A 9-Step Crash Course on Content Distribution

Today’s post comes from Ritika Puri. In addition to sharing PR and content tips on the BuzzStream blog, Ritika has written for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider, and American Express OPEN Forum.

Content marketing is a customer acquisition powertool. The concept is simple — inspire, engage, and delight audiences through great storytelling. Write compelling, heartfelt blog posts. Create beautiful infographics. Produce never-before-seen e-books and guides. Delight your audiences, and pour your humanity into your brand.

It sounds simple, right? Produce great content, and you’re set.

Not quite.

The competition for audience attention has never been more cutthroat. More and more brands are jumping into the content ecosystem, with 78% of marketers believing in storytelling as the future of marketing. Meanwhile, human attention spans are getting shorter — goldfish are putting us to shame.

In addition to creating amazing content, your marketing team needs to build out a thoughtful and high-impact distribution strategy. Rely on this guide for the ultimate crash course.


1. Content Syndication

It takes time to build and grow your audience. One way to kickstart the process is to syndicate your content with established media channels. First, publish your content on your own blog. Then, pitch the story to editors at bigger publishers to redistribute.

Here is an example of a blog post on Coworks that was recently syndicated with The Next Web. The Coworks blog, at the time of syndication, was only 1-month-old:


Original Post on the Coworks Blog


TNWPost Syndicated on The Next Web


A syndication strategy takes time and patience to fully develop. Editorial relationships are tough to build, especially for brands. Prove to editors that you’re committed to delivering value. Keep networking, and keep asking. Syndication is a business development art — persistence and creativity are key.


2. Email Marketing

It’s unlikely that audiences will be visiting your blog (and content) on a regular basis. There is so much content on the web, and yours is likely to slip through the cracks.

The most effective way to reach consumers 1:1 is through email. When you publish a blog post, send your email subscribers a short-and-sweet snippet to tell them that you’ve published something awesome. Include a bold call-to-action (CTA) back to your blog to drive consistent traffic.

Here is an example email that promotes an article on the Coworks blog:


Roughly one-in-ten users who opened our emails clicked through to finish reading the article on the Coworks blog:


Visits from email about the post

Pay attention to open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates to learn how audience respond to and engage with your content. These data points will help you optimize your strategy.


3. Client Service Teams

Content is a tool for building relationships at scale. Your marketing team’s blog posts, infographics, videos, and ebooks can help spark natural conversations between sales teams and prospective clients.

These conversations provide a low-touch, yet high-impact say to say hello — “just because.” In some cases these “hellos” may materialize into strategic upselling opportunities.

Marketing teams should build feedback loops with account management, sales, and customer service reps — these teams are at the front-lines of your organization and are powerful distribution engines.


4. Paid Channel Advertising

Did your company recently publish an e-book or guide? Are you looking to generate leads? Paid channel advertisements can help you connect this long-form content with mid-funnel audiences. Here is what you do:

  • Step 1: Drive traffic to your website organically.
  • Step 2: Retarget these visitors on Facebook and AdSense with a CTA to your free e-book.
  • Step 3: Set-up a landing page to capture leads.

On Facebook, for instance, you can create ‘Lookalike audiences’ based on your existing CRM database — prospects who fit the same demographic and interest-based profiles of your most engaged customers.

Here is an example ad from General Assembly, a company that aims to democratize education. The company is promoting a free trial of its online content program.

Take a look at the paid channel ad:


…. and the corresponding landing page:

GenAssembly Landing page for paid social ad.


5. Social Visuals

You already know that Facebook and Twitter are invaluable channels for promoting your content. The challenge, however, is that these markets are saturated.

It’s crucial to give your tweets and status updates a ‘visual edge’ — to outsmart the crowd in capturing fleeting audience attention spans.

Be sure to include compelling images with your social media updates:

image Social updates with compelling images stand out in feeds.


6. Hashtags

Tap into existing conversations through #hashtags related to your content. Use hashtags strategically by pinpointing what’s trending and by tagging keywords in your tweets and status updates.

TV Series Doctor Who does this well:


Doctor Who page post on Facebook



BBC network uses same #DoctorWho hashtag. 


7. Your Immediate Network

If you’re publishing a particularly meaningful piece of content, ask your network to promote it 1:1.  These could be offline and online networks. As an example, take a look at this blog post on Clarity.fm, which features the story of volcanologist turned nonprofit entrepreneur Jess Pelaez:


As you can see, her interview received hundreds of shares. Her secret? It’s no secret at all — it’s her amazing network.

Jess does not have thousands of fans and followers — and neither does her nonprofit, Blueprint Earth (at least, not yet).

What she did, to promote this article, was to reach out to her network, which consists of scientific and geological associations. These groups promoted this article to their audiences. This promotion strategy helped drive visitors to the Clarity article.


8. Your Extended Network

Thanks to social media, today’s marketers are continuously in touch with anyone and everyone. Maybe you have thousands of LinkedIn connections. Maybe you’re an avid blogger who enjoys publishing on industry sites.

In either case LinkedIn is a platform that can help you get the word out to key communities in your industry —  in more ways than one.

When you publish your content on your blog, you can very easily promote it through the LinkedIn groups that you’re a part of:


Promoting Content on LinkedIn


LinkedIn is also opening up its influencer program — a platform for writing content within LinkedIn — to the general public. If you’d like, you can re-publish your own content through these channels for more eyeballs (like Danny Wong did here, with this example from Coworks):


Original blog post



Republished on LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s technology will help match these articles to new audiences, potentially driving high pageviews. Make sure to link back to the original article on your site:


Post links back to original article.


