The PR industry is going through a rapid transformation to integrated marketing communications as many firms have expanded their earned media expertise to embrace both paid media and digital marketing.
As the lines blur between editorial/advertising, and the organic reach of content on social approaches zero, forward thinking PR firms are learning how to drive ROI from these efforts. As the experts in earned media and storytelling, communication firms are also able to craft paid media PR strategies that deliver much higher levels of engagement.
I have seen (and been honored to help lead) this evolution as the Director of Paid Media at Ketchum and the current Vice President of Paid Media at Cohn & Wolfe. The purpose of this post is to illustrate the value of paid media for PR firms and outline five paid media PR strategies to compliment your existing earned media efforts.
The Value of Paid Media
Paid media at its core is data-driven digital marketing. The main advantage of this form of media is the ability to leverage data analytics to inform strategic marketing and communications initiatives in real-time. This crucial business intelligence also helps to quantify PR results as it relates to achieving business objectives. This leads to greater alignment, enhanced targeting, increased engagement, measured amplification, and most importantly, ROI.
Five Paid Media PR Strategies
The PESO model in PR embraces an integrated media spectrum that takes a holistic view of your digital marketing universe from the vantage point of paid, earned, owned and shared media. Below are five paid media PR strategies I’ve identified, that when used together as part of a broader integrated PR & communications strategy, deliver synergistic results:
1. Content Syndication & Distribution
Content syndication refers to the recommendation widgets you see on your favorite news websites. This is a valuable tactic for amplifying the reach of earned and owned media at-scale across thousands of premium publishers with an unprecedented visible CTR of 5-30%.
Content recommendation services such as Taboola utilize Predictive Engine technology to place branded content based on contextual relevance, high-value keywords and reaching a target audience on the websites they frequent the most.
2. Social Media Marketing / Amplification
The decline in organic social media reach is no secret and this category refers to any form of paid social advertising. I’ve broken this up into two main types:
- Social Amplification: any type of content amplification on a social network designed to foster awareness / engagement on-platform such as Boosted Posts, Promoted Tweets, Sponsored Updates, etc. These posts appear on the brand’s social timeline and are amplified with paid support.
- Social Advertising: also known as ‘dark posts’ or ‘website cards’ in which a brand seeks to drive traffic off-network to an external site or landing page. The reason these ads are called ‘dark posts’ is because they do not appear on a brand’s social timeline, but rather directly into the newsfeed of a target audience.
3. Search Engine Marketing / Optimization
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in which your brand’s content appears in ad units at the top of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google Ad Words is the most widely used SEM platform.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to how well your website and content rank organically in a search engine. A strong SEO strategy is crucial for any content marketing or communications initiative and starts with the development of a high-value key phrase list.
4. Influencer Network Marketing
- Influencer Networks such as Instabrand and Crowdtap allow marketers to tap their database consisting of thousands of social influencers to reach a target audience at scale based on topic relevance, preferred social channels, demographic info and more.
- Influencer Partnerships can also be leveraged on an individual basis to promote brand content through a variety of premium social channels.
5. Native Advertising
- Also known as Sponsored Content or Advertorials, I define Native Advertising as a piece of branded content that appears within a publisher’s main editorial well. This type of content is labeled as ‘sponsored’ but is designed to match the look and feel of regular editorial content ensuring a seamless user experience and much higher levels of engagement.
- Native Advertising is an extremely effective form of content marketing, especially when paired with the other paid media pillars such as content syndication and social amplification.
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