In September of last year, international communications firm Fleishman-Hillard (FH), was seeking an innovative way to help its clients promote earned media across the Web. The agency was particularly interested in amplifying client mentions on local and regional news sites in order to prolong the lifespan of each story.
“If in the past we had a client that had a great placement, we could circulate the story amongst the clients or stakeholders, but there was no way to reach additional people,” says Dan Horowitz, EVP and Senior Partner at Fleishman-Hillard Digital. “But if we could take a piece of content that might have limited visibility, yet have all the right messages, and give it jet-fuel, we could potentially increase the likelihood that the people we wanted to see the story would.”
Horowitz says he was intrigued by Outbrain because he believed it could further extend the shelf-life of articles in ways that search and social media couldn’t. While, FH was able to promote earned media on social networks by reaching out to key influencers and sharing links, there was no guarantee those influencers would post the story on their Facebook or Twitter pages. Additionally, search engine marketing, which Horowitz values as an important distribution tool, required that readers had a pre-existing interest in the topic and made an active attempt to discover new content.
With Outbrain, he hoped to connect FH clients’ content to a broad audience on national and global publisher sites where the material was “a natural fit for the headlines we’re trying to promote,” he explains. “If readers are browsing stories on a publisher site and we can offer something contextually relevant, that can be really big, especially for our clients in D.C. who are dealing with tough issues that consumers and policymakers may not be searching for.”
In October of last year, Horowitz pitched Outbrain as a traffic referral partner to four of his clients, each of whom responded with several important questions: How does Outbrain work? How would the clients be represented on publisher sites? How would headlines appear and how much control would they have over writing the headlines? They were also concerned with the idea that traffic buying had developed a bad reputation in the media as a “black hat tactic” that brands did under the cover of anonymity.
After Horowitz explained that the clients’ earned media would appear alongside editorial content on top publisher sites and that the clients would have full editorial control over how their content rendered, they were more than willing to test a partnership with Outbrain.
“What we’re doing with Outbrain is fully transparent and out in the open,” he adds. “You’re appearing next to credentialed content so it’s less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content. Buying traffic is typically done in bulk and it never reaches the right people. It originally started on digital platforms with things like buying email addresses, but with Outbrain it’s so much more transparent.”
Fleishman-Hillard’s strategy produced results almost immediately.
When a mid-market Midwestern newspaper published an interview with an influential expert who had changed his perspective to support a clients’ stance on an important policy debate, FH ran a campaign to drive traffic to the piece. Shortly after the campaign was up and running, a Huffington Post writer picked up the story and wrote an additional piece on the subject.
“It was unlikely anyone would’ve ever seen that interview,” Horowitz says. “[But as a result of the Huffington Post article] we now had a national reach versus just a local reach.”
Fleishman-Hillard clients have been happy with the results the agency has driven.
“Our clients are really pleased,” Horowitz says, referencing feedback from his clients. “They appreciate that we’re bringing innovative ideas to the table. ”
It doesn’t hurt that working with Outbrain has delivered measurable results. According to internal results from a FH client campaign, the average cost-per-click with Outbrain compared to paid search is nearly 5x less.
“This demonstrates a clear value proposition for Outbrain,” Horowitz says, “and it’s one of the reasons we increased our annual spend for Outbrain with this client.”
A similar version of this story ran earlier this week on PRWeek.com.