I believe the best people for running a search engine marketing campaign are those with a bent toward public relations. This may be a bold statement, but one that I’ve felt to be true for more than ten years.
Of course, until about five years ago, this statement would have been considered biased, as I worked in the public relations field exclusively, running natural and paid search campaigns for clients who had signed on for a public relations campaign.
However, since then, I’ve been with interactive agencies and specialty search shops. I left the PR world simply because I thought public relations professionals were too slow to realize the gold mine of knowledge they possessed could best be used in running search campaigns (We’re in PR, we don’t do math or buy media!). But I still believe, of all disciplines, public relations professionals are best prepared to handle natural and paid search campaigns.
PR Pros and Natural Search
Even though this column is about paid search, I want to explain very quickly why PR people should be good at natural search. At its heart, natural search is about creating great content and procuring links from quality sites. A PR pro’s job is to create great content and obtain great coverage in targeted, quality media. Notice any similarities? I could go into more, but for today, I’ll save my column space for talking about PR professionals and paid search.
PR Pros and Paid Search
Obviously, there are many different types of paid search campaigns, including lead generation, e-commerce, branding, and others. PR pros are better equipped at handling what I call the “soft” campaigns – or lead generation and branding campaigns. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do the e-commerce campaigns that require more of a direct selling approach. After all, who knows how to write a product description better than a seasoned public relations writer?
Recently, we’ve been pushing more and more of our clients into hard-core contextual products. The increased transparency in contextual campaigns currently allowed by the major search engines has made our job both harder and easier at the same time. The job is harder because we have to spend much more time evaluating potential publishers that will run our ads. Easier because we now have more ability to control where our ads appear and thus have a greater potential to achieve unprecedented success.
The skill set of a public relations pro, particularly in evaluating media opportunities, is ideal for establishing a successful contextual advertising campaign. While traditional media buyers are adept at this as well, they aren’t as adept at knowing the types of messages that trigger response based on specific contextual cues. For example, there are a lot of stories out right now about “girls gone wild” with Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and whatnot heading to the pokey for inebriated indiscretions not fit for this column. The audience for this type of gossip is one of the biggest on the Web. How do you grab that audience with a small text ad on the page and get your message across to those readers? A PR pro would know in a minute.
And landing pages? Aren’t these the bread and butter of the public relations professional? PR pros have been putting the best face forward for thousands of companies for years. They have helped many companies get their message out via brochures and handouts. Channeling that knowledge into a successful landing page program does require some re-thinking and out-of-the-box creativity, but no one knows the product and audience better than its communications professionals. They should be in charge of making sure the landing page is on track with the rest of the branding and messaging and making sure it converts.
Finally, the crisis communications and reputation management side of public relations needs to wake up and understand that they can have instant messaging support for any issue that needs to be addressed in the search engines, which is where the majority of journalists and the consuming public find their information. Product recalls, corporate scandals, disasters, etc. can all be addressed in minutes via a text ad on the major search engines. There is no faster way to disseminate information to those who are looking for it. As a crisis communication professional, this is a secret I’ve used countless times to get the word out quickly. Why more folks don’t use it is beyond me.
If you are a public relations professional not utilizing paid search, I’d like to hear your reasoning for staying out of the PPC pool. Let’s get a discussion started on this topic, and in a future column, I’ll address any concerns PR pros have about participating in “The Search.”