Content Marketing

The "Big" Content Promotion Tip That’ll Save You a Lot of Pain

by on 24th October 2013

A good marketer knows when his idea sucks.

Yet many marketers I come across relentlessly push their content without thought for one fundamental influencing factor of its likely success: appeal.

You have all been involved, at some stage in your careers in a flawed attempt to be creative. You’ve had a “great” idea, everyone in the room agreed to it, you got the research done, you hired a designer, you hired a developer and everything looks great.

The big day comes, it’s time to go live, to publish your work. You click “publish”, and, nothing. Sorry folks, you had an ugly baby. Your content marketing looks like a dog chewing a wasp. The humiliation of your total failure is compounded by coverage in a compendium of uselessness. Unfortunately there are lot of examples just like this, polluting the internet one horrible failure at a time.

Even for the creatively challenged, it does not have to be this way. We have a little secret at Builtvisible that we use to help the success of our content marketing campaigns.

Decide why you’re creating content?

Laura recently challenged our industry to Think Bigger, challenging us to think before we churn out content for the sake of churning out content, instead considering how these initial questions can help your content strategy in the long term:

  1. We do something awesome. Who is it for?
  2. What gets those people excited?
  3. How do we help them be cooler, smarter, richer, happier?
  4. Where are these people hanging out online or offline (so we know where to get in front of them)?

Laura has very clearly pointed out that you need to know who you’re targeting, with an understanding of what makes them tick and quite vitally, in what (content) format you should be conveying your message. When you’re happy you’ve got those ideas, you need to have a plan to get coverage, or how to get in front of them.

Second: Get really targeted.

We’ve been solving content marketing targeting problems one by one for some time now. And for really good reason. I just hate the idea of a piece of hard earned content going down the toilet simply because there was a step missing in the plan. Since Mozcon earlier this year, I’ve been talking a lot about Really Targeted Outreach, a process that involves collecting Twitter data from a representative sample group of your target audience (found on tools like Follower-wonk) to see what content resonates with that audience and what sites are engaging people.

Great data strategy leads to a well set, sturdy targeting plan. You don’t *have* to use Twitter, or a Google Docs spreadsheet, of course. Living and breathing a niche will quickly lead to a better understanding of who the influential people in that space are, what the most popular sites are called, and so on.

Third: Execute “Never Fail”, do the due diligence ahead of time.

What’s “Never Fail Content Outreach”? Let’s remember the scenario:

You’ve had that “great” idea, everyone in the room agreed to it, you got the research done, you hired a designer, you hired a developer and everything looks great. The big day comes, it’s time to go live, to publish your work. You click “publish”, and, nothing.

Never fail outreach is part of our DNA.

As marketers we get so caught up and connected to our idea, we forget to do the due diligence on the potential appeal of the idea itself. We’ve had clients who, in the dim and distant past, have absolutely insisted their idea is best (so why did you hire us?!) and no amount of preaching or evangelizing on our part could change their minds. We learned to tackle that most infuriating of objections with data, and therefore, overcoming subjectivity with reason.

When we’re executing a creative planning session for a client, the first thing we do after coming up with the core creative ideas is the initial outreach. That’s right – we’re pitching the ideas to publishers *way* before a piece of design work, or research work has been carried out.

Here’s the process from an internal on-boarding document:


Once those initial ideas have been pitched to potential publishers, we head back to our client with an update. We present the pitches with a quantitative view on the number of people, editors, journalists, whoever, that got interested and gave their feedback and agreement in principle to run with a story. You can’t argue with popularity.

Are we sounding like a PR agency?

Fourth: Recruit the help of an expert

We call this stage, “Stakeholder Recruitment”. You simply can’t go and produce a piece of expert editorial or research without the input of someone who knows what they’re doing. The real trick is to find someone with big presence.

Building an interactive on the history of the VW? Find out who’s in charge of sites like this, and ask if they’d like to contribute. What about Porsche? Find writers and enthusiasts on Followerwonk. Find clever ways to find the contact details of your experts, make friends, get them involved and make them stakeholders.