9. Build Distribution into Your Content

Embeddable ‘click to tweet’ features and community interviews can help accelerate this process. Here is an example of an article of Clarity.fm that generated thousands of shares. Why?

  • The content was awesome, with a compelling human-interest element
  • The content was community-generated
  • The content was very easy to share, with integrated tweets

With natural engagement comes organic distribution:


Building in content distribution using Click to Tweet. 


Final Thoughts

Opportunities for distribution are limitless. Depending on your business model, there are incredibly opportunities to get your content out to the public, in a high-impact way.

You just need to scratch beneath the surface to look for the ‘less than obvious’ and ‘less than clear’ paths. These distribution touchpoints will be key opportunities to outrun the crowds and outsmart the noise.

What is your company’s approach to content distribution? How is it creative? You pick #10 to add to this list.


Infographic Outreach Tips

Today’s guest post comes from BuzzStream customer Adrienne Erin. Adrienne is a writer and online PR specialist at WebpageFX

Have you ever heard the expression “work smarter, not harder?” It sounds like one of those things your dad might tell you during an awkward heart-to-heart. However, they’re great words to live by, and they’re especially true when it comes to outreach. When you’re trying to gain coverage for an outstanding infographic, you should be using your brain a lot more than your keyboard.

Traditional tactics involve blasting hundreds of bloggers and journalists with a single impersonal pitch that often gets ignored or deleted (which means working harder to get results). A much better approach is to strategically target a smaller list of bloggers and journalists with customized messages (working smarter).

These infographic outreach tips can help you figure out where to target your pitch, how to tailor it to the right person and how to give your infographic that extra push when other outreach efforts aren’t working.


Some Infographics Were Born to Succeed

Sometimes an infographic seems destined for success. It has a compelling topic, it’s timely, it has killer graphics and great data, and it presents an awesome, engaging story. It’s also incredibly shareable, meaning it appeals to lots of different people interested in lots of different things and gets a lot of pass-along traffic from social networks.

This is, of course, the holy grail of infographics, and it makes your job a whole lot easier. Still, even an infographic that works in every way needs a little push to get started, and that is where you come in.


What Makes a Good InfographicComponents of a Good Infographic (via Dashburst)


Find Your Targets

Good outreach for infographics requires some creativity. Think about the unique attributes of your infographic, and make a list of obvious sites where it could be pitched. Most people stop after that step, but you should take it a step further. How can you reimagine this infographic so that it fits on other, less-obvious sites? Now you’re on your way to a successful placement.

Say you have an infographic focused on the soccer player Pele. An obvious place to pitch it would be a soccer site; Pele is the most famous soccer player in the world, after all, so that’s a natural fit. You might even open it up another step and try to share it with more general sports sites. This is when you should take the extra step. Why not try pitching a site about Brazilian culture, since Pele hails from Brazil? You could even try pitching a site for retired folks, since Pele is now 73 years old. 

The key is to think outside the box. Here’s a real-life illustration. A cool motion graphic about how bath salts turn people into zombies would seem made for health and addiction sites. Yet it found a home in the Weird News section of The Huffington Post, where it went viral in fall 2013. That’s a perfect example of reimagining what categories might fit an infographic.


Huffington Post Weird News featuring the Zombie Infographic


Make Sure You Pitch the Right People

No matter how incredible, awesome and life-changing your infographic is, if you pitch it to the wrong person, that pitch is going right into the trash bin. Take the time to look over the publication’s list of employees and who writes for the section that best fits your infographic. Better yet, look at the stories people have posted and approach someone who’s written about your topic in the past.

Pay attention to details. Don’t send your tech infographic to the sports editor. Make sure you use the right name and the right publication, too. You’d be surprised how often people mess that up.

Make sure you’re not targeting a one-time contributor, who may not write for the publication regularly. Instead, target a staff writer whose bylines pepper the site. Then personalize your pitch. I’ll try to find something that I have in common with the person I’m pitching by reading over their bio. You may notice, for example, that you went to the same school as the person you’re pitching, so note this shared connection. (“You went to Vista College? Me too!”)


Sometimes an Infographic Needs a Helping Hand

Not every infographic you pitch is going to be rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes a client’s industry isn’t very glamorous, or the topic is a bit of a reach, or it’s simply a matter of bad timing (your client sells bikinis and the country’s experiencing a major cold front). This will happen from time to time. It’s not the end of the world; you just need to pay this infographic a bit of extra attention.


The Guestographic Strategy

Guestographics are basically a mash-up of guest blogging and infographics. You’re essentially using the tactic of guest blogging to help distribute the graphic and get it the links it deserves. There are five steps, as laid out by Backlinko’s Brian Dean, who coined the word:

  1. Make an infographic and post it on your site.
  2. Research sites that cover the topic your infographic covers.
  3. Contact those sites and show them your infographic.
  4. Offer to write a robust post on the topic of your infographic..
  5. Include your infographic in the post. 

The selling point here is that you are providing the added value. You are giving the site free content and you also have control over where your infographic is reproduced and what is written about it. It’s a win-win strategy when you’re trying to place those infographics that don’t fit into categories covered by most blogs.


