Channel-Specific Growth Skills: Public Relations, Facebook & Google Ads, and Content Strategy (Review)
CXL Growth Marketing Minidegree: Week 7
Week 7 of CXL Institute’s Growth Marketing Minidegree dove deeper into marketing channels to apply and execute the foundational growth marketing concepts via the different available online channels. This week’s courses focused on messaging strategy in public relations, Facebook ads, Google ads, and content strategy & SEO for lead generation.
I worked at a public relations (PR) agency while studying abroad in Sydney. I remember being shocked at the 30 minute “what is PR” introduction and following 3 months of observing what a PR agency does.
As with many people, I remember having the misconception that PR was just a more political and newspaper-based form of paid advertising. False. PR is earned media. Rather than paying for a placement (what advertising is), publishers and content creators will feature press releases and articles about a brand/offering for free.
Why? Because publishers can’t exist without content. They need to write about something. So if your brand aligns with the type of stuff their readers enjoy, then it’s in their best interest to post it. You get to access their audience and publishers keep their readers happy with good content. Win-win.
The catch, though, is that editors are swamped with way more requests than they even have time to read every day. So it’s hard to get noticed. The job of an agency is to get the right content in front of the right people in the right place at the right time. Publishers are kind of like influencers — people subscribe to them because they’re interested in their content niche, tone, and POV. The traditional way to do PR is to send out a generic email pitch to thousands of media contacts hoping a few will bite. That rarely works. A better way is to write a piece that matches the rest of their content (do the work for them) and then pitch the unique value it’ll offer to their specific audience.
The Facebook ads module took a unique approach to paid campaigns I had never heard before: have different tiers of content for cold/warm/engaged audiences to nurture relationships through paid ads. In a way, the method pulled in a the content marketing approach. If you’re around on the internet in a relevant, helpful, non-sales-focused way, when it comes time for people to make a purchase decision related to your offering, they’ll be more likely to choose you since they’re familiar with and trust your brand.
Applied to paid ads, this means preparing in advance for key sales events with ads months before that have no offers and no CTAs. Just exposure.
The advantages of paying for people to view your non-sales content instead of just posting on owned channels are
· Targeted audiences. Facebook can get very specific with targeting thanks to the amount of data it holds.
· Low cost. Relative to website click-throughs and conversions, video plays and on-feed content are relatively cheap — a few cents per view rather than a few dollars for conversions. Yet they have the potential to be just as effective, if not more, than direct sales CTAs.
· Reach. If you have a small following on social media, you likely won’t be able to reach many people in a span of months like Facebook can.
· Trackability. Facebook can tell you everything about who interacts with your ad and how. Beyond likes and high-effort engagement (comments, shares), social media offers few insights on impressions and view times.
· Testing. Because of the reach, targeting, and data, you can test which content resonates best and iterate quickly and accurately.
A sample campaign for Sony cameras might look like:
1. A webinar video on photography basics. If people watch more than 10 seconds, they get placed into a separate audience that sees:
2. An article about the best cameras for hobby photographers. If the person spends more than 15s hovering over the content or clicks on the link, they are included in the audience that sees:
3. A video testimonial for one of Sony’s cameras on the previous list. If the person clicked through to Sony’s sales page, then on Black Friday, they’ll see:
4. A sales ad for the camera in the testimonial video they watched
This method is the opposite of what most brands do: show the offer just on Black Friday to as many people as possible — way more expensive and lower ROI. With stand-alone, untargeted ads, people have no reason to pay attention to your ad over all the others. Relationship building in the Facebook ads channel cuts through the noise and gets noticed.
Unlike most other topics in the minidegree, I have 0 hands-on experience with Google Ads. I passed the AdWords certification exam 3 years ago but never applied the concepts to a real campaign. This course taught that even the Google ads channel, which is notoriously expensive with low ROI, can be useful when you know your audience and your relationship with users. The instructor emphasized audience segmentation via search intent and matching offer “temperatures” (how close to sales CTAs they get) with the types of keywords they’re competing for.
CXL’s Channel Approach
I’m impressed by the thoughtfulness of the channel-specific modules thus far. The marketing field has a particularly high number of influencers — as in, marketers who market themselves by sharing attention-grabbing marketing tips (wow that’s a lot of marketing levels). It’s not a bad thing, but a lot of the niche’s content focuses on “hacks.” Which leads to a lot of misinformation. Rather than starting with research and understanding the nuances of different audiences, these sources know dramatic tactics will get more attention and shares.
I think it’s both a generational and general human mentality to want instant fixes and low-effort solutions. Good marketing is neither of those things. But not-so-great marketing blogs and influencer content makes it seem like if only you use this headline formula or that ad copy, you’ll go viral and “blow up”. I’ve noticed much of the content on bogus tactics is about marketing channels, so it’s refreshing to learn evidence-based skills from experienced professionals.
There are certainly great marketing blogs and influencers out there, and this module grew my respect for CXL’s approach and educational content. Most of the best practices so far have been linked to one important theme: relationship building. Channels are how marketers communicate with audiences, and just like in-person relationships, digital marketing is all about leveraging channel-specific features to build trust across time. Nothing hack-able or instant about it.