Pay to play – how advertising can boost a successful public relations campaign

by Scott Douglas

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Opposites attract in the modern media landscape, as PR moves onto ad land’s turf.

Holyrood PR agency in Edinburgh highlight why PR can change the conversation









PR Agency explains the PESO model of communicationWelcome to Part 1 our essential business guide to PESO – helping you effectively reach new and existing customers via Paid media, Earned media Shared/Social media and Owned media. This section focuses on paid media.


 THE EASIEST way to get media exposure is to pay for it. That’s not something you will normally hear from a public relations agency.

A man walking past a billboard advert for Lauder CollegeWhen you pay to play in the media it is usually via advertising, whether in print, online or on TV and radio broadcasts, or in billboards and the backs of buses. That is traditionally the remit of your advertising agency – the  polar opposites of what PR people do.

But times are changing. The smartest PR agencies have never doubted that what is beyond doubt is that advertising works and has a proven track record stretching back a century and more.

Think about it. Virtually every major brand you’ve ever bought – from your training shoes to your household bleach to the petrol in your car and the food in your fridge – has been built on advertising.

But there are some pretty significant catches, caveats and downsides – so let our expert team explain some of the pitfalls.


Stormtroopers with a measuring tapeTrying to capture the magic which makes advertising successful is like trying to bottle lightning.

No-one – not even the advertising professionals – can say with certainty what will work and capture the public imagination and what will quickly disappear into obscurity.

The most famous quote about advertising is attributed to American department store mogul John Wanamaker who is credited with saying: “I know half of my advertising works – I just don’t know which half.”



 Colourful Scottish Banks notes of various denominationsThe biggest brands with the most money still spend enormous sums of money on TV advertising and other costly promotions, involving the kind of budgets that are beyond most businesses.

Even getting a slot on your local TV or radio station will set you back a hefty chunk of change, while magazine and newspapers also remain costly.

Even more so if you want to cover multiple options – like wrapping a fleet of taxis in your business messages, or taking out ads on billboards and bus stops.

Tying all of that together is a complicated business. Which brings you straight back to perennial problem number one – how can you tell which parts are working?



Illustration showing web content and a computer screenBut hallelujah! Online advertising promised to solve such problems – making advertising both affordable and totally measurable.

Google’s massive success is built on the ads which accompany search results. They are always linked to the term being searched for, meaning a user is far more likely to find those ads useful or relevant and so to click on them.

That allowed Google to pioneer pay per click (PPC) advertising, where the advertiser only pays for those ads which are clicked. That makes it far more likely that a business is reaching exactly the right people with exactly the right ads.

The perfect solution, right? Er, nope.



Much of the online ad business is ineffectual – but worse yet, it is also rife with fraud and corruption on a truly epic scale.  How bad? Well, actually, this bad:

  • Users hate ads so much that the use of ad blocking apps and software on both PCs and mobile devices is growing exponentially.
  • Businesses are paying billions for ads that are clicked by an army of fraud ‘bots’ –at a cost somewhere between $6.3 billion and  $11.6 billion



Facebook billboard Knowing the pitfalls is half the battle in avoiding them. Armed with the right knowledge businesses can be more selective about the advertising choices open to them – and there are some fantastic opportunities.

Indeed, there is a new strand of advertising in particular which savvy businesses can grab a share of, particularly when it is part of a wider communications strategy – social media advertising.

Gone are the days when your latest business Facebook post would reach most of your followers. Many businesses invested huge time and effort in cultivating a large Facebook following. Now they will struggle to reach just 10% of that audience.

Facebook has deliberately throttled organic reach so that businesses have to pay to reach the same number of people. Yep – what you thought of as a ‘social network’ is now little more than a huge advertising platform. Other social media platforms including Twitter and LinkedIn offer similar advertising services.

The good news is that Facebook provides a wealth of tools to help you reach the most relevant people, while the ads are still incredibly affordable and cost-effective.  This means you can get directly into the Facebook feed or Twitter stream then you have the chance of reaching them with your amazing content. And right there is the key – amazing content.

Remember this isn’t your guide to advertising, it is your guide to PESO and achieving the ideal mix of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media. When you have amazing content, such as an informative blog post, positive coverage in a big name news outlet or a Facebook post you want to share with the world, that is when clever use of social advertising comes in.

Ad success is all about making sure your message is put in front of the right people. Why promote female friendly products if it’s mostly men who see the ads? What good is an advert for plumbing services if it’s mostly seen by people in council homes, with no need for private plumbing services?

Here are at Holyrood is help to navigate such  intricacies of social media advertising to make sure you are getting the best possible, highly measurable results, while working in harmony with your blog, website content and PR successes.


This is Part 1 of our Essential Business Guide to Harnessing PESO. Demonstrating how businesses can harness the power of PESO to maximise business success. Read the rest of our guide.

PART 2 – Find out how to unlock the power of EARNED Media

PART 3 – It’s good to share – why SHARED media is a winner

PART 4 – Own it baby! Learn the secrets of OWNED media success


Work with an award-winning PR agency to help you cover all your communication needs.

 We’d love the chance to work with your business on a developing a strategy to make the most of your Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media – delivering success across a 360 degree campaign.

To find out more, phone us on 0131 561 2244 or fill in the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message






Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

View Scott's Profile

Related Posts

So how can we help?

Benefit from business video

Benefit from business video


Find out how affordable video can bring a host of benefits to your business.

Make an impact with PR photography

Make an impact with PR photography

Find out more

Every story can be told better with pictures. Discover our affordable, high-impact photo packages.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact us.


Keep ahead of your opposition by getting the free tips, insights and secrets we share for businesses. Straight to your inbox, every month.
Email address
First Name
Last Name