Don’t Quite Shoot for the Stars

Common infographic promotion strategy involves reaching out to people at huge publications and trying to sell them on the infographic. But if you’re getting no success from what is otherwise high-quality outreach to these people, try aiming for smaller sites.

I don’t mean start auto-publishing copies of the graphic on low-quality article directories or across a blog network. That’s more likely to get you in trouble these days than to help you and your client. However, think about it: bloggers on smaller sites are not getting inundated with infographic requests the way journalists and high-profile editors are. They are far more likely to respond positively to a polite email sharing the infographic, especially in combination with the guestographic strategy.


Do Whatever You Can

Sometimes an infographic just isn’t catching on, despite your wide and varied outreach efforts. Then it’s time to reconcile yourself with the fact that you simply have to do what you can. Try any of these strategies:

  • Publish it on infographic submission sites.
  • Write a post about the infographic and how it relates to another industry that you write about frequently, and publish it on a blog you already have a relationship with.
  • Reach out to someone you’ve had success with before.
  • Forgive yourself and move on.

Honestly, not every infographic is going to be a smashing success. As long as you’ve tried all of the strategies outlined here, you can take comfort in the fact that you gave it your best shot — you worked smarter, not harder, which is the best way to do any job.



17 PR Professionals Share Their Best Pitching Tips

Today’s post comes from BuzzStream friend, Ritika Puri, a data-lover and marketer turned entrepreneur and writer. Ritika works with content marketers to build lead pipelines and has written for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider, and American Express OPEN Forum.

Journalists and marketers are in strong positions to help each other succeed. Marketers strive to build brand awareness by telling powerful stories. Journalists look to educate and entertain audiences about trending topics.

The challenge, however, is that the media landscape is flooded — and that these core connections can sometimes slip through the cracks.

I’m in a unique position where I sit on both sides of the fence as a journalist and a marketer. Let me tell you — both sides are equally challenging. As a marketer, I worry that busy journalists aren’t receiving my messages. As a journalist, I worry that potentially great stories are slipping by my attention.

Here is a screenshot from Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a wire service that I use to connect with PR professionals for story ideas:



Help a Reporter Out


It’s nearly impossible to respond to all of these potentially great pitches. Similarly, when I’m wearing my marketing hat, I know that journalists on the other side of the computer screen are going through the same pain points that I am.

I reached out to some of the smartest PR minds in the marketing industry to learn about their best pitching tips. Here is what they recommend:


1. Be Short. Be Straight. Get Out of the Way.

Get to the point. Don’t use these super long emails about the company. Tell the story of why its important to the writer’s readership within the first sentence. 

Be straight – aka have a good angle that shows you understand what makes news.

 Once you have them, leave them alone to do their job and only help where you can. Stop checking in every few hours.

Matt Braun, Director of Public Relations at Hanson Dodge Creative


2. Be Ready for Business

Shaun Walker

Do not leave your pitch half-baked and be ready to answer questions. Have the pitch ready to go as if the reporter will want to run it immediately. The less groundwork a reporter has the do for your story the more likely they are to use it.

Shaun Walker, Creative Director at HERO Farm



3. Be Relevant

Drew Tybus

Think beyond just what you (or your client) wants to say, and think about how it fits into a larger trend. Telling a reporter about your client’s new product/service will be a much harder sell than talking to them about a new trend that your client is a part of.

When we read news as consumers, unless it’s a straight product review, we never really see feature stories glowing about one brand.

Drew Tybus, VP of Brand Marketing at Porter Novelli


4. Seek to Add Value

Don’t be a moocher, be a resource too! Most of the time us PR people are asking from something and not providing additional value back. Help with the stories that you are asking the reporters to create. That may mean having additional resources other than just your client or providing references for journalists stories.

The more you can help them, the more they can see you as a partner and resources. In my experience, if you are willing to help put the pieces together and make the story well-rounded, journalists respond much better and you can develop a genuine partnership with the media.

Ronjini Mukhopadhyay,Owner at The Silver Telegram


5. Challenge Yourself to Get Loud

Heather Anne Carson

Switch things up and practice saying your pitch out loud. If it sounds like BS when you read it, don’t send it.  The key to getting your pitch from email to reality is to be authentic — if you can’t even stand the sound of your voice delivering it, chances are, the journalist won’t either. 

Heather Anne Carson, Co-founder at Onboardly



6. Walk the Line

Breanna Loury

My favorite pitching tip, and one that works quite well, is to seek out journalists who talk about my client’s competitors, find out what they like about them, and then find ways that our product/service trumps our competitor.

Brenna Loury, Owner at Loury PR



7. Be Relentlessly Engaging

Abesi Manyando

Make the writer or news producer fall in love with your pitch. General pitches generally don’t get landed. Make sure that your pitch is well written and colorful enough to make your client stand out.

A friend of mine who is an Entertainment Editor for a top newspaper once said that your pitch has to be as engaging as the story the journalist will write.

–Abesi Manyando, President and Creative Director at Abesi Public Relations


8. Ask First, Pitch Second

Crystal Richard

Whenever I identify a new journalist I’d like to pitch, I always send them a short email to introduce myself and what we do at Onboardly first. I’ll ask if it’s cool if I send over a few high level bullet points on what our clients are working on that may fit their beat.

This short but warm intro is a great way to gauge their interest before I later send the pitch and has resulted in some great relationships with the media.

Crystal Richard, Director of PR at Onboardly


9. Build a Social Media Rapport

Brittany Berger

My favorite pitching tip is to connect with the reporter on social media, as well. This works because their inbox is flooded with names of they don’t recognize.

