What value does paid media hold for the PR industry?

SEO-PR specialist Stella Bayles has contributed chapter 19 of #FuturePRoof and it’s all about paid media and the huge opportunity it presents to PR teams.

We’ll be releasing the remaining chapters of #FuturePRoof right here, over the next couple of weeks. Find out more @WeArePRoofed.


You’ll learn:

• Why public relations practitioners need to embrace paid media
• The areas of paid media public relations professionals shouldn’t attempt
• A step-by-step guide to the paid, earned, shared, owned (PESO) model

Is paid worth the investment of skill development and new hires or is it an area of marketing that PR professionals will never lead?

At the time of publication, paid media is one of the hottest PR topics of 2015 at PR conferences and online alike. It’s been highlighted as the new skill-set we must hire in and an area of marketing we just can’t ignore as PR professionals.

But with established digital agencies boasting years of experience in paid media platforms and tools, is it really something we can just add to our service offer and an area we can seriously compete in?

The objective of the PR industry is to relate to the public so we should always be finding the right ways to do that. 

Whether it’s through editorial reading, content appearing in Search results or experiential engagement; all connect with our audience and if there are ways to amplify that connection and conversation, we should explore and master each one.

Paid media does just that. It allows us to get a message to a very targeted audience…quickly. If that message is attached to useful and engaging content and it’s relevant, it’s also likely to reach a large audience at a reasonable cost. 

Some elements of paid also provide an innovative way to communicate with online influencers. Both Twitter and Facebook allow us to add individual influencer details into ad targeting for example, so we can tailor and personalise ads. This is just one example of how paid can be used for influencer relations and it certainly beats another generic emailed press release! 

Bearing all of this in mind, PR professionals would be mad to ignore to paid, however there is one note of caution - we should remain clear on where our talent and objectives are best placed.

Areas of paid media PR shouldn't attempt

Paid media has the ability to be a very powerful sale and lead generation channel and this is an area that takes a great deal of analytical skill and knowledge of platforms. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented paid media team. They were sales driven and knew how to read and segment big data. They had their full time attention on new platforms and knew how to use them for acquisition and re-targeting. 

Tasks such as getting products listed on Google Shopping to deliver sales, understanding retargeting ads and using programmatic advertising based on users’ online behaviours, all demand a huge amount of insight, planning and strategy. 

PR professionals don’t have the time to learn and manage this type of work and the majority don’t have the right skill-set either. Plus, if we hired the skills in, it would take years to build a team to compete with the established, paid media professionals.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in paid for PR. 

The big opportunity

What the traditional paid teams lack is the ability to produce creative editorial content, truly understand the power in messaging and build relationships with influencers. These are the skills of PR professionals and those needed to make paid content seeding really work. 

There is a big opportunity for PR professionals to expand their service line to include paid seeding and fully integrate it with PR campaigns. 

With the right KPIs and measurable business impact there are sizeable budgets waiting for the teams able to deliver this.

Strategy will deliver business results

The way to achieve real business results is by setting clear KPIs and a well thought out strategy. Without strategic order to how we organise owned content, earn influencer recommendation, gain shares and run paid amplification we’re in danger of ending up with just a list of trendy tactics and no real business results. 

Introducing paid seeding and amplification to PR requires strong audience insight and strategic planning. We must use our skills in owned, earned, shared and soon to be paid to re-work the order in which we use the channels to build a strategy for business impact.

Based on my past experience of leading a team with PR, content, social and paid experience I found a winning approach that works in every industry, no matter what paid seeding tactics you’re using. 

The following three steps outline how to use a PESO framework in order to generate both short-term awareness and long-term business impact.

The PESO approach for PR #Step one. Start with owned content

Without engaging, creative content paid seeding just won’t work. Content must be at the heart of the strategy. It’s also important to drive any amplified interest and especially shares back to your client’s owned content. 

Although it can often be tempting to use micro-sites for PR campaigns for quick sign off, you won’t be harvesting any long-term business gain from temporary sites so build in the contingency time and use the existing resource. 

Google decides where to place content in search results by the amount of recommendation it has i.e. people talking about the content socially and editorial coverage linking to it. 

By adding your campaign content to your client’s main website, you will automatically pick up the strength of their established site which will in-turn increase your chances of visibility in Google. 

In addition, as your content is shared Google will see this as a recommendation of the whole site. It will, therefore, improve the whole of your client’s content visibility in search results - not just your PR campaign content. 

So, thousands of people are more likely to find your client on Google as a result of your PR campaign content.

#Step two: Amplify your owned content to encourage shares

Paying to amplify your content out to your target audience will get the campaign message out there quickly but more importantly it will kick-start natural sharing between peers on a mass scale and that will be a huge signal to Google. 

It doesn’t matter if we’ve originally paid to reach that audience, Google isn’t measuring that part. 

Google natural search factors kick into place once it can see the genuine, third-party earned recommendations and you are much more likely to generate this by reaching a relevant targeted audience through paid seeding. 

#Step three: Bring your earned  recommendation  back to owned content     

As well paid seeding, it is also essential to plan where your PR coverage will be directing readers. Links within coverage to your campaign content will not only provide a flow in a brand story, it will also be a golden gateway for Google. The search crawlers will be able to follow the link and recognise the content being recommended by trusted influencers and then read what it’s about.

The more trusted the journalist, blogger or social influencer is that you gain coverage with or who shares your content, the quicker Google will act. For example, if you gain coverage on the Guardian.co.uk and the journalist includes a link to your client’s website, that is a huge signal to Google that your client’s content should be seen. It will, therefore, adjust and move your client’s content within search results so more people see it and in the long term that leads to sales and other business metrics. 

Ultimately paid media presents a huge opportunity for the future PR team if it’s part of an integrated paid, owned, shared and earned model. That said, paid reach will always be limited if the campaign content isn’t creative and engaging. The good news these are areas PR professionals will always lead in and the opportunities are huge for those who grasp the nettle.


Stella Bayles is a SEO-PR specialist and is the author of a book called Public Relations’ Digital Resolution. Stella’s mix of experience has led to public relations technology and she is now a director at CoverageBook. com, a reporting automation tool.

Twitter: @stellabayles
Online: www.Coveragebook.com/Resolution