Ask the experts: LaRue’s Darin Dolan on performance-driven media strategies 

Darin Dolan, Senior Affiliate Director at LaRue, offers guidance for brands using affiliate marketing and PR for measurable growth. He shares how the team uses tools for performance analysis and the importance of adapting to emerging trends and technological advancements. 

performance-driven media strategies
Jason Perumal
Jason Perumal
Content Marketing Manager
Read time: 10 mins

Crafting a performance-driven media strategy is akin to a master chef creating a signature dish by blending diverse flavors that captivate the palate. Savvy marketers are seamlessly combining power channels, such as affiliate marketing and public relations (PR), to carve out a competitive stronghold in a crowded marketplace. 

Orchestrating a media strategy that merges the authentic advocacy of affiliate marketing with the authoritative reach of PR creates a compelling narrative that resonates deeply with audiences, drives engagement, and supercharges growth.

With over a decade of affiliate and digital marketing experience, Darin Dolan—Senior Affiliate Director at LaRue—provides a crash course in developing a winning performance-driven media strategy. 

Through his expert lens, find the answers to the burning questions surrounding this topic and discover insights that promise to refine your approach and elevate your brand.

Key takeaways from this blog
  • A performance-driven media strategy merges affiliate marketing and PR for enhanced brand growth: This strategy elevates brand credibility and broadens brand awareness by tapping into diverse customer journeys and reaching niche markets.
  • Data-driven insights and innovative partnership management are crucial: Leveraging platforms like for performance analysis allows brands to make informed decisions and optimize their strategies for maximum effectiveness. 
  • Strategic incentives and collaborations amplify campaign outcomes: Implementing dynamic, performance-based incentives and securing strategic media placements are key in driving the desired results. 
  • Cross-channel collaboration and quality content are keys to engagement: Effective integration of marketing efforts across channels and focusing on quality over quantity in content creation help build a strong brand narrative that resonates with the target audience. This fosters brand loyalty and establishes credibility, which is vital for long-term growth.
  • Staying ahead with the right partnership management platform and adaptability to trends: Selecting a platform that offers comprehensive partnership management tools, like, sets the foundation for success. Additionally, staying agile and adaptable to technological advancements and market trends ensures brands can continue to innovate and remain relevant.

The core principles of performance-driven media strategy

LaRue is a full-service public relations and affiliate marketing agency that harnesses the power of media relations, affiliate marketing, events, and influencer and brand partnerships to deliver real, measurable ROI.

Darin shares what a performance-driven media strategy entails, its operational framework, and the critical elements for crafting a successful strategy. 

Learn how innovative partnership management, data-driven optimization, and effective cross-channel collaboration can transform your brand’s narrative—ensuring it connects strongly with your target audience while achieving unparalleled growth.

What is a performance-driven media strategy?

Darin: A performance-driven media strategy fuses affiliate marketing and PR to drive website traffic and sales through commerce content. This approach introduces brands to invaluable benefits: 

Improves brand credibility and reputation through features in content from trusted sources, such as Forbes, CNN, or Wirecutter. 

Increases brand awareness by capitalizing on the full-funnel benefits of using diverse partner types throughout the customer journey—driving exposure and breaking into new markets.

Offers measurable insights gathered from platforms such as to take actionable steps and implement informed strategies  

Taps into niche audiences by partnering with a diverse network of editorial and blog partners.  

Provides low cost and risk by leveraging rewards—CPA increases, gifting, or exclusive promo codes—that align with the publication’s editorial calendars. Brands yield significant results without upfront costs typically associated with traditional advertising methods. 

And how does it work? 

Darin: From an agency perspective, a performance-driven media strategy leverages affiliate marketing and PR metrics to tell more robust narratives on the impact of coverage: 

  • Affiliate marketing: Sales, conversions, and click traffic
  • Public relations: UVMs (Unique visitors per month)

Analyzing this data helps you determine which content drives performance and use that insight to guide your efforts. This lets you prioritize partnerships with media partners who produce high-quality content and drive traffic and sales. 

In addition to landing placements with a strong ROI, look for complimentary coverage with media that mirror demographics. This approach lets you reach new audiences and solidifies the brand’s reputation as a trusted leader in the eyes of consumers.

A performance-focused PR strategy also leverages commission payouts to secure articles, reviews, and roundups with content and media partners. The LaRue team collaborates closely with media partners—especially those who have transitioned to commerce-driven models—to promote clients’ products while maintaining the integrity of their content.

For clients navigating a competitive market and rising customer acquisition expenses, a performance-driven PR campaign offers a valuable and cost-effective solution to drive brand awareness and sales.

What are the key elements for creating a successful performance-driven media strategy? 

Darin: Here are five main components to consider when developing a performance-driven media strategy. 

  1. Innovative partnership management. Nurturing and building strong relationships with media partners, affiliates, and influencers help lay the foundation for continued success. The LaRue team has cultivated decades of rapport with our affiliate partners and editorial contacts. 

Each partnership is managed individually, ensuring alignment with a client’s goals and prioritizing brand value. Additionally, maintaining ongoing collaborations with content commerce partners to optimize the exchange of brand information and pitching procedures ensures a smooth and timely delivery. This is essential for successful product launches, major promotions, and evergreen content.

  1. Dynamic performance-based incentives, such as commission increases, affiliate exclusives, and performance bonuses, provide a mutually beneficial partnership that yields positive results and continued coverage consideration.
  1. Data-driven optimization. Consistently utilizing data-driven insights to analyze performance allows you to make strategic pivots that optimize and maximize results for our clients. 