Connecting with them on social media and interacting with their posts on a regular basis will get your name into their heads, so that when your pitches land in their inbox, they recognize your name.

Brittany Berger, Social Media and Content Marketing Coordinator at eZanga


10. Be Personable

Suzet Laboy Perez

In our company, we believe that the key to a successful pitch is that–to  really cater to the needs of the reporter and to make it personal. You  should be a resource not a burden.

With that in mind, it’s also really  important to nurture the relationships behind your screen. Take the time to get to know reporters, understand their needs, and how you can best help them.

Yes, reporters are incredibly busy, but if you can, take the time to meet them in person, offer to meet them near their office/preferred place of business/industry conference in real time and life. We’ve noticed that the most successful pitches evolve from that.

Suset Laboy Perez, Owner at LalaboyPR


11. Pitch the Story, not the Product

Nick Brennan

Pitch the story, not the product. Writers are looking for pitches that offer a story they can put their own spin on.

If all you provide is information with no story, you offer nothing to hook the writer, which means you also offer nothing the writer can see hooking their readers.

Nick Brennan, Vice President at Janice McCafferty PR


12. Incorporate Calls to Action

Ashley Halberstadt

End every pitch with a clear call to action that asks a question. The question prompts the recipient to respond, where a statement like “Please let me know” is anticlimactic and doesn’t motivate the reader to reply.

 –Ashley Halberstadt, Director of Media Relations at Digital Relevance



13. Don’t Be a Spammer

I convince clients the shotgun approach- where firms mass blast their pitch to thousands of reporters- the majority of which will ignore the pitch — is wrong and does not generate a return on investment.

Instead, pitch individual reporters with customized ideas that provide real value for the journalist’s readers.

Nick Winkler, Owner at The Winkler Group


14. Engage Authentically

Laura Knapp

As a PR pro, once you’ve established a relationship – in person or via  email, it is okay to follow that journalist on various social media channels. Don’t stalk them but, instead, engage with them authentically.

 –Laura Knapp, Social Spotlight Media



15. Proceed with Structure

Danya Bushey

Craft an outline of the story for the writer. Don’t just tell them they should cover your client. Let the writer know who they can interview (both internal to your client and external if that makes sense), provide relevant website links, attach photos or videos, and offer ideas for images.

Danya Bushey, President at Carte Blanche Marketing



16. Build Relationships

Tanya Sammis

It’s two-fold: 1. Make a relationship and 2. Say thank you. Media relations is about relationships. Staff members, trainees, interns and others have asked me how I have had success with media, and I tell them that the key truly is cultivating a genuine relationship.

Don’t always ask, request and expect things from your friends in the media. Show interest in the stories they tell, get to know them, engage with them, then pitch stories when they are relevant and newsworthy.

Members of the media are much more likely to listen to you or read your pitch when you have taken the time to get to know them and where their interests lie. On the latter, ALWAYS say thank you.

Whether they accept the pitch or not, thank them for their time. Our team loves sending handwritten thank you notes to the folks in the media for any mention or story they do for our clients. Gratitude matters.

Tanya Sammis, Co-owner at Sammis & Ochoa


17. Think Big-Picture

Lauren Lewis PR is about much more than an initial placement in the media. It is about building and maintaining relationships with key media, when you have a story to pitch as well as when you don’t.

 –Lauren Lewis, Owner at Lauren Lewis Public Relations and Communications


Your Thoughts

What PR lessons have you learned the hard way? What valuable tip would you share with emerging leaders in the space? You pick #18 on this list. Leave us a note in the comments section below.


Introducing The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion

Content marketing is all the rage, but it’s getting harder. Why? Because everyone is doing it. As more and more companies produce more and more content, it gets even harder to be heard, get found, and stick out. To help marketers, agencies, and anyone who’s crafted content meant to get in front of people, we’ve put together The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion.


The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion Banner


As New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer says:

“The notion that you can simply create interesting content and people will magically find it is a lie. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You have to treat your content executions like a product, and launch them the same way you would a product.”                              

This guide is a 75-page step-by-step walkthrough of how to handle that launch, from setting goals to targeting tweets.

Content Promotion: Rise Above the Noise – And Ring the Cash Register

One way to get heard above the roar of today’s marketing landscape is to promote your content effectively.  Most marketers aren’t doing this at all yet – certainly not effectively.

We’ve found (and discovered with our last big content project) content promotion that combines paid, owned, and earned media, that’s well-organized and well-scheduled, can create incredible visibility, break through the noise, inspire customers to take action, and most importantly, drive revenue.

It’s also a great opportunity for digital agencies to go above and beyond their clients’ expectations. Great content promotion requires excellent creative skills, a thorough understanding marketing persuasion, channel expertise, and a deep rolodex (or BuzzStream account) – all traditional strengths of marketing agencies.

We created the Advanced Guide to Content Promotion to help marketers earn the attention & success their content deserves.  After all, you should spend just as much time promoting your content and working on distribution as you do working on ideation and production.

 Advanced Guide to Content Promotion CoverDownload The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion for free. No email opt-in required. 

