Affiliate Marketing: The 101 Guide for Brands
December 14th, 2021
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As you map out your media strategy to land placements in dream publications, you’ve likely heard chatter about affiliate marketing. For many brands, pitching journalists and editors can feel like the Wild, Wild West, with constantly changing factors that need to be considered. But, even some skilled publicists are learning the ropes when it comes to affiliate marketing, and that’s doubly true if it’s an area in which they haven’t worked before. 

Before you put all of your energy into press releases and distributions, it’s essential to make sure you’re not overlooking affiliate marketing. As these experts will tell you, it’s no longer negotiable—it can be a dealbreaker for many digital stories. 

Here, your 101 guide to affiliate marketing and how it can lead to serious results.

What is affiliate marketing?

To put it simply, affiliate marketing is exactly what the name suggests: it’s a relationship between a publication and a brand through the use of affiliate networks and can add up to a real win-win for both parties. So, say a publication requires you to sign up for an affiliate program (Skimlinks, ShareASale, Viglinks, etc.) to be considered for a gift guide. You sign up to become a part of this program; they feature you and link to your website. Thus, they get a portion of any sales that are a result of that article. Typically, this is a small amount, but it’s becoming a more and more popular way of doing business. After all, it’s passive income for the publication. In fact, many sizable media brands—like USA Today, CNN, and others—have dedicated staff members and whole sections of their website to meet these affiliate demands. 

“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship because the entire relationship hinges on performance,” explains Zlata Faerman, the owner of ZlataPR. “Affiliate marketing is a great way to build, grow, and refine a brand. Consumers are becoming savvier and leaning to online [shop], so affiliate marketing will continue to grow and be a valuable marketing channel.”

As a business owner or novice entrepreneur, it can be difficult to consider giving up part of your revenue. After all, you might be off to a slow start or worried about meeting investors' demands. Though it might be a tough pill to swallow, affiliate marketing should be a meaningful and significant pillar of your media strategy, particularly if you produce a product. 

Here’s how it can ultimately benefit all involved:

Affiliate marketing makes it more likely to get featured in media

As a publicist and affiliate marketer, Faerman says the need for a brand to be on an affiliate network like ShareASale or Skimlinks is essential. “These days, you'll be [hard-pressed] to find a media outlet that does not require an affiliate link (i.e. Skimlinks) when they cover products,” she explains. 

Suppose you decide to hire a publicist in addition to working with Press Hook. In that case, Faerman says the cycle typically goes like this: Your publicist (or you, yourself!) is having difficulty securing placements because you are not part of an affiliate network. Then, the publicist encourages you to make affiliates part of your strategy so that they can pitch that angle specifically. “Brands [have] no idea what this means. Brands need further education. That's where the important part comes in,” she continues. “Once a brand understands that they can open up affiliate marketing as a sales channel and that it's not only beneficial to the publicist, they're more apt to sign on board. This is a win for the publicist and a win for the brand.”

Affiliate marketing generates exponential awareness

While the main goal of an affiliate marketing program is to drive sales and generate revenue for a brand, many companies leverage affiliate programs to heighten brand visibility and build brand equity, explains Sabrina DiBella, the president and co-founder of Push The Envelope PR. “By implementing an effective affiliate program, a brand has the opportunity to garner exponential awareness and reach a broader targeted audience who might’ve not been familiar with your brand or products,” she explains. “In the long run, the exposure generated from affiliate marketing can be extremely effective at converting leads into customers.” 

Affiliate marketing is low-risk

Financially, it may seem like a drawback to give away some of your sales to a publication or affiliate program. Not only that, but you may not be too keen to pay the sign-up fee either. But according to DiBella, while it does require some investments, it’s well worth the expense. “The money invested is significantly lower compared to [other] marketing spending,” she continues. “[For] starters, a brand pays for the result, meaning an affiliate is only paid a commission after a customer has engaged with the backlink promoted by the affiliate, lands on the online store of the business, and finally makes the purchase,” she explains. “The affiliate will only be paid a commission after the company generates sales from their partnership.”

Affiliate marketing also doesn’t require as much legwork as other sales branches—ideal for a start-up or new company. “An affiliate program does not require that you have an advertising team for ad visuals or purchase ad space. Affiliates use their own channels to promote a brand and its product,” DiBella says. “Through the use of social media content, how-to tutorials, blog posts, dedicated email blasts, and videos, a brand can lift brand visibility, which can result in sales.”

Affiliate marketing provides a solid ROI

Many media outlets are re-thinking and maybe even completely revamping their print strategies. Instead of sticking with the status quo, they are funneling focus and revenue streams into their digital opportunities, including affiliate marketing, Sarah Karger, a former ecommerce director, a publicist at Comm Oddities and the co-creator of the Affiliate Masterclass for Publicists, explains. “Affiliate marketing presents a unique opportunity for the brand as well as the publication from an ROI perspective. The publication will be sharing brands already, so why [not] earn a commission?” she continues. “After all, even with affiliate marketing, journalistic standards still apply. And on the brand side, for the ROI, affiliate marketing is a minimal investment, all things considered.”

Affiliate marketing grows your SEO 

Making affiliate marketing part of your media strategy also helps improve your company’s SEO ranking and footprint. How so? It drives traffic to your online store. “By securing affiliates who are widely recognized and seen as a trusted source in a particular industry, the affiliate may potentially have a high ranking with content via search engines,” DiBella explains. “Additionally, the affiliates will drive exponential traffic to the brand’s website through the use of backlinks which directs consumers to a company’s website resulting in a boost of [site] visibility, SEO, and revenue.”

Want to learn more about how affiliate marketing works and the difference it can make for you? Reach out to Press Hook to see how brands on the platform make affiliate networks work to their advantage and how they can be leveraged in a way that means more coverage and visibility for you.