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A Guide To Affiliate Marketing For PR Pros

Alyson Dutch is a product launch maven, CEO, Brown + Dutch PR, product & press matchmaker, Consumer Product Events, and author of two books.


In the marketing world, the former silos of earned and paid media have melted into a difficult-to-navigate integrated mash. Yet earned media is still the gold standard of all marketing, providing valuable, objective word-of-mouth marketing for everything from startups to Nike, Amazon and Coke. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying that if he were down to his last dollar, he would spend it on PR.

For publicists who do PR for products, this world has changed radically and now requires understanding how affiliate marketing works. As product launch specialists, my company has been at the forefront of these changes, and I am here to demystify the landscape of affiliate marketing as it relates to PR.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the use of automated links in an editorial environment so that the outlet that reports on a product can be paid on commission. Have you ever noticed a “shop” button at the bottom of an article or a live link in the copy? That is affiliate.

Gift guides, product roundups and product reviews, once the Valhalla areas of earned media opportunity, have been taken over by affiliate.

Today, 40% of reporters my company pitches simply will not report without an affiliate program. Some reporters will kindly say, “We need an affiliate link to include you,” but most will just maddeningly ignore your pitches. If you are lucky, they will forward your pitch to their publication’s e-commerce department, a new set of contacts every publicist must build.

While this is not a surprise to most PR pros, how it works can be unclear and is the subject of endless debate in the professional publicity community.

There are three general…


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