What You’ll Learn: Get Seen by the Right People

In the 75-page guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Design Content Promotion Campaigns that Get Your Content Discovered By All the Right People

  • Select the Right Paid, Earned, and Owned Tactics to Accomplish Your Goals

  • Implement New Tactics that Combine the Power of Advertising, Digital Marketing, and PR

  • Execute Complex Promotional Campaigns that Run Like Clockwork 

The guide is absolutely free, and no opt-in is required.  Download it, enjoy it, share it with your friends and colleagues, and let us know what you think.


 The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion Banner

Finding and Claiming Links for Content

You can find opportunities to claim links for your content (like ebooks and infographics) similarly to how you find unlinked mentions and links to reclaim for your brand. Acquiring all the links you deserve can move the needle on search and traffic. Here are three common missed opportunities and fixes for each.

Missed Opportunities Image via Lel4nd on Flickr

Missed Opportunity #1: Only Searching for Your Content’s Title

Fix: Also look for the titles that other sites give your content.

When sites like Mashable and HuffPo pick up your content, they’ll usually change the headline to suit their audiences. Then, when smaller sites pick up stories from those big players, they use the same wording.

Sometimes, the smaller sites do their homework and credit you by linking to your original content, but often they credit the sites like Mashable and HuffPo instead.

How to find these opportunities: Look at the post titles and headings that big sites use to describe your content and enter them into a tool like Fresh Web Explorer.


Fresh Web Explorer

Here’s an example of a Fresh Web Explorer unlinked mention search using the terms that big sites used to describe this Oscar dress infographic


How to reach out: Simply thank the site owner for sharing your content and ask if they’d be kind enough to credit the original with a link back. Whenever you can, use this outreach as an opportunity to build a relationship. Share the post on your own social media channels and offer to ping the blogger when you release similar content in the future.


Missed Opportunity #2: Ignoring Sub-Sections and Data Points

Fix: Looking for cropped versions and unique text, too.


If you have very large visual content, bloggers and journalists will likely take screenshots and create smaller versions that better fit their blogs’ layouts (or things like Twitter’s 2:1 aspect ratio). As you’re doing your own reporting roundup, look out for these smaller clips.


Google Analytics

For example, Google Analytics created a 2:1 image of a recent infographic to optimize a tweet.


How to find these opportunities: Do a reverse image search or set an Image Raider alert to find instances of bloggers using the cropped images. Hit the Buzzmarker to check for a link on those pages (or manually check using “View Page Source”).

In you have a lot of text content: If you did original research, look for instances of people sharing your data points and not crediting you.

In you created sub-content like diagrams: Run reverse image searches on those, too.

How to reach out: Again, a polite thank you and request for credit will serve you well.


Missed Opportunity #3: Forgetting about International

Fix: Get familiar with Google’s other TLDs.

Even content with a lot of english text can get picked up by non-english sites. Here, too, are many opportunities to earn high-authority links.



Image of english infographic on non-english site.


How to find these opportunities: Run reverse image searches on domains like Google.es and Google.de to find these sites. (If you’re using Chrome, you can hit the “translate” button to understand what the sites are about.) Then hit the Buzzmarker or view page source to check for links.

How to reach out: Since this outreach is short and simple, translation tools work relatively well. However, investing a few dollars in a service like Gengo can give you a much better template to work from (which you can save and use in the future, too).


Learn More about Unlinked Mentions and Link Reclamation:

Link Reclamation Whiteboard Friday by Ross Hudgens of Siege Media
Guide to Using Unlinked Brand Mentions for Link Acquisition by Kiala Strong on Moz
Reclaiming Links to Your Infographics and Creative Common Images by Kristi Hines on iAcquire
Monitoring Your Brand — Unlinked Mentions by Sarah Gurbach of SEER Interactive
Link Building 101: Finding Web Mentions by Jon Ball of PageOnePower


How to Measure Outreach Success Using a Meta-Analysis

How did that last outreach campaign or template perform? It’s easy to find out; just check response rates or count up all of the links you earned.

But smart marketers want to dig deeper: What sort of outreach is working best for the company, overall? What are the best practices when doing content outreach? How do I write a good subject line? These questions are much harder to answer, and most of us rely on our intuition and experience to do so. Today, I’ll show you how to instead answer with data.


Step 1) Brainstorm

Make a list of what you’d like to measure. Include the things that experts tell you are “best practices.” Include things you believe to be true or not to be true. Think about the questions that your boss and your colleagues always ask you. Include everything.

Here’s what my list might look like:

  • Outreach tactic/type (e.g. content, product review, announcement)
  • Subject line length
  • Message length
  • Use first name in greeting?
  • Refer to their blog name or blog URL? In subject? In body?
  • Use our brand name? In subject? In body?
  • Use our URL? In subject? In body? In signature?
  • Subject line is casual? Is vague? Is formal? Is data?
  • CTA: Ask for link? Ask for share? Don’t ask for anything?
  • Has a compliment? Talks about a recent post or article? Doesn’t talk about them much at all?
  • Description of our brand/product/site or no description?

Step 2) Organize

Next, organize the brainstorm into an outline. Give each research question its own line. These will be your variables. I find it’s helpful to sort them into categories, too. I usually use message type, subject line, and body.

Also, make note of what type of answer each question will need. In my example above Brand Name in Subject is a Yes/No question; Outreach Type requires picking from a few categories, and Message Length is a count.

Step 3) Build Your Spreadsheet

Now you’re going to create a spreadsheet to track all of your variables. Your first four columns are where you’ll enter your template/campaign information. They are: Subject, Body, Sent, Response. (Add a fifth column for Linked if you have that data.)

