Outreach plan

This is a prototype the CodeRefinery outreach and marketing plan.

Since most of us are not very good at marketing, this is actually a summary of the book The new rules of marketing and PR : how to use content marketing, podcasting, social media, AI, live video, and newsjacking to reach buyers directly (David Meerman Scott, 8th ed.) with descriptions of how it can apply to CodeRefinery. The book is available at my university’s O’Reilly Online Learning platform through our library for free. If you like what you read here, consider checking it out - the book was a very good inspiration for someone that needs to outreach better, but is not at all that kind of person and needs some inspiration for how to even think about it.

Perhaps this summary is useful to others outside of CodeRefinery as well.

Currently, this page is one person’s description and their own interpretation9 as it applies to CodeRefinery. Over time, it should be adapted to represent a broader view, this paragraph updated, possibly the current content archived, and the new plan made into a new page.


Many people need marketing and outreach: CodeRefinery isn’t trying to sell things, but we are trying to encourage people to make a choice to gain skills. It’s free, but it does have a cost: time. We think that it does save more time in the long run, but then again, how many businesses sell things that will save money in the long run?

We need to encourage people to make a specific choice, and we need to tell them why we think that is the best choice for them.

1 The Old Rules of Marketing and PR Are Ineffective in an Online World

“Interruption advertising” doesn’t work (anymore?). Few people want to have their life interrupted with a TV commercial, banner ad, or email from university administrators telling them to make some choice. People think of different things now.

For CodeRefinery, you could argue that flyers, emails from university staff, etc. are all some form of interruption advertising.

There’s all kind of anecdotes about how advertisement, mentions in the press, and so on aren’t useful, but we wouldn’t do those anyway. Although, we do want press, that’s not the main way we get people to take our courses. (maybe it helps our funding, though)

2 The New Rules of Marketing and PR

People do, however, take recommendations from people they know. Social media lets people communicate. The match is clear. By making good use of social media, we can reach people directly.

(this chapter starts off with an example of social media inspiring the author to visit Saariselkä in Finnish Lapland, which was interesting to see.)

3 Reaching Your Buyers Directly

Social media lets people reach buyers directly. This is obvious.

But, how to use social media. You don’t want to go doing interruption advertising, trying to use it to directly sell your stuff. Instead, produce good, free content which people will want to consume. Most of your activity should be about this, which gets people interested, and makes them want more. Then, when they want to go deeper or are ready to make a purchase, they come to you.

CodeRefinery does nothing but make free content, so how does this apply to us? Well, we have to think more. Our main content costs a lot of time, so we need to think of content that is shorter and easier to consume. For example:

  • Short videos or pictures explaining things.

  • Short blog posts about tips or tricks, which have a clear, catchy, immediately useful title.

  • Tweeting links to specific pages we have just made, which are especially useful standalone.

  • Short “git hacks” or clever things, which people like and share, and makes them want to attend a workshop.

  • “Research software minute” videos?

You have to think of buyer personas - backwards design all of your material. Don’t make anything unless you know who it is for, and then make sure it is suitable for that person. Know their goal, how they speak, and where they are (what content do they consume?).

CodeRefinery buyer personas could include:

  • Learners

  • team leaders

  • Group leaders or university staff who can recommend their audience to attend a workshop

  • Prospective instructors and helpers

  • Funders and high-level leadership

4 Social Media and Your Targeted Audience

Descriptions of what social media is. A somewhat useful metaphor is that the web is like a city. Social media are things like bars or cafes. You don’t go there and start asking people to do something or offering free samples and expect people to like it. You network, talk, maybe tell some interesting stories. Maybe someone figures out who you are and would want to know more about what you do.

5 The Content‐Rich Website

Websites matter - people will go there and check it out. Blogs are good, they last longer than any single social media operator and provide long-term web traffic. Websites (and everything) need specific skills and a manager. The website needs a personality and voice.

CodeRefinery should make sure that there is are clear target pages or sections for each of our target personas below. We should make sure we don’t use jargon that we would use, or have the website organized by our own operations as opposed to learner personas. We should also make sure the website is accessible and mobile-friendly.

6 Marketing and PR in Real Time

Following social media in real time can let you know what people think. This can be an even better feedback method than surveys, etc. By responding in real time (this can take effort), you can have conversations there (in the open) which is also very good for outreach.

CodeRefinery could consider monitoring more of social media. TODO: how to do this?

7 Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Marketing and PR

We know about AI and so on. We also know it’s not magic. There were discussions about using AI to generate some content, such as tweets from web pages.

I didn’t see much useful for CodeRefinery here, however some ideas (run our webpages through a text summarizer to get the most important sentences to help us make tweets) might be useful.

8 You Are What You Publish: Building Your Marketing and PR Plan

This is the chapter that puts everything above together, before it goes off into details of the implementation next.

  1. Understand what we want. Until a goal is clear, it is hard to justify the effort (and also, I guess ask for others help do it). (CR: we could say “better science” but it can also mean things like “attend workshops” or “ensure funding for the project”)

    • More registrations?

