How to Perform Successful Content Outreach - Interview With Ryan McGonagill

Feb 27, 2014


min read

Although content marketing has just entered the list of popular techniques (as shown in Moz's latest industry survey), the online environment is already flooded with content. Of all sorts. Making it harder for inbound marketers to create content that would attract the attention of publishers and engage audiences.

It's harder, but not impossible with the right skills.

In this Q&A session, Ryan McGonagill discusses the inner components of content outreach and shares some incredible tips on how to overcome the challenges of content outreach and successfully advertise your content.

As Promotions Supervisor for, Ryan McGonagill is specialized in viral content promotion, often writing and speaking about that for highly valued publishers in the industry. I am glad to have Ryan as a guest on the blog and I hope you will enjoy reading the Q&A session we have prepared.

1. What do you find to be the most challenging part of content outreach?

The landscape is constantly changing, and for that reason, you always have to be ahead of the trends in order to keep from getting behind. You have to constantly be on the lookout for relevant angles that will tie-in well with your content, because these angles are always changing.

Another aspect I find challenging is that writers tend to have different pitch preferences, depending on their verticals. For example, I've discovered that tech writers tend to like extremely succinct pitches that are straight to the point, likely because they are getting pitched about every new app that hits the market each day. Writers that cover more social and cultural topics, such as pop culture, social media, celebrities, and more, seem to respond really well to pitches that have a lot of personality.

Being aware of the different personalities you encounter in the outreach process and how to tailor your pitches accordingly is key. While it can be challenging to switch between outreach methods depending on who you’re targeting, it’s also rewarding when you've created a personal connection with all types of people.

2. Which qualities do you find to be teachable in outreach, and which are instinctual?

I think there are four necessary qualities in order for someone to succeed in outreach:

  • the ability to target the correct writer/publisher/vertical

  • the ability to make a personal connection

  • the impeccable eye for detail

  • a mastery of the written language.

I've found that targeting is generally teachable, while the other three are not.

It may seem counter-intuitive, as you can obviously teach someone a language or train him or her to look for certain details in pitches. However, if you have to take the time to give feedback and edit common grammatical and spelling mistakes, you won’t have time to address the big picture issues, such as how to target the right verticals and publishers.

Also, it’s important to note that in outreach, you will rarely (if ever) interact with your contacts face-to-face, so their first (and lasting) impression of you will be heavily influenced by how you come off in your written communication. If your pitch to them is mediocre and riddled with spelling and grammar errors, why would they have a reason to believe your content isn't of the same caliber?

3. Based on feedback from publishers, where do you think the content marketing industry needs to head in the future?

There are several variables, but I believe the success of content in the future will be highly dependent on interactivity and engaging the reader in the content.

Making the readers part of the content itself - rather than just putting an infographic in front of them - will not only increase your chances of publishers posting your content, but it will also increase the number of readers sharing the content on social networks. This is why ego-driven content like quizzes do so well on sites like BuzzFeed: Readers are part of the experience, they get personally tailored results and that allow them to identify themselves with a larger group of people.

Content that engages the reader will always be positively received by publishers.

4. Does one content medium fare notably better with publishers than others? What are publishers turning down?

More and more, publishers are looking for these three things: interactivity, original research, and a story.

This doesn't mean that if you have a static infographic with compelling research and which tells a story, you won’t get it picked up. This means it won’t do as well as it would if you added an element of interactivity to it.

Recently, we worked with Movoto to create this campaign, which I believe is a great example of interactivity. It’s 2014, and people are swamped with infographics - they’re looking for something different. Similarly, if you have a highly interactive project that is just an aggregation of existing research, it’s likely you won’t have much success getting it out into the media. You have to remember that you’re pitching to established, credible journalists who are looking for a story. If that story or research has already been covered multiple times, it’s not enticing anymore.

5. What are some of the advantages of partnering content outreach with paid-organic amplification (sponsored content, advertising posts, etc.)?

The main focus of any great outreach strategy should be on quality rather than quantity. One of the benefits of quality outreach is that you’re able to secure very high-authority placements, which often result in a large number of natural syndications, potentially saving you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

By combining outreach with paid-organic amplification, such as advertising your content on social sites, you can increase its visibility, sharability, and natural syndication potential.

6. If you had to choose, what is the one defining factor that separates good outreach from great outreach?

This is a tough one, because there are several key factors when it comes to great outreach. It goes without saying that quality content is non-negotiable; if you have mediocre content, the best outreach skills in the world can’t make up for it.  However, making a personal connection is the one thing that will differentiate you from everyone else with content of the same caliber. People do things for people they like, and if you can connect with a publisher right off the bat, you’ll make your job that much easier.

There is a variety of ways you can go about making a personal connection with the person you’re pitching. It’s important to remember that even though you will find a way to connect on a personal level, your communication should still be professional. Don’t act like you’re best friends with the writer: be personable, but in the same time professional. You can comment on one of their tweets, or something you read on their personal blog. You can also share your opinion regarding one of their recent articles. When doing this, however, it’s important to remember that you should always be adding value with your commentary and not just give them a synopsis - they know what they wrote about. Give them insight into how it affected you, or maybe you can share a personal experience similar to what they wrote about. Writers like knowing that their work is valued.

7. What are some of the advantages of manual (unique) outreach over automated (templated) outreach/paid links?

As we all know, Google is continually releasing updates that can spot low-authority link networks, paid links, and paid guest posts.

When you’re sending out a templated email to hundreds of publishers a day, the majority of the placements you’re going to get are from low-authority blogs. An obvious advantage of the unique pitch is that you’re usually targeting high-authority publishers. In this sense, one high-authority placement could be the equivalent of several low-authority placements that will eventually get you pinged by Google.

By taking the time to send out unique pitches to high-authority publishers, you’re building a strong, honest link portfolio that will stand the test of time. Another ancillary benefit is, again, natural syndications. Many mid- and low-tier blogs frequently syndicate content from sites like The Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Mashable, and more, so by placing your content on these sites, you’re saving yourself time and effort.

Thank you, Ryan for sharing all this!

Hope @everybody enjoyed this Q&A session. If you have anything you’d like to add or ask, share your thoughts below and if you haven’t already followed Ryan on Twitter, make sure you do so in order to keep up with him!

Article by

Dana Zavaleanu

Dana leads the marketing team at AWR. Having 13+ years of experience in the industry, she's an all-round digital marketer, with a focus on search analytics and content. Say hello @dana_zavaleanu

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