After that, each variable gets its own column. I usually make a short variable name in Row 1 and then describe the variable in detail in Row 2.

It should look something like this:


Once you’ve got your template sorted, you can start entering campaign information. This is often the most tedious part of the process, so grab a coffee and find a good playlist to get you through it:


Step 4) Format the Data

Here’s where the fun begins. Take your spreadsheet and make it a table. (You can delete the row with the variable descriptions now.) In Excel, select Insert -> Table or use Ctrl + L.


Now, make it a pivot table:


Step 5) Start Analyzing

Place the variable you want to look at in the “Row Label” section, and add “Sent” and “Responded” as values. You can add a column to calculate response rate if it helps you mentally process the results (That formula is =responded/sent).


Step 6) Check for Statistical Significance

In the above example, it looks like emails that use a blog’s URL in the subject line perform much worse (11% response rate) than emails that don’t use it (56% response rate).

This is good information, but we need to figure out whether or not the difference between those two numbers is actually statistically significant. To do so, you can use chi-square calculators in Excel, or your can plug your data into this calculator by Rags Srinivasan.

In this case, I learn that, even though 56% vs. 11% seems like a huge finding, it’s not statistically significant. Therefore, I can’t really say whether or not it’s a good idea to use a blog’s URL in the subject line. This data set is telling me that it doesn’t make much of a difference either way.


Step 7) Take Lots of Notes

Keep a running list of what you’ve tested and what you’ve found. Note all the variables you looked at. Mark the ones that were statistically significant, and write out corresponding insights for each one.


Step 8) Share Insights

Share your findings with the rest of your team. Create a list of best practices that you can refer back to and/or use to train others. (Here’s mine.) Incorporate your findings into future outreach templates. 


Notes & Conclusions

If you have a large enough dataset, you can pivot by person or by message type. This will help give you an idea of what types of response rates to expect when you’re planning future outreach campaigns. You may also find opportunities to recognize high performers or to train lower-performing folks.

This is very much an imperfect science, and it’s not meant to provide black-and-white results. (It’s research, not reporting.) Use it as an opportunity to figure out what’s working for your team and what isn’t. Hopefully, you’ll find some things that surprise you. (Let me know if you do!)


Actionable Tactics to Get Great Links with PR

Good PR tactics in the hands of SEOs can get big links from major sites with little or no budget spent. In this post, we walk through 5 PR-inspired tactics that you can start using today. 

Table of Contents:

Get Big Links by Tracing Stories to Their Source

Coverage from a major news site like Yahoo! or TODAY can be great for business but hard to achieve. Since they employ so few writers, pitching these sites directly is often a waste of time. A much better tactic is to spend five minutes looking to see who is writing for the site and which blogs are syndicating to it.

Live Examples

Yahoo! News regularly gets its tech stories from sites like BGR News. BGR News, in turn, puts its writers’ email addresses on every story. While not all BGR News stories end up on Yahoo!, a lot of the good ones do (and BGR is a much easier pitch). Alternately, if you have an infographic that you want to end up on Yahoo!, consider posting it to Visual.ly first. The Business Insider team uses Visual.ly as a regular source, and many of those BI posts feed up to Yahoo! News, as well.

The Today Show’s website is written mostly by freelancers. Lesley Kennedy, for example, is a regular contributor. Unfortunately, TODAY doesn’t list any contact info. A quick Google search for her name, however, shows that she also writes for The Huffington Post, iVillage, and ParentDish (all great press targets) and that she can be reached via her Denver Post email address.

Where to Start

 Here’s a quick walkthrough of how to figure out where stories are coming from:

This tactic also works on a more macro level. Once you start paying attention, you’ll begin to see how stories spread from small, niche sites to major news outlets.

Skip The Press Release: Publish News and Data on Your Own Site

When you have news or data to share, post it on your own site (either to your blog or a virtual newsroom) and do outreach, instead of distributing it via a wire service.

“No one in the media reads press releases. Not a single person, I promise you…. The only time I ever, ever hear a media person mention a press release is to mock it.”

Amy Westervelt, Freelance Journalist & Contributor to Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Slate, & More

Posting information to your own site gives you maximum control over its look and feel. You can structure your story for easy reading, using subheadings and lists. You can include as many high-res images, video embeds, and product page links as you like. You can showcase related content. Most importantly, you can provide a branded experience to bloggers and journalists, instead of being yet-another-standard-release.

It’s also better for link building, for two reasons. First, some news sites avoid linking to commercial pages. This provides them with an alternate, non-ecommerce option (your blog). Second, many sites post quick blurbs and then throw a “for more information” link over to the actual press release. When your press release is on a site like PRWeb, then PRWeb gets the link instead of you.

Live Example

Buffer is a company that’s doing this right. Check out Buffer’s press page for layout ideas and all of the inbound links to its blog for proof that it works.

Where to Start

If you need inspiration on how to visualize and share data on your site, check out The New York Times’ 2013 year-in-review post on interactive storytelling, Wil Reynolds’ diigo page, or this guide that Ross Hudgens shared.

Earn Fresh Audiences via Partnerships

Bloggers and journalists are hesitant to trust (and write about) brands they don’t know. Instead of pleading your case, just get somebody they love to vouch for you. In B2B, this is where you see testimonials, case studies, and sponsorships. In B2C, it can be a lot more fun.

