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4 min read

OutREACH Conference: Our Key Takeaways

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Our digital PR team recently attended the inaugural outREACH Conference in London, hosted by Verve Search. The line up was impressive and certainly delivered, with keynote speaker Jim Lawless taking the audience on a journey of how to ‘tame their tigers’ in the office, in the meeting room and on the track. Here are a few of our key takeaways; we’d love to hear what you took away from the day, leave us a comment below.

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost”

The first talk of the day referenced J. R. R. Tolkien and his fantastic wisdom as Mark Johnstone reminded us all that it’s okay to take a while to find inspiration.

In fact, he recommended this ‘wandering’ or getting lost in the rabbit warren that is the internet, only to surface a few hours later with a few articles, videos, and content pieces saved to your ‘swipe file’ to provide inspiration at a later date.

A swipe file is defined as a collection of content that’s caught your eye as a marketer and could one day be the catalyst for a piece of content marketing or copywriting. It’s not the first time that swipe files have been mentioned in the industry – in fact, it was referenced in CopyHacker’s Tuesday Tutorial only this week as a way to generate headlines that convert.

Find something that nearly worked and make it better

James Finlayson of Verve Search opened his talk, Creative Campaigns – Innovation Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated, by saying that a lot of things we see that are marked as ‘creative’ is actually people being ‘innovative’ – someone has taken something and made it better (he gave an example of Deliveroo and how this platform is essentially Uber for food.)

But the problem with finding something and making it better is that you may only be able to improve a piece of content by, say, 5% – is that really worth it?

The trick, he said, is to find something that nearly worked and make that better. James gave an example of where his team found a chart listing the top 100 deadliest films (in terms of the film’s death count) in which Lord of the Rings was number one. This gained ONE piece of coverage.

Verve saw an opportunity to update this list and to present it in a better, more engaging way than its current format. The new data showed that Guardians of the Galaxy – a Disney PG film – was at the top with over 80,000 onscreen deaths. The director of the film tweeted about the content, which then sparked a two-hour debate on Twitter about whether Star Wars actually had more on-screen deaths.

The content got people talking and this was key. The result? 620 pieces of coverage.

Build a “library” of content which you can reformat over and over

James went on to talk about how you can capitalise on your successes in the long term by building a “library” of content pieces that you can reformat and use over and over. As the famous saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

In the past couple of years, Verve Search has created three content pieces that are based on the idea of an interactive virtual tour: one on a railway, one in a museum and one in a prison (also a museum!) All of these pieces gained significant international coverage and are evergreen in nature, so that can be used, referred and linked to time and time again.

Don’t be afraid of failure: you can’t succeed without making mistakes

Lisa Myers, founder and director of Verve Search, spoke about how a big part of outreach success is down to mindset. She told the audience that over the last 12 months Verve Search has created 62 campaigns, on the back of 350 ideas and openly admitted that some of these would never come to fruition. She said you have to come up with rubbish ideas, in order to find the gems, and don’t be afraid to fail.

When Lisa looks for people to join her own team, she looks for those that have ‘GRIT’ (passion + perseverance). People who have GRIT are less likely to be demotivated by a lack of replies and will think of different ways to pitch the same campaign. This is something Lisa has spoken about in a previous webinar, for LinkdEx, which we blogged about here

Speaking of failure, one thing that was striking about the outREACH conference was that all of the guest speakers were willing to open up and share things that had gone wrong, as well as things that had gone right, which was really refreshing. It was something that other audience members commented on too, see #outREACH (which was trending on Twitter for the whole day!). Some of the speakers were even brave enough to display failed outreach emails and self-critique in front of an audience of hundreds. People nodded, people laughed and people understood – because it’s happened to us all!