Make Google’s Latest Changes Your Secret Digital PR Weapon


Over 15 actionable tips for consumer and DTC brands

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What do Google, your PR, and affiliate networks have in common? They are the spine of your digital reputation. Consumer brands, especially DTC can no longer ignore the realities of how these once distinct digital tactics work together today.


Digital PR is real. And yet, so many PR professionals overlook the realities and intersection of Google and the media. Today’s PR isn’t really complete without Google considerations.

Many of the changes from Google are incredibly exciting for consumer brands. Those brands who understand the changes with more frequent earned media and better search results on owned and paid content like press releases will be rewarded with better search visibility and content stickiness.

Turn your PR into a revenue-generating machine with our actionable insights and tips that your competitors have probably overlooked.

From branded journalism to product reviews, and even press releases, Google’s changes and affiliate networks are essential considerations for any consumer brand that is trying to raise awareness online. These changes even impact your influencer campaigns.

Our easy-to-digest and insightful whitepaper is an at-a-glance resource every time you’re creating content for owned, paid, or earned media.

It doesn’t matter whether your interview is with the Wall Street Journal or a tiny vertical publication with a niche audience. You, the company representative, the thought leader, really do set the tone for the the interview. You control first impressions; you influence the tone and nature of the interview, and you set the stage for a fantastic interview or a deadly one. PR is like building a suit. There are 500 ways to screw it up. This post is part of a series on how to screw up PR. There are literally thousands of thing not to do in a media interview. So, let’s discuss 4 ways to screw up a media interview.

1. Be Unresponsive to the Interviewer’s Time

Journalists are under more pressure than ever today. The average journalist covers 4 beats, up 25% from last year, and 21% say layoffs or furloughs contribute to an increasing workload. More journalists are freelance, meaning they work for many publications and don’t get receive benefits, like paid time off, or even health insurance. From scheduling your time with a journalist to sending follow-up information like headshots, or company stats, journalists need you to do what you say you’ll do, and they need you to do it fast.

Many people think because so much content is digital, there are no deadlines. We indeed deal with PRINT deadlines less, but more than ever, there are deadlines. The pace of content creation that publishers and editors must keep up with necessitates deadlines.

So when you’re working with a journalist, it’s just good practice to be ultra helpful and responsive. Doing so might be the difference of getting in the story or not.

2. Treat the Press Like the Enemy

The press needs an angle, a story, something that people want to read. That’s what they really need. That every person in the press is out to get you, personally, is overblown. There are very specific circumstances where an investigative journalist

Now, that doesn’t mean you can drop your guard, it means you come to the table playing offense, not defense. Treat a media interview with the same level of professionalism you would treat an important meeting with an investor or a dream client, and you will probably be just fine.

A journalist is another human with a job to do. That’s all. Treat your interviewer like a human, and you will probably get the same professional courtesies back. Or you could screw up your media interview by treating them like the enemy and receive the same professional courtesies back.

3. Act Like the Journalist is Working for You

Let’s be clear: Aside from an accurate representation of your quotes and conversation, a journalist owes you nothing. They don’t owe you approval of the article; they don’t owe you a link to your website. They don’t owe you any. thing. They do not even owe you a retraction of an embarrassing statement. If you actually said it, you own it, don’t ask for a retraction or edit unless the quote is just wrong. This is not a paid placement, it’s not an ad. You do not have editorial control.

For example, during an occasion where we secured a magazine cover for the most prestigious cannabis industry magazine. The CEO went on a full-throated campaign to art direct the cover and the entire photo shoot, a photo shoot the magazine was paying for. He insisted on making the photographer come to his difficult-to-get-to home, for an outside location shoot even though outside shoots are harder on the photographer, and despite being told that studio shoots present better on magazine covers. The photo journalist was lovely and gracious and in touch with our team, but there was little we could do from a distance since the CEO declined to have a representative at the shoot.

