Great advertising can make a positive and indelible impact on your customers. But when compared to search engine optimization and public relations, does paid advertising achieve better results? The answer really depends on your time horizon, the caliber of your marketing creative, and your strategy. Let’s take a closer look at the positives and negatives of each approach and whether it could make sense to blend all three.
One of the advantages of paid advertising is that you have more control over the message and how it’s conveyed. You can hire an agency that really gets your demographic and has a proven ability to produce fantastic creative. You can influence where your ad is placed, what message it conveys, when and how often it appears, and for how long.
The downside associated with paid advertising is obviously the cost. The upside is that once you have paid this fee, you should see immediate results, in the form of increased volumes of traffic. The key word in that sentence is “should”. Buying advertising, or media placement, involves research, intuition, and clever negotiating tactics. You will tend to get better overall rates when overall spending is low by historical standards. Resist the urge to cut back on your ad budget during lean times; there’s a strong case for increasing your budget during the down cycle.
An SEO campaign entails regularly generating content that will be interesting and relevant to your target. If you are creating content that is of high caliber, and using the keywords and phrases that your customers will use when searching, your site visits may increase if the search engines have properly indexed your site. Sometimes it can take months, however, before you see positive results. In most cases, SEO campaigns are long-term and require a patient hand. Be wary of firms that guarantee results or promise spectacular achievements with Google. The truth is, they may do more harm than good. Focus on producing original content that your customers will find useful and edifying to read. And don’t forget to include useful and appealing graphics that help reinforce the point. Your customers want to enjoy their web experience with instructive and entertaining information; don’t piss them off with shoddy content.
A third option is public relations. A skilled public relations specialist can help you develop the brand and image for your company and generate extra publicity. Their services can help guide and shape your reputation regarding the mission and quality of your products and services. A PR professional leverages their contact with the editors and reviewers to help you get positive exposure in the form of reviews, interviews, or news updates.
As an editor, I quickly formed impressions of the different PR professionals who contacted me. A skilled PR professional usually demonstrated the following skills:
- They understood and read my publication and knew implicitly whether their client would make a good fit.
- They often possessed a background in journalism.
- They were charming, polite, patient and professional.
- They provide well-written press releases, professional images, and useful contacts that may come in handy during the review process and they track these folks down when there’s a looming deadline.
- It’s okay to ask when the review will appear but never ask to see the review before it appears in print. This will almost never happen. What you can do is make sure that the reviewer was able to reach the appropriate contact person within your company and that there are no questions left unanswered or issues unaddressed.
Having such a media contact for your company will reflect positively on you and increase the chances of getting frequent and positive mention in the trades and publications.
If you get a bad review, a good PR professional and find out why and maybe get a retraction printed. Remember that a bad review may have little to do with your product and a lot more to do with the reviewer’s mood at the time. They will contact the publication and make sure that your side will get heard. Hopefully, they will reconsider their opinion.
Consider blending all three options if you can in the form of a coordinated campaign. Advertising, SEO, and public relations have intrinsic strengths that balance each other as long as you maintain a consistent theme or message and a reasonable level of cultural sensitivity.