The Crucial Differences in Reach, Outreach, and Reaching Out



Changes, variations, mutations, and interpretations have arisen around business “reach.”

Marketing, I think, can be divided into two eras.

The first, the biggest, the baddest and the most impressive was the era in which marketers were able to reach the unreachable. Ads could be used to interrupt people who weren’t intending to hear from you. PR could be used to get a story to show up on Oprah or in the paper, reaching people who weren’t seeking you out.

Sure, there were exceptions to this model (the Yellow Pages and the classifieds, for example), but generally speaking, the biggest wins for a marketer happened in this arena.

We’re watching it die. — Seth’s Blog, Reaching the Unreachable, May 03, 2007

Reach, as in Circulation

In the world of getting a message out to many people, the word reach has traditional meant “circulation,” how many unique people will receive the message we send out. That number has never been truly quantifiable because …

Basically reach is about broadcasting.

  • Consumption of the message is not guaranteed. We all know about TV and TIVO, and newspapers people don’t buy but read … but perhaps a more interesting example is SETI has been broadcasting active Intersellar messages since the early 1970s. No one knows if any have yet been received, decoded, or understood.

    How do you know anyone is listening?

  • Communication is uncertain. We can’t measure whether the message sent is the one received unless we check. The audience may consume a message other than the intended message. The words carry different meaning in different cultures and for different individuals. Voice, tone, word choice all work together within the context of the receiver’s experience and emotional relationship to the message content. A great example is the effect of the Motrin ad on the Motrin Moms.

    How do you know the audience received the message that you sent?

  • Response is unclear. Once the data requires testing samples, the very act of surveying flattens our understanding of the human response. We lose the singularities that add deeper meaning to what moves individuals to act as they do. The trending line graph that shows your message is having an effect doesn’t explain why that’s so. The particularities and individual responses have been leveled out.

    How do you know for certain that you can repeat the same response?

Reach is NOT the number of people who actually are exposed to and actually consume the message, but rather the number who have the OPPORTUNITY to see or hear the message. It might be described as absolute number (1,284,793 million) Twitters, a metaphor (the population of the state of California) or a portion of demographic (74% of the male population between 18-24).

Whether the reach was effective might be a function of time spent with the message or times exposed to the message.

Reach goes broad and far, but establishes minimal relationship between the sender and individual receivers who can inform the process. Relying solely on reach / circulation will always be shooting in the dark.

It’s naive to confuse the act of reaching to actually touching an unknown someone’s mind and heart.

Blogger Outreach to Spread a Message

In the place where Marketing and PR cross the social media, the term, blogger outreach has come to mean identifying bloggers who reach the same audience you do with your products and enlisting (or pitching) them to talk or blog about your products and services to their communities. Done well blogger outreach has the power of moving a message from one trusted friend who knows many to a group of trusting friends who may tell even more. Done less well it can be someone who is simply broadcasting in a new way.

To my mind, blogger outreach is the art of asking people to evangelize to their networks for you. It’s crucial that such things include three things for the message to come through whole, authentic, and as intended.

  • To ensure the message is consumed, the blogger-brand match has to be true and lasting. An authentic message spreads more quickly and more deeply though trust agents who have a mutual commitment to the brand and its values. Campaigns and contests that go quickly don’t really seal the connection between the audience and the brand. It’s easy for a gift meant as a ‘thank you,” to be turned in to an expectation if it’s delivered in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong way.
    Unsophisticated bloggers with no P&L experience can find the attention heady, competitive, and begin to over-value their input. The act of outreach has to be a relationship — an example of your message in action — not a single date meant to get your message out.

    How do you identify the right partnerships in your “grassroots” blogger outreach efforts? How do you invest in bloggers as partners rather than as channels of distribution?

  • Every outreach interaction has to underscore the credibility of the message. Bloggers are experts at the needs of their communities. Great bloggers have earned their reputation and influence by being filters and standards of visible authenticity. Those bloggers can extend and enhance the power of your message.

