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A PR Crisis Needs Paid Search

What did you do the last time your brand was in the middle of a PR crisis? As a digital marketer, there’s an amazing chance you simply added some negative keywords and crossed your fingers that whatever public relations firm your client worked with took care of the problem before your KPIs went down the drain.  However, this approach eliminates the opportunity for SEM to be a major asset to clients.

So, what can you do? It could be tempting to put your head down and wait until it all blows over, but at iProspect, we have another idea: embrace it. People will search for a company in trouble no matter what, and if you have the opportunity to have some sort of say over the information they’ll receive on the SERP, why not take it? It might seem intimidating to combine public relations and paid search, but keeping the following suggestions in mind could make all the difference for your brand.

Find the problem, don’t let it find you

If you don’t proactively seek out information about the brands you manage, you could be unprepared for a media firestorm and cause your paid search performance to plummet. One of the easiest ways to stay in the loop is to set up Google alerts. However, there could be problems with how your brand is perceived that haven’t been reported on yet. To find out if this is the case, you can regularly pull an SQR to monitor if certain damaging search queries continue to populate your ads. Perhaps the most effective strategy of all, though, is to reach out to those with internal information who can fill you in when problems arise before the public or the press ever catch word.

Consider what reputation management strategy will work best for you

Reputation management is far from a one size fits all concept, so to create proper complimentary paid search strategies, you need to take into account the resources available to your brand. From there, you can choose from one of these three strategies we’ve found success with to build you campaigns around:

  • Go on defense. It’s inevitable that people will search to find out why you’re in the news, so it’s a great idea to play some defense. One of our clients had a long-standing issue with their business model’s credibility, and as the problem wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, iProspect opted to build campaigns that embraced these perceptions. Creating keywords based on unfavorable terms, we wrote ad copy referencing the problem directly, and sent users to a landing page that provided a rebuttal. The end result was priceless — increased control over messages circulating amongst people specifically seeking negative information. A defensive strategy is best suited for brands that are able to quickly generate new content addressing a crisis. They’ll also have to be able to withstand spending on a campaign that won’t have a large return — because even though defensive strategies improve onsite engagement, these do not tend to generate the KPIs usually necessary to directly drive revenue.
  • Go on offense. You can reinstate brand confidence by responding to a crisis with positive messages — or to truly go on the offense, you could get these messages circulating before any negative press even hits. iProspect has done this to bolster existing branded campaigns, which tend to receive increased traffic once chaos strikes. When a client had issues with a product, we wanted to make consumers feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about the brand again. To do this, we created affirming ad copy and ad extensions. Additionally, we sent users to positive and instructive landing pages about the brand, such as the value proposition and FAQ pages. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the SERP, either. Display and email ads could also be a great way to lessen the blow of a PR crisis, as consumers will have already been exposed to these positive messages before they ever Google a thing. An offensive strategy works well for brands that aren’t quite capable of creating defensive content in a timely matter, but still have the branded material and the resources to put into campaigns that, again, will probably not result in direct revenue-driving KPIs.
  • Just avoid it. This is perhaps counterintuitive to suggest after telling you not to be afraid to lean into bad press, but sometimes, this truly is the only option available. If a brand doesn’t have any defensive or offensive content available and will not be able to generate any at the peak of a negative press storm, it’s in your best interest to set up negative keywords that prevent your ads from being associated with disadvantageous search results. While it might not be the most proactive reputation management strategy, we’ve found this can at least ensure branded campaign performance doesn’t rapidly decline.

Work closely with all channels towards one goal

Whether you decide to go on offense, to go on defense, or to get out of the game entirely, you have to make sure you’re consistent with all aspects of your brand. When creating the previously mentioned defensive digital marketing strategies, it was a difficult sell to our client’s public relations agency that these tactics didn’t actually overlap their primary responsibilities. The truth is, the only overlap that should actually occur are the outcomes targeted. The processes will vary greatly between PR and paid search, but the end goal never should. For this reason, it’s important to get everyone on board right away so you all know what you’re working towards — and reiterate that no one is trying to step on any toes — early on.

The bottom line…

Reputation management isn’t easy, and it’s never finished. However, being proactive, realistic, and collaborative in your approach to it can make all the difference into whether or not your brand comes out of a crisis on top.