When the publication came out, the cover disappointed the CEO. And I had to agree with him. It wasn’t the most flattering photo I’d ever seen. I’m sure there were better photos, but in a situation like this, the editor has full editorial control and I’m also sure the photojournalist had had enough with the prima donna he was throughout the entire process. So while the photojournalist was incredibly professional to our team and on-site, she felt completely disrespected and her work reflected her feelings.

When you’re working with photojournalists and journalists, be gracious. Take your cues from them. Make their jobs easier, not harder.

4. Be Unprepared

Remember the recommendation to treat your interview like you would a meeting with an investor? Would you go to an investor meeting unprepared? Of course not, so don’t screw up a media interview because you didn’t prepare.

Do your homework, because the journalist has. According to MuckRack’s State of Journalism, 77% of journalists say Twitter is their most valuable social platform, and LinkedIn is a distant second. Jump on Twitter and see what they’re talking about, and while you’re at it, take a sharp eye to your own Twitter and LinkedIn to make sure it’s your best self.

Read a few recent articles by the journalist and get a sense of their style and beats. As a bonus, you’ll also get a look at some of the other publications they write for and you may create interest in another angle for another publication.

What are your must airs? Decide ahead of time how you will answer the likely questions, and what’s most important for you to say what are your “must airs”? Also, decide in advance how you will handle the tough questions. Be purposeful, strategic, and planned.

Know your facts. You need to be able to cite the facts and the source, and you need to be confident when you do it. If you don’t have your facts straight, you will lose the confidence of the interviewer, or worse, the audience.

If you’re meeting is on Zoom, dress for the moment and make sure your lighting is on point. If you’ll be on TV, brush up on what does and doesn’t look good on TV.

A really great media interview is a skill, it takes practice. But you CAN have a successful interview if you simply give yourself the best chance by being empathetic to the journalist, respecting their job and being prepared.

When the economy is unpredictable, it’s difficult to plan. Yet, plan you must. Even when you love your PR and marketing agency, during these times, it’s tempting to cut marketing and PR budgets. I know both sides of this fence. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 75% of my career, including during 9/11, The Great Recession, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having witnessed the fallout from slashed budgets, I’ve learned that taking your foot off the gas doesn’t slow the engine. It kills it. You can’t eliminate marketing and increase sales. What you DO need to do is shift marketing strategies. These 4 ways to save on your agency budget will ensure you gain or maintain valuable market share while reducing marketing and PR agency fees

If you like your marketing or PR agency, keep them. You can negotiate with your existing agency and hiring a new agency has hidden costs.  Eliminating a well-oiled, top-rated agency will cost you productivity and results when you need it most. If things are going well, check out our advice from leading agency owners about reducing your agency budgets. If you’re hiring a new agency, these tips will help you get off to a great start and a budget that allows for growth while you work efficiently with your new agency.

 

1. Content: Make It Sticky

When times are good, brands with ambitious goals do whatever they can to get meaningful results faster. But if you’re reducing budgets, then you should focus on the things that last longer. As a colleague of mine once said, “I don’t know why everyone wants to go viral. I want my content to be cancer. I want it to stick around and be hard to get rid of.” This is the mindset to be in when you’re trying to reduce costs.

There are two types of media that stick around forever: owned media and earned media. Your owned media is any channel you control, where create 100% of the content, like your blog or your email marketing. Your earned media appears on channels you don’t control or create, think magazine articles, and (organic) reviews.

Blog posts and earned media are the super glue of sticky marketing and PR levers. Because they DO last so long, and they are customer-facing, these are excellent areas to focus your PR agency on. The ROI will pay dividends now and in the future. 

But longevity is only one benefit of this content, repurposing is another. For example, blog posts that are listicles are excellent SEO boosters, and you can use a listicle to generate many social media posts, same with an article that includes your product.

You want your stickiest content to be the best quality. If you’re reducing your budgets in other areas, now is not the time to hire an untested blogger referred to you by your nephew. Now is the time to focus your budget on doing what you do well. Very well.