    The right bloggers understand the businesses that are a good match for them and their readers in product, service, and philosophy. Tap into their expertise, rather than just a blog post, and you’ll have lasting value and a relationship.

    How do you demonstrate your message by the way you bring partners into your brand?

  • Authentic, relevant experiences inspire messages that communities want to share. Many companies simply hand a product to a blogger and ask for a review. It takes more creative time to develop an experience and a community that connects people around a product, however, those memorable experiences show people how products and services naturally fit into their lives. The time invested in putting things where people need them and use them is appreciated. The Tweet to Drive program that GM is doing in Chicago has fabulous potential for doing just that.

    How do you use all of your creative resources to make your outreach experiences most relevant and authentic?

Leaders are learners who let people participate in building things no one of us could build alone. Don’t just reach out, but bring bloggers into your brand if you want them to understand, own, and protect your message, to stand up for your intentions. Then when a message gets misinterpreted Actively investing time online and off listening to each other and sharing expertise and you will give them reason and opportunity to own, protect, defend what you build.

Reach Out and Touch Someone …

The power of connecting people to people is not a new thing. In 1979, AT&T needed to soften it’s image as a possible monopoly and reconnect with it’s customers in a more human way, Ken, D’Ambrosio, Marshall McLuhan, and N.W. Ayer all contributed to what became the famous “Reach Out and Touch Someone” media campaign. Reach out and touch someone …

Though the AT&T commercial is still broadcast and still the idea of reaching out to touch someone is a great example of what a traditional campaign in as part of an integrated marketing effort might look like today. It shows people connecting because of the experience a product allows.

Reaching out to connect is the goal.

  • Clear messages reach out to connect minds, hearts, and lives. A great message connects minds, touches hearts, and has meaning in people’s lives. It’s about what moves them; not about how we want them to move. Build a message like that and folks will join you.
  • Clear messages get consumed and passed on when they are about the audience. We can grow our businesses by understanding that it has now become easier than ever before to connect. We can to reach out to find great minds who have been where we’re going and invite them to participate in what we’re doing in new and exciting ways that benefit us both.
  • Clear messages reach out to connect through outstanding behavior and satisfying, meaningful experiences — in ones, some, and masses. True relationship one-on-one may not be scalable, but experience, behaviors and values are. We can reach out person by person and throug every action can demonstrate the values we respect to offer outstanding experiences. We can set a standard for what and our customers can count on and expect from us. We can do that in stores, on the phone, via email, in meetings, at trade shows, in all online venues, in every visit off line too.

When we know we’re about growing their business, we listen, use their language, and choose the right tools to meet their goals. Reaching out becomes connecting to their need in a way that lowers the risk and shares the benefits. We raise the goal to something bigger than we could alone.

The crucial differences in reach, outreach, and reaching out are the differences in how well we communicate what we do and how deeply we demonstrate that we do it.

Do you have reach, do outreach, or do you reach out? Do do you all three?

–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!

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  1. says

    Wow – this really blew me away, what a great post. I’m not sure what I’m doing, but my goal is to make a connection, kind of like that cheesy-yet-effective TV advert above :)

    Here’s an example. Everyone knows the big thing with a SOB is having “a list.” But what are you doing with that list? Chris Guillebeau suggested to me to actually contact people on that list, call people out, talk to them and see what’s going on. Killer concept, and very powerful.

    We might all be online but you can’t hide if you want to be successful.

  2. says

    Awesome Article Liz.. (LOL.. your new name.. “Awesome Article Liz”) ok.. just kidding..

    umm.. that is like textbook material.. very good info… now.. to mix this one with the influence… ?

  3. says

    Grt post. Liz.
    I think I have each of these in some degree (more on some days than others) ;) and it’s one of my goals to continue extending myself in all three areas.

    I have a particular passion about the third aspect, though … reaching out and touching someone. It’s a difficult thing to scale, for sure, but I don’t think that the smallest gesture is ever wasted. Sometimes the small, personal touch can make much more difference than the big, “mass” touch. I think every business needs to include a mix, but those personal moments are the ones that become part of the larger story, carrying the passion and the intent to the larger group on a whole new level.


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