    • More followers?

    • More views of videos?

    • More funding?

    • More team leaders?

  2. List the buyer personas relevant to us. (See chapter 3 for the list)

  3. Create a persona around each of these buyers. (CR: see chapter 3 above for the details).

    • What are their goals?

    • What do we want them to do?

    • What content do they consume?

    • How do they make their buying choices? (CR: how do you decide how to spend your time?)

    • How do they speak, talk, and read?

    • Subscribe to and follow the media they follow.

  4. Develop (free) content that interests each of these buyers.

  5. Develop a measuring plan. Think about how we can measure success, both in immediate engagement and making the decision we want (what we actually want).

9 Growing Your Business: How Marketing and PR Drive Sales

Salespeople don’t mediate between buyers and companies anymore. Instead, people can find so much information themselves, and make purchases self-service. Websites and other material have to be target to buyers (= potential learners) who are deciding if they want to purchase (= attend a course). Websites and material should have a personality (= our website shouldn’t be written as boring as a scientific paper). It’s OK to do fun things. Social aspects to the site is good - e.g. comments section, social media share buttons.

  1. Begin with informational content (not necessarily about you).

  2. Nudge towards what you want (= attend a course, etc.)

  3. Make it easy to close the deal. (CR: clear “notify me” mailing list link on every relevant page. Maybe even make sure we have continually open registration for the next workshop - each workshop is ready for registration when the previous one ends. When we have multiple types of workshops, includeable html snippets that has links to register for every upcoming workshop?)

Don’t underestimate the value of figurehead leaders (~=CEOs) being social - don’t just delegate it to separate marketers.

Is the analogy of salespeople even relevant for CodeRefinery? Probably not, but maybe we could say that official requirement, recommended courses, university staff aren’t so important. People will check our websites and other material to see if they want to attend.

Every website, lesson, and so on has to have very clear information targeted to a possible reader right at the beginning, so that a potential learner might see “is this git lesson right for me?” and they will find “yes”.

Our website should be current.

10 Strategies for Creating Awesome Content

This section has different strategies and types of content. Types of content include: blogs, audio, video, photos, infographics, charts, email newsletters, presentations, long-form written content, research reports, virtual events, e-books, white papers, apps.

Think about how you make the content: don’t just write about yourself. Consider the problems your buyers face and make content that solves those problems. Write for your personas. Advertise what you do. Think what could possibly go viral. Don’t forget that it should be accessible.

CodeRefinery: in addition to the above, we should take part in other events, for example show up at Open Science days and give presentations, various awareness weeks (in person or online?), conference hashtags, etc.

11 How to Write for Your Buyers

Write like your buyers talk (we’ve said this before), and don’t use pointless jargon or meaningless words to make you sound smarter. Humor is OK. Think like a journalist (especially for some content types).

12 Social Networking as Marketing

Facebook pages, Facebook groups. Linkedin profiles, companies, etc. There are many more, but think about what is right for you, don’t do something just because it is there. Consider your personal brand - make sure your profile information says something. There is a recommendation 85% sharing and engaging, 10% original content, 5% promoting yourself. Social media is like exercise: you need to make it part of your routine, or you will stop doing it. It can easily take an hour per day.

For CodeRefinery, we know we should be more active on Twitter, which seems like the most suitable network for us. Are there any types of badges we can use for professional social networks? Can we declare hashtags and publish them on our website permanently, so we don’t have to decide them for every workshop?

Most people in CodeRefinery seem to be hesitant to use social network sites heavily, for good reason. We should really encourage and support those who do want to use them to do so on our behalf, as much as possible.

13 Blogging to Reach Your Buyers

Blogs are very important - and unlike social networks, they stay under your control long-term, and drive search traffic straight to you. Consider who you want to reach - potential learners? existing learners? other thought leaders? Blog about things that they are interested in and you are passionate about.

Don’t forget to monitor other blogs from people who do similar things, to keep up to date with what is going on. Comment on other blogs and link back to you. Invite other bloggers to visit you and blog about their experiences - this is good for both of you.

CodeRefinery probably knows that it should blog more. Some ideas about what to blog about are in previous sections. We should make it easier to share posts, and would we even want to try for a commenting feature (might be too much, though…).

14 An Image Is Worth a Thousand Words

15 Video and Your Buyers

16 Audio Content via Podcasting and Social Audio

17 How to Use News Releases to Reach Buyers Directly

18 Your Newsroom: A Front Door for Much More Than the Media

19 The New Rules for Reaching the Media

20 Newsjacking Your Way into the Media

(I haven’t fully read this chapter yet)

The idea here is that when something interesting to your audience and relevant to you comes up in the news, react to it / contribute something to it, perhaps preferably in a way that can be re-shared. Or in a way that other journalists. Be careful, don’t do this dis-respectfully or spammily.

In CodeRefinery, different things in the science news could be relevant to react to.

21 Search Engine Marketing

22 Make It Happen