Mike Connell

The Big Question: What Are Your Biggest Paid Media Challenges?

By: Mike Connell | September 21, 2018 | 
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paid media challengesWe recently aired a podcast on Getting the Most Out of Paid Media (Episode 16!).

Gini Dietrich also wrote an article on how communicators can/should use paid media.

And while we discuss paid tactics a lot, many people on the outskirts of our industry have a Mad Men-like vision of what modern day advertising looks like.

The reality?

It’s pretty simple: “Paid” media tactics are about finding and reaching your desired audience, and driving results.

Who wouldn’t want to focus on that?

That said, many communicators, whether they style themselves as PR practitioners, marketers, or content strategists, don’t consider the paid tactics in the PESO model as part of their practice.

They likely understand how important or impactful paid media can be, but it seems daunting and difficult to test.

Sound familiar?

Are paid tactics a part of your communications toolkit? Do you want them to be?

This week’s Big Question digs into paid media a little deeper:

What are you biggest paid media challenges? 

Alternatively, how have you embraced paid media in your communications practice, and what lessons would you share for others trying to test the waters?

Paid Media Challenges: The Platform

Many (most) of our respondents indicated that paid media was a part of their overall communications plan, noting that their challenge was less about the use itself, and more about channel choice.

From Ryder Meehan:

From Facebook post boosting to sponsored content and Google Adwords, many of the best placements are paid and a big part of our clients’ communication’s plan.

The biggest challenges are determining the right platforms, targeted messages and audiences to reach now that you know you’ll have to invest to do so.

I’ve found the best approach is to begin with small but targeted experiments.

I’ll begin by creating a list of the platforms I feel most likely to succeed as well as a few audiences and messages I feel strongly about, then I rank the ideas.

Finally, I’ll run the top-ranked idea first, it it works I keep it, if not I move down the list.

A few channels almost always make sense though such as remarketing ads and high-intent keyword Adwords campaigns.

Paid Media Challenges: The Audience

Similarly, while Liam Cannon doesn’t grapple specifically with channel choice, he does emphasize the challenge of knowing where your audience is.

When it comes to paid media, a major challenge is being able to have a predictive and scalable lead flow from each source, along with the right quality of lead.

The critical issue that impacts this is ensuring you are putting your message in front of the right audience in the first place.

Marketers have to research and understand the following three questions before investing in paid media:

1. Who is my exact target audience?
2. Where does my audience consume media?
3. What is their intent when they are here?

With social and programmatic platforms you are putting the message in front of them and hoping your message/offer is so compelling that it makes them stop what they are doing and engage with your message.

With search campaigns, trade shows and webinars they are already showing intent towards the topic, but these consume a lot more of your media budget.

Every marketer has to take each paid media tactic individually and put strategies in place for said platform.

If you are just starting out with paid media I would suggest not trying to cover every single avenue, even if you have the budget to do so.

From there, focus on a mixture of two-thirds that you think will work best.

There also has to be specific Key Performance Indicators laid out before launch.

Is the campaign solely for brand awareness? Or is it to produce paying customers? What will the results have to be in order for these paid media campaigns to be a success?

A huge lesson that we learnt this year was that putting more money into paid media doesn’t give you better results.

Focusing on nailing down your Ideal Customer Persona and from there understanding where and how they consume media is essential.

This will mould your strategy and help you know what mix will work best for you.

Paid Media Challenges: Education

For Rafe Gomez, the biggest challenge across all media channels is dealing with clients who don’t fully understand that no one tactic is the answer.

When interacting with new or prospective clients who have no familiarity with earned media and have only sought to build sales via paid media tactics (specifically, Google/Facebook/Twitter ads), some education is involved.

Frequently, the info that I share is revelatory and surprising, and these folks realize their actions lack strategy.

I explain that paid media is not the answer, it’s an answer.

It’s not the secret bullet that will magically (and often doesn’t) cause sales to explode.

I also point out that if paid media is the vehicle that all of their competitors are using to ramp up their sales, how then can any one company’s message cut through when the terrain is so crowded and noisy?

Another revelation that drops the science is that—unlike earned media—paid media doesn’t get shared, liked, printed, forwarded, or pinned.

In fact, it’s frequently forgotten or overlooked by prospects.

Also, while paid media can generate sales via clickthroughs if the ad is offer-driven, if there’s no offer involved, the paid media investment will yield disappointing ROI.

These learnings hit hard, and they help to put the value, potential, and limitations of paid media in perspective.

