by Scott Meis
September 22nd, 2014

Let’s paint a familiar scenario…you’re about to launch your next product, host an enormous event, rebrand your company or otherwise gear up for a major announcement. You’ve hired a PR firm to help drive media relations outreach to land stories that will help propel audience exposure and provide critical third party credibility.

The problem? Content overload and assumed engagement.

We are all well aware of the speed at which media outlets rotate home page and subsection lead stories to meet the demands of today’s 24-hour news cycle. Why is this an issue? That great story that took forever to land is only going to receive organic exposure for a very short period of time.

Furthermore, while media outlets provide estimates around impressions, they don’t provide brands or agencies with detailed data and analytics (yes, it remains a grand wish) around the stories they publish. While inbound referral traffic measured through Google Analytics or social signals (give BuzzSumo a whirl) can provide a slice of insight into story engagement, there remains a lack of insight based on unique views, time on story, scroll depth and other measures that can be analysed when a story is published on your brand’s owned properties.

Enter paid media.

Content discovery tools such as Outbrain and Taboola as well as social advertising can serve as a critical bridge to amplify your story AND gain valuable engagement insights. For a communications or PR lead for a brand or organization, this may all seem counter-intuitive – “why would we use budget for paid media when we’re already using media relations to get our message out?”

Great question. Here are four significant reasons you would want to support your media relations efforts with paid media:

Maximise the Lifespan of an Earned Media Hit

As previously noted, news stories cycle out fast. Content discovery tools and promotion on social channels can keep fueling traffic to your story for days, weeks, months beyond the day the story publishes.

Maximise an Owned Story from Your Earned Media Hit

Smart marketers are using their company or organization’s blog to publish and promote a variation of an earned media hit to maximise exposure to their target audience. Paid media can be used to also point traffic to this story whereby rich data and insights can be gathered via Google Analytics. Furthermore, top level comparisons around impressions, cost-per-click and click-through rate can then be made to see which channels and ad creative are most effective in driving to the media outlet’s story or your owned story, ultimately helping optimize your paid media spend in real-time.

Retarget to Your Audience

Retargeting is becoming more and more of a powerful tactic each day. Twitter and LinkedIn have both entered the retargeting game. Taboola is now offering retargeting (Outbrain sure to follow soon) and we know paid search retargeting has always been in the game.

Point being that retargeting now enables you to use paid media to place your hard-earned media hit directly in front of your target audience as well as look-a-like audiences that reflect the same characteristics as your target audience.

Use Data and Analytics to Shift Strategy

The insights and analytics you can gather based on driving traffic to a story on your owned property as well as to an earned media hit can help determine actual engagement and resonance with your audience. It may lead you to tweak how you tell a story on your own blog or shift and optimise more of your paid spend behind a certain headline that’s driving strong results in Outbrain, for example. Data will help inform your decision making and justification around shifts in story angles ahead for future media outreach.

While the paid media space continues to shift at a rapid pace, the implications and effectiveness for accelerating media relations efforts are already very apparent. It’s time to start taking advantage to maximise third party credibility.

Scott Meis is senior vice president, Digital Content Strategy for Weber Shandwick Seattle

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