Whatever happens, if you know you have demand for your idea ahead of time, and the support of the people who live and breath that vertical, you’ll have a much easier time at launch.

Fifth: Launch

Thinking back to the initial outreach, we almost always tend to choose the publication with the biggest audience to launch a piece of our marketing for us. Usually, with a reasonable period of exclusivity before we offer up variations of the piece to other publishers. The real trick is to get everyone who contributed and (of course) the publisher’s own audience to do the social sharing for you. We tend to consider a piece of marketing conducted for a client that needed tweets or social interference from our own SEOs to get it started a failure.

This stuff has to have organic reach to spread on its own. When you see a bunch of profiles in the wrong target audience sharing something, by request of the originator, in a tool like Topsy, you’re in trouble. When the thing you’ve created gets traction on its own, seeded by an authority in the space, you can sit back, relax and treat yourself to a Mojito.

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  1. What a brilliant post, so true and just the right order of events to bring in great results, thankyou

  2. Thanks Ruth – that means a lot. Speak soon!

  3. Absolutely brilliant post Richard, never seen such a technical process lay the foundations for such a creative piece. Amazing!

  4. Thanks Jonathan, really appreciate the comment!

  5. Great article Richard.

    In my opinion that initial outreach step in your model is the key to success. It serves two purposes:

    1. You validate your idea before you unnecessarily put too much effort in it (it could actually be a crappy idea. Shit happens).
    2. If the people you reach out to buy into it, they kind of commit to resonate on it whenever the content piece gets published. So you are ensuring some initial spread on the interwebs (which is usually the hardest part).

    Thanks for this extraordinarily helpful piece of content. Keep them coming!

  6. Great article, Richard.

    I especially like this statement: “As marketers we get so caught up and connected to our idea, we forget to do the due diligence on the potential appeal of the idea itself.” Spot on!

    The “spray and pray” method and RTO don’t mix. Marketers have got to do a better job of targeting and tailoring content for their audience, and it all starts with research.

    BTW … I think you meant to link to Laura’s article ( in paragraph seven instead of Kristi’s.

  7. Hey Collin – thanks for the feedback. I did indeed mean to link to Laura’s other article. I’ll fix that up in a second. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. One could reasonably toss several dozen PR and content distribution how-to books in the trash and follow the admonitions and path in this post, and come out ahead (assuming one absorbs the lessons in the citation links as well.)

    Richard, you’ve done it right since the beginning. If you create a followup post for this, citing your own content placement, testing, and “never fail” data-driven action would be more than justified.

  9. Thanks Brian!

  10. Good perspective on promoting before producing. I have thought of going this route in the past, but my main concern has always been potential delays or changes to content, either from a client suggesting revisions to the work or a weak link in the chain (ex: designer not getting back in time). With less available resources and established processes (see: one man operation) the risk of not meeting a deadline for content production increases.

    However, I definitely see the benefit in reaching out early and building relationships. Perhaps the best bet is to expand the creation process to allow for a more natural progression (and properly informing clients why it will take longer). After my own recent creative brain fart, it may be time to revisit this approach.

    Yes, you do sound more like a PR agency, but that’s a good thing as it looks to be what is necessary these days to rise above the fray.

  11. A lot of this resonated with me. Too many marketers have fallen victim to this (us included), I call it the ‘publish and hope’ strategy or ‘build it and they will come’. But the fact is they won’t without properly thought through research and targeting.

    For almost every piece of content we now publish, we have a ‘Pre-outreach’ and a ‘Post outreach’ phase either side of content production in our Content Marketing Schedule.

  12. Really great post Richard. Love the methodology you follow with content creation. Absolutely 100% true that if you get someone involved and make them a stakeholder, your content will be loads better.

  13. Definitely sounds like a PR firm. This approach is not new, just not known. What’s great is that if you do this consistently you build great press contacts that you can leverage in the future.

    Richard, what about doing some paid social media to give the promotions a bit of a push, in combination with the traditional outreach? Have you had any experience in using paid social media to drive content exposure? (Twitter, FB, Stumble, Reddit, etc)

  14. Great ideas, Richard! The Stakeholder Recruitment step is brilliant.

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