Paid Media Challenges: Trust and Buy-in

Alongside the educational challenges comes the issue of trust.

If your client(s) don’t fully understand paid media, it’s hard for them to trust you with the spend you’re asking for.

As a result, getting buy-in is one of Deirdre Lopian‘s biggest paid media challenges.

It’s not only about getting the client’s buy-in but also their trust to handle campaigns.

They often expect next day results (regardless of how you much educate them).

Additionally, hoping they approve proposed budgets for campaigns is another issue.

Brands know they need digital marketing (I’m putting social media channel creation and paid social ads in here too) but they truly don’t understand it.

There is a difference between posting pictures on social media and actually creating a strategy that aligns with business goals to garner results.

It is a saturated market, where most of us who aren’t mega digital media houses, are up against the father’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s former roommate who knows a kid who “posts pictures on the internet” for 85 percent less than what an actual digital marketer charges to build a strategy to produce long-term revenue for client.

Paid Media Challenges: Budget

From Jill Manty:

Our main work with paid media has been AdWords and Bing paid search.

The biggest challenge is getting enough budget allocated.

Some clients want to say, “Well, why can’t I just budget $300/month? When I’m out of clicks, I’m out of clicks.”

But that’s not the way it works. If you’re out of clicks by 10 am, then we may not have enough information to better optimize your campaigns.

You really do need enough budget to properly run the campaigns.

The second issue is getting clients to NOT take calls from Google helpfully telling them how to optimize their account.

And especially not actually following Google’s recommendations. Google is not in it for the business owner; they’re in it to make more money.

I don’t know why this is so hard to understand.

Paid Media Includes Influencers!

Interestingly, Matt Maxey didn’t think of the more traditional paid media tactics when he first read the question…

You said “paid media” and my mind went immediately to paid influencer stories.

Seeing other responses about SEO and AdWords didn’t even come to mind as a question. We consider those as essential as making sure the copy machine has paper in it.

On the “influencer paid media” side, the biggest challenge is making sure you have the right fit for goals.

Being in travel, there are thousands of people willing to put pictures on their Instagram accounts for a free night in a hotel, but the ROI on that is, well, crap really.

We use a deep vetting process to weed out the free night seekers and find people rooted in a journalistic background (meaning they have a successful blog or contribute regularly to reputable outlets).

We bring them in to experience our destination on our dime, but leave all editorial control to them.

The end result is a print or online story that:

A.) comes from a neutral third party saying [hopefully] positive things about us,

B) gives us quality content we can re-share from our end, and,

C.) provides additional quality coverage for all the partners we represent and gives all of them additional content to share.

Our biggest challenge on this was getting buy-in from all the partners involved.

But once it was laid out for them, and once they saw it work, we’ve not only seen our partners embrace it, but some are doing the same on their end too.

A prime example of that strategy is a story that recently came out about Franklin, Tennessee.

The Paid Media Secret Sauce

The ubiquitous Christopher Penn closes out this week’s Big Question (again) by letting us in on his paid media secret(s):

We LOVE paid media.

We’re Google Ads (formerly AdWords) certified, and we have ad programs with Google, the social networks, and display/retargeting advertisers like StackAdapt.

Paid media is essential for lead generation for us as a business, and for clients secondarily.

The secret sauce for us is in the retargeting side of things.

Paid media gives you access to non-identified contacts.

Someone visits your website but doesn’t fill out a form? Retarget them!

Somebody likes your Facebook Page, but you don’t have the right to email them? Retarget them!

New LinkedIn connection? Under no circumstances should you spam them, but retarget the daylights out of them!

The catch is that you need to have something attention-getting to earn that first click.

Search, social, PR, whatever it takes to get the eyeballs in the first place.

Our favorite trick is publishing some ungated content that’s attractive, and then tagging that for retargeting so we can hit up the audience later.

The same rule applies to paid as it does to PR: you can’t shill crap.

PR and paid both fail miserably if you don’t have content/offers that are relevant, timely, targeted, and valuable.

The Next Big Question: Trust

We talk a lot about trust. We’ve written about client trust and how to build it, and we recently published an article about what trust means, especially when “fake news” is a thing.

The latter referenced a great Warren Buffett quotation:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

So, we thought we would put that very question to our Spin Sucks Community.

When it comes to trust, what are you going to do differently?

Has trust come up at all in your own business? With any of your clients? What have you done, and what would you do differently going forward?

You can answer here, in our free Spin Sucks Community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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