Live Examples

YouTube is a great place to start. Games that get featured on Wil Wheaton’s YouTube show, TableTop, usually sell out at game stores within a few days. Felicia Day’s The Guild  got a limited edition Jones Soda set and Jones was written about on geek sites across the web. More recently, YouTube vloggers Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart made a movie called Camp Takota that’s been written about everywhere from BuzzFeed to Glamour to The Washington Post, and it’s earned a ton of coverage for Camp Takota distributor, VHX.

The trick with these sponsorships is creative freedom. The more strict you are about brand guidelines, the more unnatural your sponsorship will seem. Content creators have huge communities for a reason. Let them do their thing, and their followers will love you for it. Plus, being nice usually means more brand mentions when creators are talking to the press and to fellow creators.

Where to Start

Not sure where to find opportunities? Ask employees (or better yet, customers) about who they’re reading, watching, and following.

Control Anchor Text by Choosing Words Carefully in Outreach

You can’t tell people what to think, but you can tell them what to think about. In mass communication theory, we call this “framing.” (It’s part of the second-order effects of McCombs and Shaw’s Agenda-Setting Theory.) It means that, while you can’t just force opinions on people, you can influence the factors that help them form opinions, as demonstrated in this classic research study and this Jimmy Kimmel video


If you’re doing outreach, you’ve seen this effect firsthand. It’s the difference between asking for a guest post and offering to contribute. If you’re writing for PR, you already know that the features you write about in your news release will be the features that journalists call out in their stories.

Take it to the next level by thinking about social media. Keeping your headline or description under 100 characters makes it easy to tweet. People can copy, paste, add a link, and call it good, without having to think too much. (It means your getting rid of prohibiting factors, too.)

Where to Start

You can use this theory to affect (or not affect) anchor text. If you do outreach with an anchor text link to a certain page, people are will link to that page using your anchor text. If you instead do something like, “We want to feature this page:[URL]” people will usually link naturally.

Maintain Relationships with Quick Email Blasts

Building relationships is one of those things that we talk about but rarely accomplish (unless you’re community-building rockstar Jen Lopez). It’s understandable: success is inversely related to time available for cultivating relationships. Little email blasts are a pretty simple solution.

Once you do something successful with a blogger who you’d like to work with again, add them to a list. Categorize this list however it makes sense to do so (mom blogger, women’s fashion, shoes, geek trends, etc.). Do it in Buzzstream or make a spreadsheet. Then, the next time you do something awesome that’s related to what they write about, ping them.


Your email template can be really simple:

Hey Cori,

Wanted to let you know that the headphones you reviewed a few months ago are on sale 20% off. If you want to share with your readers, they can also use this code for free shipping: FREESHIP10. Hope everything is going well!

Cheers, Stephanie

or maybe something like:

Hi Cori,

You worked with me on the headphone review a few months ago. It seemed to go over pretty well, and I’d love to work with you again. Would you be up for reviewing something else? I’m promoting our DJ equipment right now and laptop speakers next month.

Cheers, Stephanie

The trick is to spend at least 2 or 3 minutes personalizing your email. Be specific about how you worked together in the past. Provide a special code for readers if you can do so. Call out something from the post they wrote last time. BuzzStream comes in handy here. Use it to make good notes about your contact, view the last time they linked to you, and update your template before sending.

Where to Start

Once you’ve worked with someone more than once, send a little thank you gift and hand-written note in the mail. Go out of your way to tweet something of theirs if you can. If you’re going to keep reaping the benefits of this relationship, you should put back into it as much as you can.

More Thoughts on PR Tactics for SEO

Here are a few more ways to use PR tactics to improve your link building:

  • Read the news. Follow influencers. Read niche sites. Watch videos. Consume the same information that your customers consume.
  • Keep detailed notes (on both people and websites) about how you worked with someone, what they’re like, and whether or not you should work with them again. You can use BuzzStream’s relationship status, a tag, or a custom category to do this at scale (and for easy filtering), then add details in the “notes” section.
  • When you’re pitching major news stories, offer bloggers and journalists the opportunity to interview important people.
  • Treat bloggers/journalists as the gatekeepers to your audience. Give them something that they can easily pass along to their readers. Make assets shareable. Make headlines tweetable. Most importantly, be interesting.

Have more ideas about how SEO and PR can work together?  Add them in the comments below.


Lessons Learned from This Years Successful Valentine’s Day Stunts

Today’s post come from one of our favorite customers, Lexi Mills. Lexi has six years experience in online marketing and communications and spent 2 and a half years at an International SEO Agency becoming an SEO PR specialist.  She heads up digital at Dynamo PR.

Determining what content will be interesting and relevant to a large audience is one of the most challenging and sometimes frightening parts of a content marketeer’s job. 

One oft-used tactic is piggybacking on a topical event.  With over 180 million people exchanging cards and over 196 million roses being produced for Valentines Day, there can be no doubt that this event would be topical.   

However many have fallen into the trap of trying to link their product/service/content to a topical story or seasonal event and failed. So what is it that makes online content and seasonal PR stories sink or swim? How do you make your press release and content stand out amongst the avalanche of other brands trying to take advantage of this event?

Below I have reviewed some 2014’s Valentines stunts to help answer these questions and provided my top 5 tips for seasonal PR and content newsjacks:



Combining the Powers of Search, Content, and Digital PR

When I was 7, Captain Planet taught me a lot about marketing.  If you’ve never seen Captain Planet, it was a cartoon about a small group of international teenagers who each had a ring that gave them a relatively uninteresting power. (One guy could light things on fire, one woman could make it windy, Levar Burton’s character Kwame could make sinkholes, things like that.)

