In today’s real-time brand management world, separate teams often control strategy and channel tactics for SEO, PPC, public relations, online reputation management and social media. In many cases, however, out-of-box thinking and creative silo-breaking to cross traditional boundaries can yield sweet marketing fruit.
Today I’m going to explore the systematic use of paid channels like AdWords and Facebook ads as channels for intervening in quickly moving public relations incidents. Ads can play an important role as powerful tools for supporting the usual tactics of social media and reputation monitoring/management campaigns. I’ll cite real-world transient PPC mashup scenarios for your own brainstorming.
What is a transient public relations event?
Positive and negative short-lived incidents come at businesses in waves, and often require a marketer’s fast attention. Sometimes they’re planned and other times not. Examples include:
- The New York Times features your brand on the front page Sunday morning.
- Your construction project will block a major city street and the public needs information.
- A brand’s rockstar sports-icon spokesperson gets busted for driving under the influence.
- A Mayo clinic researcher announces a breakthrough in the effort to cure breast cancer.
- You just opened a new manufacturing facility, gainfully employing dozens of local citizens with good jobs.
- Your CEO was just invited to a business lunch at the White House.
- The local university’s women’s hockey team just won the NCAA national championship.
- Any event, either abrupt or planned, that falls under the seven classic nodes of public relations.
Just like classic works of literature, these examples of transient public relations events have beginnings, middles and ends. When these pre-scheduled or accidental ephemeral happenings rear their pretty (or ugly) little heads, we must deal with them, maximizing potential benefits and/or minimizing real damage.
When it comes to transient PPC, we start by boiling things down to straight business objectives by asking the following questions about the episode at hand:
- How does the event affect the public’s perception, aligned with or contrary to our brand’s business objectives?
- Is rapid communication required to serve our customers, dispel misunderstandings, celebrate a victory, diffuse anger, communicate crucial information, stake out positioning to preempt an expected response or reap the benefits of something wonderful? In other words does the transient event warrant a response, to our advantage or defense?
- Would instant keyword domination in search engine results (SERPs) by PPC, in Bing, Yahoo and Google, give an edge in propagating our brand’s message? Is PPC appropriate in this instance and can it be executed tastefully to the brand’s advantage?
- If so, what is the appropriate keyword grid? Should the PPC net be cast further than direct brand name searches?
- Where should the traffic go? There are those who believe that PPC traffic should always point to a brand’s website landing page. Sometimes, though, the best path to branding efforts is to vector traffic to public social media profiles, independent publishers, federal agencies, news stories, press releases or other reputable third-party sites that offer independent opinions or validation.
- Would a Facebook ad be tactically useful and fitting? With over 300 million users, certain constituencies are readily accessible to the savvy marketer’s guile via Facebook advertisements.
Implementing a successful transient PPC campaign
Responsible run-and-gun PPC starts with an open mind and pre-planning. Scheduled events, like the corporate charity ball, product release or new vice presidential hire are theoretically easy. Break down traditional big brand barriers and encourage PR, marketing, advertising and event planning stakeholders to organize PPC support ahead of time.
PPC support of “events of the unplanned kind” can originate as part of the normal reputation-monitoring report and react grid. As a general rule, keywords that alert the online reputation management team about positive or negative situations are reasonable candidates for PPC targeting. It’s normal for brands to judge a suitable response to evolving situations.
Here are a few examples of transient events that could warrant a PR response. I’ll break each possible PPC campaign down by trigger event, keyword grid, goal, alternate goal, message, alternate message, destination URL geo-targeting and run length.
Example #1 – Trigger event (unplanned): Mid-authority blogger writes a complimentary article about a brand’s products and links to lead generation page.
- Keyword grid: Branded terms, category keywords.
- Goal: Send quiet traffic to reward blogs that support the brand. Garner good will in blog community. Delight bloggers who probably watch analytics and monitor their reputation.
- Alternate goal: Drive secondary traffic from blog post we’re supporting, back to our lead generation page.
- Message: “Introducing the [blogName] blog.”
- Alternate message: Use of the brand name.
- Geotargeting: National.
- Run length: One week, with a goal of diverting 30% of our normal direct brand searches to this blog.
Example #2 – Trigger event (planned): Brand’s parent company is hiring 45 new full time employees in a community of 65,000 and plans to build a new factory.
- Keyword grid: Branded terms, name of city, city services, HR recruitment searches for factory’s skill set.
- Goal: Brand quality of life and company commitment to community, visitors, locals and potential employees.
- Alternate goal: Raise awareness of brand/company to locals plugged in enough to seek out city services by internet search.
- Message: “[Brand], Proud to be a member of our community.”
- Alternate message: “We’re hiring.”
- Geotargeting: Statewide.
- Run length: One month – two weeks prior to factory opening and two weeks afterward.
Example #3 – Trigger event (unplanned): Brand product results in a child’s death and a product recall.
- Keyword grid: Branded terms, “child’s name,” [cause of death]
- Goal: Reassure the public, clarify what products are affected, and provide vital information for safety.
- Alternate goal: Links for SEO, with a plan for diffusing unflattering keywords from news and other high authority sites.
- Message: Disseminate straight-up information.
- Alternate message: “[Brand] cares and operates in the interest public’s safety first.”
- Geotargeting: Statewide.
- Run length: Indefinite as defined by daily SERPs testing, analytics, buzz, etc.
Example #4 – Trigger event (unplanned): The New York Times features your brand on its front page Sunday morning.
- Keyword grid: Branded terms, keywords customers use to vet the featured product (e.g “[product] review” and “[product] information.”
- Goal: Brand the product/company as worthy of such acclaim, to folks searching specifically for the brand.
- Alternate goal: Secondary traffic.
- Message: “Check out [brand] [product] in yesterday’s New York Times.”
- Alternate message: “[Brand] is notable, legitimate and mainstream.”
- Geotargeting: National.
- Run length: 1-3 weeks.
Paid search campaigns can be a valuable weapon for influencing perception with transient events, which traditionally are associated with public relations. Though not always appropriate, instant prominence via paid listings in SERPs can be a useful arrow in the marketing quiver. To be successful with such campaigns, it’s important to communicate clearly with other departments and pre-plan goals and tactics.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.