Paid Search for PR Support: A Standard Response?

By Jeff Campbell, Vice President

For some reason, it was big news the other day when BP announced plans to buy paid search keywords for it’s PR efforts with the gulf spill.  While I can see why many are questioning BP spending $50MM on PR advertising versus putting it toward clean-up efforts, I was questioning why it took them a month before they started redirecting search queries to a positive story with Paid Search….and why people seemed surprised they were using this medium to push their positive story.

While BP’s Search and Social response has been belabored by many already, let’s take a quick peek at recent (smaller) corporate crises to see if Paid Search was/is part of the standard PR response…

Maytag Corp. Recalls 1.7 Million Dishwashers

On the keyword “Maytag Recall”, there are three paid search ads, none of which are Maytag.  That said, Maytag has a very robust top natural search listing present.  Sears is the clear standout from a paid search perspective.  When you click to the landing page, they have straightforward messaging that directs you to the standard recall information or conveniently linking to a dishwasher product page so you can replace the recalled product.  Seems like Sears will be making some lemonade out of Maytag’s lemons.  As for the other two paid search advertisers, time to work on your negative keyword lists.  Hint: have a standard list of negatives that includes recall, lawsuit, clipart, free, etc.

Toyota Recall: 2.3 Million Cars
So this recall happened back in January, which makes me wonder how long exactly a brand should continue PR efforts via Paid Search.  The answer is years, because cost only occurs when someone clicks.

Toyota is doing a good job keeping ads active months after the recall – with both paid and natural exposure.  Again, it’s sad to see the other paid advertisers not utilizing negative keywords (and Hyundai should think twice about associating their products with this incident).

Brixx Pizza FIRES Waitress Ashley Johnson For Complaining About Tip On Facebook
Last, a local example from my neck of the woods.  Brixx Pizza was both celebrated and lambasted by local and national media as well as consumers when the Huff Post picked up this story.  There are currently not any relevant paid advertisements relating to the incident, but a search “Brixx Pizza” returns about 50% of the natural listings referencing the Facebook incident.  A search for “Brixx Pizz Facebook” did not contain any Brixx responses or their website, which is somewhat scary for the brand not to be involved in the conversation in any way.

From national to local, people are looking for information on the latest corporate incident.  Competitors are using these stories to their advantage and companies are losing control of their brand due to lack of participation or by getting into the game too late. If a crisis hits, is search engine marketing a part of your game plan?


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