. In essence, take the time to conduct desk research and make your own creative content scrapbook.

Creative Campaigns: Innovation Doesn’t Have To Be ComplicatedJames Finlayson

James is the Head of Innovation at Verve Search. Following on from Mark, James continued the exploration of innovation. His talk featured a series of examples of content he’s been involved in developing, and during the presentation he broke down how the team landed on those ideas.

The key takeaways from this talk was the art of improving existing content, and investment in formats. No idea is truly original and creativity does not equal success. In his own words, “don’t reinvent the wheel – improve it”. Find content that has obvious flaws, but also has the potential to be something better, then improve it. The sames goes for formats, if you develop a format that works and generates links, don’t be afraid to replicate that success by using the same format with a new dataset.

An outREACH MindsetLisa Myers

Lisa, is the founder and CEO of Verve Search. She’s built the business into what it is today, and by doing so has developed Verve’s incredibly talented outreach team. Lisa’s talk revolved around using mindset to boost success as an outreach specialist.

During her talk, Lisa referenced different members of her outreach team to outline how you can draw on an individual’s personality to become successful at outreach. Every person is different and success comes from celebrating those differences rather than trying to fit each member of the team into a predefined outreach box (we’ve all been there, it’s not comfortable).

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth – Expert Outreach Panel Featuring Gisele Navarro, Pete Campbell, Bobbi Brant and James Congdon

This panel was one of the highlights of the day. The tone of the conference had been incredibly open and conversational but this section of the event opened the discussion to all. The panel included Gisele Navarro, the Head of Outreach at NeoMam, Pete Campbell, the Managing Director of Kaizen, Bobbi Brant, SEO and Content Executive at MVF Global, and James Congdon, Senior Outreach Specialist at Verve Search.

Below are some to the top tools and tips shared during the panel:

– Test your content out in subreddits – it’s a great way to find out exactly what’s wrong with it before sharing it with the world

– One of our favourite Chrome Extensions, streak – this tool lets you find out when your emails have been opened and the number of times they’ve been viewed

– If you’re looking for contact info, try hunter – this Chrome Extension gives you access to every email addresses related to the website you’re viewing

– Work with journalists, involve them with all levels of the campaign from ideation, pitching and feedback

99 Problems but the Pitch Ain’t OneWillard Foxton

This was one of the more beneficial talks of the conference. We had collectively spent the day discussing the theory of content development and outreach, but this brought us all back into the room when Willard, a freelance journalist, came in to tell us about outreach from the perspective of someone who receives hundreds of outreach emails every day.

Willard has worked with some of biggest newspapers and online publications. He has been a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sunday Times, The Sun, The New York Post, The News of the World, The Independent and The Huffington Post. So when he started talking about how not to approach journalists, we listened. Here are some of the most interesting insights he shared:

– Journalists will add links if you ask. Just be open about it.

– Keep your email short and be concise about your content – journalists are strapped for time and they will need to pitch your content to their editors

– Build relationships with journalists, keep the conversation going

– The easier you make it for them (including graphics and photos) the greater the chance you will be published

The business of content: Getting yes to ideas and justifying investmentKirsty Hulse

Kirsty is the Founder and Managing Director of Manyminds, a collective of freelancers that come together to work on bespoke client campaigns. Kirsty has experience working with big brands that pose internal blockers when it comes to developing and outreaching content. Her talk focused on challenging these blockers when it comes to the initial pitch. Below are some of the thought provoking questions and insights Kirsty shared:

– Links shouldn’t be our primary metric for content marketing campaigns

– Align your pitch with client objectives and meeting customer demand

– Links/coverage are the output of the strategy, not the goal


As you can tell we thoroughly enjoyed outREACH, it was great to congratulate the Verve team for a job well done at the afterparty. We can’t wait for outREACH 2018!

Did you attend the outREACH conference? If so, share your favourite talks and key takeaways with us in the comments below or tweet us at @PoleStarDigital.