Highly useful, sticky content is the most valuable and should be a budget priority.

2. Strategically Reduce the Scope

Chances are your agency is providing you with a suite of services. Instead of eliminating high-value output, focus your budget on those items to reduce your scope.

Take a deeper look at what your agency did this year that worked for you. How did they excel? While you’re asking yourself this question, think about it in the “Make it Sticky” content, but also in the areas where narrowing in on the scope would provide outsized value.

One way to secure high-value PR is product-driven PR and bringing thought leadership and awards programs in-house, or vice-versa. 

Another idea, instead of working with 15 different micro-influencers, you work with one on a strategic year-long campaign. Maybe your branding company could produce long-form content only and you can craft social media posts in-house.

Instead of a campaign every quarter, work with your agency to develop one exceptionally solid, well-thought-out campaign throughout the year and focus your efforts on making that campaign exceptional. This brings me to my final recommendation. 

Another area that can save you money is fewer meetings with your agency. While meetings are important, especially early in the relationship, this is one area that could drive some savings if you’ve been with your agency for a while. 

3. Plan Ahead

Nothing is more expensive than last-minute. If you’re reducing your budget, planning can save you a lot of money. For example, if you’re planning on a video shoot, secure your videographers and editors well in advance with a solid deposit and you’ll find it easier to negotiate the rate.

The same goes for your agency contract. Sign early regardless of whether it’s a new-to-you agency or one you’ve had for a while. Signing early gives you an edge in negotiation. If you like your agency and you will commit to a longer term, you’ll be able to command better rates, and even lock in “economic downturn” rates for two years.

Press releases can be purchased in bulk as well. So if you’re planning on several announcements, if you buy in advance, you can save thousands of dollars. 

4. Strategy: When They Zig, You Should Zag

To save money and get more bang for your buck, redefine your calendar. Shy away from the dates and times of the year when your competitor is most likely to do something, and instead select a campaign period when you can own the conversation.

Alternatively, re-thing your share of voice KPI. When dominance is your key strategy, you want to track it against your biggest aspirational competitors, but if simply staying present is your goal, track your share of voice against a competitor nipping at your heels, one who is your peer, and one who is aspirational. For your aspirational competitors, your strategy should be to cede some of your share of voice so you can squeeze in on your competitor’s territory. For your peers, you want to maintain equal, if not better, footing and for the one nipping at your heels, you want to own the conversation so they don’t squeeze in on yours.

5. Maximize Partnerships and Internal Initiatives

Now is a great time to double down on successful partnerships, or find new ways to align for new partnerships. Be creative in the ways you align, and you may be able to create a news worthy story just by creating a collaboration. Another way to maximize your budget is to turn your storytelling focus on highly valued stories the media is already writing about, like purpose-driven initiatives. These types of stories are much easier to get a lift on than the traditional “thought leadership” strategy that most of your competitors will flock to.

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

We’re just about to round the corner to a key consumer buying season: the fall. And about the only thing that’s certain is consumer uncertainty; but consumers aren’t giving up on conscious consumption. Nothing shows that more than the latest consumer trends from Google Searches. What do Google searches have to do with PR? Consumer media outlets keep a strong eye on consumer trends, and usually respond with seasonal content that matches the customer’s mood. Fitting into that season content is key to earning digitally savvy PR during the fall. There’s another important reason to get it right this fall: you’re likely to have a larger share of voice for any of your marketing efforts as some competitors will pull back, so if you’re not pulling back, or you’re jumping into the market now, it’s great timing because research shows that brands who stay with marketing during economic downturns, get ahead.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

It gives you insight into key themes you can use in your PR and marketing this year. While some of these facts seem contradictory, put these in context with what you’re seeing from your customers.

