How PR Agencies Can Use Paid Media to Scale in 2022


Nick Cowling, Paid Media Director, Three Whiskey

As a PR professional, earned media is your forte. But the power of digital marketing strategies like paid media can’t be denied, whether for clients or for your own agency.

If you want to scale your PR agency in today’s digital-first world, it may be time to consider incorporating paid media into your agency’s digital marketing strategy.

Here are a few steps growth-minded PR agencies need to take when exploring paid media.

Define your objectives

When it comes to paid media, it’s critical to have key metrics in mind before you get started. There should be a clear objective that is achievable through paid media with specific KPIs to aim toward. If you need to get buy-in, be ready to provide forecasts upfront of what you feel can be achieved from these channels and determine the budget that will be allocated to the campaign. 

To ensure you’re using the right KPIs to measure your campaign’s success, you need to determine exactly which paid media channels you plan to use. 

Establish the channels 

The two options to choose from for paid media are search and social. 

But you don’t need to choose between one over the other. Instead, you could explore a mix of both channels if it aligns with your agency’s digital marketing goals. 

Paid social is useful in order to drive wide reach and awareness about your brand, while paid search can be used to drive leads around your services. Both should have a place in your digital marketing budget. 

One factor to consider when allocating the budget for each is campaign timings. For example, more weight could be given to awareness at the start of the campaign, then focus more on conversion toward the end once users have moved through the funnel. The most important thing to keep in mind once the campaign is live is performance against KPIs and objectives.

Launching the campaign

When it’s time to execute your paid media campaign, spend time developing strong creative assets and copy that is relevant, impactful, and understands the social location of the targeting.

One source of inspiration to look to when creating your paid media ads? Your competition.

Search for the keywords, terms, or industries you’re targeting in paid media results, you’ll see who else is running ads. Review your competitor’s ads and ask yourself what you can do differently to stand apart in the market.

Before launching, keep in mind the best practices for each ad platform; for paid search, it’s Google and for paid social, it’s Facebook. 

Analyze at every level 

When it comes to paid media, optimization, management, and reporting are key to understanding what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. Take a look at both the macro successes and micro influences when analyzing the overall performance. 

The channel selection has a huge impact on the results as opting for the wrong channel can skew your performance. For example, you shouldn’t rely on display ads to drive all your conversions.

Budget breakdown 

If you’re just getting started with paid media, here’s our recommended breakdown. While these are common digital marketing channels, you’ll still need to take into account the context of the strategy and the goals applicable to each campaign.

  • Search: 40%
  • Display: 10%
  • Social: 25%
  • Remarketing: 15%
  • Instream: 10%

You don’t need to become a paid media pro, but by following these steps, you can prepare your PR agency for growth in the year ahead.

About the Author: Nick Cowling is the Paid Media Director at Three Whiskey, a digital marketing agency that blends digital expertise, behavioral insight and brand understanding. Three Whiskey has offices in Dallas and the UK.