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Every PR professional knows the famous Bill Gates quote, "If I only had two dollars left, I would spend one dollar on PR.”

It’s a great message that underscores the incredible value that communications experts create.

But for aggressive PR agencies focused on driving faster growth, it also begs the question, “What about that other dollar, and how can we get our share?”

We come from the affiliate marketing industry – a space in which more and more PR agencies are expanding their service lines. If you are unfamiliar with affiliate, it’s a performance marketing strategy in which trusted online authorities called publishers or affiliates make money every time they drive traffic to a brand’s ecommerce website that leads to a purchase or lead.

According to the 2022 Performance Marketing Association (PMA) Industry Study, affiliate drives an impressive 12:1 return on ad spend for retailers and 21:1 for travel companies. And affiliate marketer spending continues to grow despite recent economic headwinds. The channel is now responsible for at least $71b in trackable, attributable sales in the US alone.

Affiliate transcends media channels and stages of the buyer journey. The PMA study showed that about half of affiliate sales come from “traditional affiliate publishers” like cashback and loyalty communities, coupon and deal aggregators, and comparison sites. These media properties are optimized to boost conversions at the final moments of a buying decision. However, the critical affiliate growth sectors include programs with mainstream content sites like premium lifestyle publishers and influencer campaigns. These fast-growing partnership categories drive measurable impact throughout the customer journey, not just in its final moments.

Because of its advantageous pay-for-performance model, affiliate is rapidly becoming a go-to for brands to drive quantifiable results at all stages of the buying journey. For PR agencies, affiliate can help drive a more scalable and de-risked business model.

 Adding affiliate to agency services is a natural fit because PR teams already have relationships with many high-performing affiliate publishers. Major mainstream publishing house – from American Media Inc through Ziff Davis – develop content they monetize through affiliate links.

Further, affiliate marketers are very excited about influencers, where PR teams already have strong relationships. And PR firms’ client counterparts often sit next to the people in charge of affiliate campaigns… so uniting PR with performance marketing is a valuable step toward fully-integrated marketing efforts.

Full-funnel impact makes affiliate even more exciting for PR firms in a challenging economy. In tough times, clients shift investment away from top-of-funnel awareness-building and toward the final, “transactional” customer journey phases. PR firms usually find themselves on the short end of that stick, despite mountains of research and expert opinion arguing that cutting PR investment during a downturn is bad business.

With affiliate, PR firms can keep business growing because affiliate’s trackability and pay-for-performance model directly ties efforts to captured sales and profit. When a click in content drives a tracked transaction, no one can argue with the business value PR creates.

PR agencies can also use affiliate to reach into client’s martech budgets. Many brands “want in” on technology like conversion rate optimization, social selling, and distributed commerce but are wary of the steep upfront charges many vendors impose. Affiliate tech partners offer outstanding solutions in these areas without heavy upfront fees. Instead, they take a commission on the actual sales driven. By orchestrating affiliate programs that include tech partners, PR leaders drive even more value and earn additional fees by bringing attractive, affordable martech solutions to the table.

With its pay-for-performance revenue model, scalability, and channel transcendence, affiliate is capturing a growing chunk of Bill Gates’s “other” marketing dollar. By aggressively pursuing affiliate service lines, you can take center stage in client strategic planning and grow your business. 

Ready to get started? Contact Awin today.