But when they put their rings together, and their ‘powers combine’, they made Captain Planet:

captain planet

Captain Planet had great super powers (unlike those kids with their rings), and regularly vanished all sorts of polluters, lobbyists, and other evil doers.  (Intriguingly, he also spoke English with a Californian accent and had a mullet. This was not explained.)

Increasingly, marketing is seeming like Captain Planet: while individual marketing experts who know their channel (SEO, PR, content, PPC, analytics, etc.) can do helpful things, when they combine their powers, they can create Captain Planet –  a customer acquisition flywheel.

SEO, PR, and Content: Long Lost Cousins with Complementary Powers

Individually, each of these disciplines can do cool things.  But by playing well together, they can build a growth machine.  Specifically, they can create a growth machine that scales non-linearly with investments of time and money – the best kind of growth machine. Allow me to explain:

SEO has long been excellent at attracting high-intent (and thus high-conversion rate) traffic to pages, consistently, at an affordable cost.  However, increasingly pure-play SEO strategies are coming under fire – from a mix of increased SEO competency and competition, an addition of more ads, answers, knowledge graph boxes, and things that seem to combine all of those things, increased risk and cost of certain link building techniques, and an increased focus on user-level metrics.



How to Use BuzzSumo & BuzzStream to Find Content Promotion Opportunities

Finding great opportunities – particularly in verticals you aren’t deeply familiar with – is one of the most difficult and time consuming parts of content promotion and link building process. 

Enter BuzzSumo - a new tool that makes this process a little easier. It’s a great fit for BuzzStream users, especially those who are looking for opportunities to build links and get found through tactics like infographics, guest posts, giveaways, interviews, and more.  (BuzzSumo and BuzzStream are not affiliated in any way, beyond a mutual desire to help marketers.)

In today’s post, I’m show you how to use BuzzSumo with BuzzStream to (achieve content promotion and get great placements and ultimately ring the cash register.)

Introducing BuzzSumo: a Powerful Content Placement Prospecting Tool

BuzzSumo is a neat, relatively new tool that helps marketers find highly shared content, along with influencers in specific areas.  While there are tons of tools to find influencers on Twitter and other networks, BuzzSumo has some unique features that enable you to find not just people, but content promotion and placement opportunities quickly and easily.

An Example Project: Using Content Marketing to Build Awareness and Links in a Specific Niche

For example, let’s say I’m launching a new company that makes smart crock pots. (Sort of like Nest for Crock Pots. As it turns out, Belkin has announced plans for these.)  In this scenario, I’ve done some market analysis, and I’ve found out that people that follow the paleo diet use crock pots, tend to be early adopters, and like playing with new technology.  An addressable market interested in my offering? Awesome. This will be a great ‘head pin’ market (see ‘Crossing the Chasm’ for more on vertical-by-vertical strategy.)

As part of my launch, I want to:

  • Guest post on relevant paleo blogs with crockpot recipes.
  • Place my crockpot infographics on blogs that appeal to the paleo audience.
  • Give away products and get reviews where the numbers make sense, based on audience size and conversion rate estimates.

All of these activities will also result in links, which will eventually help my site rank for relevant terms. But until search demand catches up with the awesomeness of my crock pots, I’ll have to go out and generate demand.

Using BuzzSumo to Source Opportunities

Now that I’ve outlined my assets and understand what I’m trying to accomplish, I can go out and source some opportunities. 

Normally to find opportunities like those, I would create a number of prospecting queries, and spend a great deal of time looking through SERPs and vetting opportunities.  It’s not quite hunting for a needle in a haystack, but it is time consuming and requires some expertise and experience.

By contrast, I can use BuzzSumo, and find some opportunities quickly.  I won’t generate as extensive a list as I would if I used several tools and spent many hours researching, but as far as getting a pretty good list in a few minutes, it will work well.  

BuzzSumo is a particularly good tool for implementing the ’10 in 10 minutest’ test Paddy Moogan talks about in his book (paid) and Linking Outside the Box (free w/ opt-in).   If you can’t find several good placement opportunities for your newest content idea quickly with BuzzSumo, it might be time to go back to the drawing board before you commit too many resources to production and promotion.

Now let’s look at how I’d use BuzzSumo to find those opportunities.

Finding New Content Promotion Opportunities with BuzzSumo: Step by Step

Step 1: Navigate to app.buzzsumo.com.  I’ll see something like this:

 buzzsumo intro screen

Step 2: Select what sort of opportunities and time frame I’m looking for:

In my case, I’m looking for infographics placements, guest posts (in this case, usually guest recipes), and giveaways.  I’ll cast a pretty wide net for timeframe – anything in the last 6 months will work.

So, I’ll select those options from the bar on the left:

image of filters


Step 3: Add my keywords

Now that I’ve selected what kinds of opportunities I’m looking for, I’ll add some topical keywords to help me find the right kind of paleo diet sites.  Always remember, the keywords that hold content promotion opportunities are typically very different than the SEO keywords I’d try to rank for.

BuzzSumo needs synonyms to bring back a decent number of opportunities, so I’ll go ahead and add some related categorical terms, in this case:

 search terms

(You can generate these synoyms through a variety of methods, but the quickest and dirtiest way is probably looking at the similar searches at the bottom of the Google SERP.)