When your business is in the news or getting attention online, it’s an opportunity for PPC teams.
If the publicity is good, you can use your Google Ads program to capitalize on it.
If the publicity is bad, you can use your Google Ads program to respond and potentially mitigate the impact.
What kind of publicity are we talking about? It could be:
- A hate-based group is organizing on your university campus.
- Your CEO makes off-handed, controversial remarks.
- A powerful influencer gives your product a glowing review.
- A celebrity shares their personal experience with a health issue your charity supports.
Whenever this type of publicity arises, having the number one ad spot on Google helps you:
- Capitalize on the positive attention
- Respond directly to the negative coverage.
But this is easier said than done. So I also checked in with our PR expert, Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations, to get her perspective and ideas.
How to get ahead of publicity
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a PR department, consultant or agency that monitors the media and online spaces for conversations about your company.
But if you don’t (and even if you do), it’s always a good idea to have Google Alerts set up for your company name, the names of your leadership team, and other important industry and branded terms.
Garrett suggests another tactic: set up a free Talkwalker alert, which may help catch mentions that Google Alerts misses.
These steps might seem outside the realm of responsibility for paid search advertising teams, but they’re simple and easy to do. And in the past, we’ve caught publicity issues with Google Alerts that PR teams have missed.
A huge spike in traffic on branded search terms is another major clue that your business is in the news or a topic of discussion online.
This happened with the CEO of one of our clients. We saw a huge spike in traffic for the business’s brand name that we couldn’t explain.
We asked the client about it, and they told us about the CEO’s unfortunate remarks. We worked together to develop a new plan for their branded ads and sitelinks to communicate the company’s response to the situation.
And sometimes, another team will come to you when they see something going viral. They may ask you to crank out a couple of campaigns or ads to dominate the SERPs if something is getting traction online or in the news. (Murphy’s Law: It’s usually at 5 p.m. on a Friday.)
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3 challenges of managing PR with PPC
While paid search advertising is a great tool for managing PR crises and opportunities, it also comes with unique challenges.
But you can overcome most of these challenges if you plan for them.
1. You need to respond quickly
Publicity can evaporate in an instant. You have to act fast.
That means you might not (and probably won’t) have everything just perfect before you respond. So, for example, you might update your ad messaging but not have the best landing pages in place.
Until you do, you may have to send traffic to your home page (for positive publicity) or a press release (for negative publicity).
The idea is to respond ASAP and then work to finesse what you have. So while you might use your home page as a temporary landing page, try to get a custom landing page up as quickly as possible.
The problem of getting all the pieces in place as soon as possible isn’t as easily solved as you might think.
Even if you and your PPC team are on the ball and ready to respond on a Friday at 5 p.m., that doesn’t mean every other team involved will be.
And whether it’s a crisis or an opportunity, you can’t draft messaging in a vacuum. You’re going to need to plan and collaborate. And that takes time.
The key to responding quickly is to plan for public relations crises in advance, Garrett said.
Make sure your plan includes a “holding” statement (a prepared, fill-in-the-blanks type statement) that you can quickly issue to buy your team more time – because every minute counts when you need to respond to a situation that’s unraveling quickly.
Your plan should also include:
- A list of your internal crisis team members.
- Which audiences you need to notify (this will vary depending on the nature of the crisis).
- How to track any media inquiries that come in.
We should also revisit this plan occasionally to keep it up to date.
Having this plan in place helps you rest easier. It’s like having insurance – it’s always there, just in case. Sage advice from Garrett!
2. You need to respond with sensitivity (i.e., don’t be a jerk)
As hinted above, unplanned publicity can come with complex issues. If you’re not careful, you can come off looking like a jerk and make everything worse.
Again, you must consult with other departments, especially PR, as you navigate these waters.
Garrett also reminds us to pull in legal counsel. They can work with PR to ensure any comments made to address the crisis won’t put the company in legal jeopardy.
For example, in the case of the CEO who made offensive comments, downplaying what the CEO said could easily backfire. That’s why we worked carefully with that company’s PR department to craft a response. This shouldn’t live with your PPC team alone.
As a PR expert that’s lived through more than a few crises, Garrett notes that the winning formula involves:
- Taking responsibility for your actions.
- Apologizing genuinely.
- Moving on with actions that illustrate you’re trying to do better.
3. You need a longer-term plan
While publicity can happen quickly, the impact (and opportunities) can be long-lasting.
After the kerfuffle dies down, consider whether you need additional content or if it would be valuable.
If a celebrity comes forward with their personal experience of a health issue, you might consider creating more content around the celebrity and the topic. Perhaps the PR team could land an interview with the celebrity, then you could use that interview in your advertising to help spread their message.
You could even use that article as a landing page if the celebrity speaks out about the issue to the media again.
In the case of bad publicity, you should continue to monitor the situation, even after everyone else has forgotten about it. (And people will eventually forget and move on, Garrett reassures us. Which is nice to know when you’re in a crisis.)
But until then, watch keyword trending for search ads and site placements for video and display ads to see if the issue rises again.
Not everyone thinks of PPC as a way to respond to PR opportunities and crises, but it’s a valuable tool.
Having your search ad at the top of search results pages – with a link to your messaging on the topic of discussion – is a great means of distributing your unfiltered message.
It’s not always easy to do. But when unexpected publicity hits, it’s well worth the effort.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.