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Melt Digital
November 11, 2016

When does outreach start? A content marketer’s guide to who, when and how

Contacting influencers too early can come back to bite you, but so can pushing the button too late. Here’s how to find the outreach sweet spot

Author: Eleanna Sbokou

Outreach is the process of partnering with influential people in a community in order to get your message in front of that community. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a process that depends heavily on relationship-building and transparency. As an agency or brand developing an under-wraps commercial project, it can be difficult to know when to get those third parties involved. Go too early and you risk blowing the lid off sensitive ideas and information, having too little information to present an exciting proposition, or looking flaky if the project falls through. Go late and you’ll have all your assets in place, but risk coming up against booked-out diaries, or resistance to what looks like a short-term, superficial engagement.

In this post we’ll break outreach into two phases, and give some tips on who to contact, when and how at each stage.

The two stages of outreach

When we talk about outreach, we mean:

  1. Co-creating with influencers: The influencers chosen for this are mostly core members of (and sometimes celebrities within) a community. Working closely with them, and giving them plenty of creative input, helps you develop a campaign that will appeal to their readers – and a campaign that the influencer themselves will be more inclined to actively support after go-live.
  2. Amplification: Here you’re reaching out to a long list of influencers – bloggers/vloggers, professionals, journalists etc. – to tell them about the assets created in phase 1, with the goal of achieving coverage, shares and backlinks.

In the first case, you should start identifying and reaching out to potential ‘partners’ as soon as you have a concept close to being finalised. The plan might change a bit before it gets the final sign-off but it’s better to ignite the conversation and engage the influencers as soon as possible. You’ll know from the beginning which brands are involved, what this will be about more or less and ‘what’s in it’ for the influencers. Sell that to them, get them interested and you can agree on the particulars at a later time.

Where things can get more complicated in terms of deciding what the right time is to start reaching out, is when you get to the further amplification part of the plan. So let’s have a closer look at that.


Outreach for further amplification: How soon is now?

Do we start outreach as soon as the project is signed off and the ‘big’ influencers are definitely on board? Or do we wait until some or all of the campaign content has come together so that we have something to show?

I’d say the sooner you start, the better.

Ideally, you should start building your ‘further amplification’ outreach target list as soon as you’ve finished building your co-creator shortlist. As a rule of thumb, your further amplification list should include at least 5x the number of influencers you aim to get links or shares from (since you won’t get positive responses from everyone).


When to start sending out emails

If the influencer you want to co-create with is amazingly popular, wait until they’ve signed on the dotted line.

There are two reasons for that:

  • If the agreement falls through, it leaves the impression you’ve pulled a bait-and-switch, using an influential name to get attention then changing it at the last minute. You won’t come out of the situation looking consistent or dependable.
  • Those who agreed to pick up the content because it was related to a specific name might now drop out. That’s especially true if this is the first time you’re approached them to promote a campaign.

So keep things under wraps for a while. But once you know what the project is about and that your celebrity influencers are on board, start getting your emails out.


Keep the conversation going while working on content

It can take weeks or even months for sign-off to become go-live. If that is the case, stay in contact with the influencers who have responded positively to your initial outreach email. Leave them hanging for an extended period and they’ll simply forget about the project or lose interest in it. Wouldn’t you?

Once you have part of the content ready, put together a short deck with a few screenshots and some behind-the-scenes information. Describe what the final asset will look like. Build anticipation and make them feel they’re in the loop – don’t be a fair-weather partner who only emails when you need something.

Give influencers as much content as possible and encourage them to get started with their posts. When the campaign goes live, they’ll just need to make a few tweaks and additions and …boom!


After the campaign goes live

Get the word out! Now you can finally let influencers know they can publish their posts and start sharing. But don’t just share links and file attachments over email. Give influencers a well-presented content pack that introduces the campaign, provides the assets they can use and spells out what both sides have agreed to do. Some of this will be information they know already, but that’s fine – the point is to put it all in one convenient asset, so they aren’t dipping in and out of multiple files or digging out archived emails.

Finally, put any large image or video files in a shared online folder (using e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive) so you don’t max out anyone’s inbox. Make sure there’s a link to the folder in your master content pack, and that you’ve set permissions correctly to allow influencers to download what they need.

Best of luck with your upcoming outreach campaign! If you need some tips on researching and managing a list of influencers, check out our tips on building an outreach contact list.

Eleanna is a former senior social and outreach manager at Melt. She now heads up the readers growth marketing team at Inkitt in Berlin.


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