If you are like almost half of PR professionals you do not use paid promotion or social media advertising as part of your communications strategies and plans.
Likely, you are a PR purist who believes that earned media coverage is the Holy Grail. And, those who think this are not wrong; gaining mainstream media coverage for a story is incredibly powerful. It can give broad reach and add that third party endorsement of a news professional for a significant credibility boost.
The problem though, is that it’s harder to get coverage. Thanks to broad scale market consolidation there are much fewer media outlets, reporters and other news professionals than, say, even four or five years ago. In addition, the most popular social media platforms are now publically-listed companies and are striving to drive ever-increasing shareholder value by earning ad revenues. That means Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have made gaining organic visibility almost impossible.
Paid content is pretty much what it says on the box. You pay a publisher or social media company for placement. This usually takes the form of pay- per- click ads on popular social networks. Additionally, it includes ‘native advertising’, or advertorial. This is when you pay to publish an item, usually an article but it could easily be a video, infographic or photograph. The idea is to create an item that closely resembles a publisher’s own editorial and which provides real value to audiences. Although most publishers require such items to be clearly marked ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Advertisement’, data shows this does not deter audiences as long as the content has real value.
This is a hugely important trend; it’s a seismic shift for public relations practitioners who have traditionally focused exclusively on building awareness via earned media coverage and have left ad agencies to handle media buys. Today’s smart PR pros are well versed in the three categories of media: paid, owned and earned. Knowing when to leverage the power of channel via paid, how to create dynamic content in a controlled environment and how to earn audience engagement are table stakes in today’s digital environment.
Paid promotion provides great value for money. Rather modest budgets, employed wisely, can be used for precision targeting and the results are often dramatic. It’s a strategy that Thornley Fallis uses to good effect in many campaigns.
For example, we manage member communications for a large, national trade union. Thanks in part to sponsoring content, we reach almost a third of the union’s members daily on Facebook. Another example is our health care clinic client which previously had struggled to reach even a handful of potential customers organically via Facebook. A clever content marketing program that includes sponsored content now reaches up to 3,500 highly-targeted prospects daily and the clinic has seen a corresponding uptick in business.