Searches for “specials this week” is up 60% year over year / Searches for “designer outlet” have grown 90% globally year over year

Keep in mind, that consumer spending remains strong, so this is about the consumer feeling the need to feel like they’re getting a deal. 31% of consumers say they are still rewarding themselves by buying things they want. Consumers haven’t stopped loving name brands, they’re just in need of a discount. They also want to feel their brand choices are premium choices.

Luxury and premium brands with strong brand affinity should lead to smaller, more affordable items for the masses, rather than discount the brand. Premium consumer brands can use this mindset with bonus gifts.

Align your brand with premium publishing outlets by getting an early start on your consumer PR and ad re-targeting. Have your programmatic and PR teams talk before they launch their respective campaigns.

Consumer brands should publish any kind of black Friday promotions well in advance, and use competitor pricing as a benchmark (25% less than a comparable brand), to anchor value.

Now is also the time to focus on loyalty for existing customers. Don’t make your customers search you out. Be there during the key buying triggers for your customers. If your customers tend to buy on Fridays, be there on Thursday with the bonus giveaway or loyalty reward.

Searches for “say no to plastic” have grown globally 200% year over year

Consumers want brands who want what they want. This new purpose-driven alignment applies to all consumer brands. Even if you can’t get around plastic packaging (yet), now is the time to celebrate your sustainability efforts. What’s comforting to consumers right now, more than anything is brands they can trust. So if you’ve been working hard on building consumer trust, now is the time for you to celebrate the efforts in a way that reinforces your consumer’s choices.

Consumers want personal content

87% of consumers said they want personal and relevant content. Keep this in mind with your email marketing and social media. Use your own data to ensure your delivering the right message to the right audience. Consumers want to see themselves in your content – by the way, editors know this trend too, so positioning your brand clearly allows editors to follow this content expectation too.

One of the most notable attributes of “relevant” content is content that is emotionally resonant. Your consumers want to know that you understand them. Note that during previous times of uncertainty, nostalgia and comfort messages surge. Very often, this means consumers would prefer to stay with their favored brands, but that favored brands need to continue to provide the experience customers have come to expect.

More than ever, having digitally savvy and data-informed PR, branding, and advertising will make a difference in your seasonal marketing. Now is the time to dig deep into your customer insights and give your agencies the information they need to supercharge their efforts this fall.

Widely accepted as one of the most powerful ways for consumer brands to increase awareness, public relations is also one of the most traditional and inflexible forms of marketing. Avaans Media aims to reinvent the paradigm with its new Sprint Packages.

Avaans Media, best known for its bespoke PR services, is announcing a competitively priced alternative for CPG and DTC brands. Sprint packages are available in limited quantities for each buying season.

“It’s all about ease for consumer brands,” said Avaans Media CEO and Founder Tara Coomans, and Entreprenuer.com contributor.

Most PR firms require long-term commitments, and according to Cision, 45% of brands increased their PR in 2021, Coomans attributes increased PR costs to the ease of entry into consumer products and the important role PR plays in SEO, along with the growing need of consumer brands to stand out in the minds of consumers.

Avaans Media’s Product PR Sprints break that rule with micro contracts and competitive pricing. Perfect for brands launching products, or in need of a competitive boost for a short period of time.

PR is more effective than branded content at all stages of the purchase funnel, generating 10-50 times that of advertising conversions, according to Nielson.

“These packages are the ultimate in flexibility for CPG and DTC brands, while still delivering highly valuable earned media in national brand consistent media outlets while keeping customer acquisition costs down,” said Coomans

“It’s a truly special offering, that’s why we’re limiting the availability of these packages,” she said.

Find out more about Avaans Media Product PR Sprints.

About Avaans Media
Originally founded by Tara Coomans in 2008 as a digital communications agency, today Avaans Media offers digitally savvy bespoke PR. From startup through IPO, Avaans Media clients include emerging industries like drones, robots, cannabis, and AI as well as highly ambitious consumer tech, CPG or DTC brands. Avaans Media successes, along with award-winning team members has allowed Avaans to become one of the top PR agencies in the country.