Ensuring content includes affiliate links gives full visibility into upper funnel campaigns and placements. This guides our strategy and ensures that content partners are rewarded for the time and value invested in creating content. The platform allows our team to analyze performance effectively and efficiently to act quickly and strategically for our clients.

  1. Effective cross-channel collaboration integrates marketing teams and creates a unified and comprehensive strategy to achieve clients’ objectives. This collaborative effort enables you to reach the client’s target audience with tailored strategies, resulting in highly targeted and conversion-driven content.
  1. Quality vs. quantity content. Collaborating with content partners and being discerning with those who don’t always provide a share of voice within their content secures compelling content that resonates with the brand’s target audience. This approach fosters engagement, builds brand loyalty, and establishes credibility.

Implementing a performance-driven media strategy

Gain actionable insights on orchestrating a performance-driven media campaign that aligns with overarching business goals while optimizing for key success metrics. Explore the intricacies of LaRue’s strategies and how you can apply them to your brand’s unique narrative for unparalleled growth and visibility.

3 strategies LaRue used to merge affiliate marketing with PR masterfully 

  1. Insights improve incremental traffic, sales, and unique visitors per month [UVM] 

Darin: LaRue leveraged to analyze the performance of an editorial inclusion secured with a specific content partner. The data revealed that the inclusion yielded strong results, prompting the team to advise the client to increase the commission rate for that partner. 

This strategic move aimed to incentivize further inclusions by considering the alignment of the content with the target audience and its resonance. As a result, the client experienced an uptick in inclusion rates over the quarter, leading to incremental traffic, sales, and UVMs.

  1. Tailored rewards incentivize partner performance.

Darin: LaRue offered exclusive offers and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) increases to incentivize two distinct content partners to feature a health and wellness client in a review and a roundup. The team advised the client to balance margins while ensuring a best-of-web offer and an increased commission to help secure coverage. 

The client agreed after LaRue outlined the potential performance gains considering the publications’ reach and reputation. As a result, both content partners included the client’s product in their content, resulting in a period-over-period revenue increase of +68 percent and +120 percent, respectively.

  1. Securing strategic collaborations for increased brand visibility 

Darin: The LaRue team actively pursued inclusion in a key listicle with a prominent content partner, recognizing its importance and timeliness for the brand. We deployed a multi-pronged approach leveraging editorial outreach and affiliate and commerce relationships to engage partners quickly and secure coverage. 

The affiliate contact quickly responded, enabling us to reinforce our competitive commission, and we also offered to send product samples to experience the brand firsthand. The team successfully secured a timely inclusion for our client through cross-channel collaboration efforts and leveraging our varied relationships within the publication.

Which success metrics are essential when implementing a performance-driven media campaign? 

Darin: It’s crucial to align with your client’s goals first. Given our ability to track multiple metrics, LaRue provides comprehensive insights and data points. When measuring upper funnel placements, prioritize traffic, revenue, and new customer acquisition. The goal is to educate readers about the brand and its products, attract new customers, and incentivize them to complete a purchase. 

Depending on the placement, we also focus on engagement rates such as click-through rates (CTR), average order value (AOV), and return on investments (ROI). 

Amplifying the success of your performance-driven media campaigns

To conclude, Darin shares LaRue’s comprehensive experience in choosing the right management solutions, empowering the team to tailor strategies effectively across brands and verticals. Additionally, he highlights emerging trends shaping the fusion of affiliate marketing and commerce PR. 

What role does the right partnership management platform play in facilitating growth 

Darin: The right platform sets you up for success by providing everything you need to manage a program efficiently and effectively. This is especially important at an agency because LaRue manages multiple brands within multiple verticals with a dynamic range of KPIs.  

Tailoring strategies to each client means the execution varies greatly, and the ability to streamline and work quickly is key to managing a portfolio of brands. 

Which tools did LaRue use to power their performance-driven media campaigns? 

Darin: With its Marketplace and Recommendation features, the Discovery tool has been great for finding new and quality partners. The team often taps into this resource when we want to add partners to our affiliate programs. The search function and grouping partner types make it a very fluent process.

Shared ID Reporting provides timely insights into the content partners in their sub-affiliate networks that drive performance. This is crucial to LaRue as we work with many content partners through sub-affiliate networks, such as Skimlinks. 

Funnel Reporting gives greater visibility into how our affiliate and performance-driven media strategies contribute to the customer journey and interact with other affiliate partners. This report offers the necessary insights to inform decision-making and refine our strategy. 

What are the trends for working with a strategy that combines affiliate marketing and commerce PR? 

Darin: Tech and attribution changes: Rapid advancements in technology and changes in platform algorithms can impact the effectiveness of campaigns. It is important to stay agile and adapt quickly to platform updates and new technologies.

Cross-Channel communication and integration: As we witness the convergence of PR and affiliate marketing, it becomes imperative for agencies to establish cohesive processes. This ensures that efforts are streamlined and not duplicated internally. It also helps effectively communicate with our content partner contacts, who are inundated with multiple daily emails.

Competitiveness: Every small and big brand is jockeying for inclusion with the most reputable publications and sites in a very competitive market. For agencies, having the right contacts, skillfully leveraging the affiliate program, and delivering exceptional service are essential to attaining upper-funnel client objectives.

Mastering the art of performance-driven media strategies

As demonstrated by LaRue’s strategic maneuvers, the fusion of affiliate marketing and public relations underscores the importance of a synergistic approach to media campaigns. With innovation at its core, this methodology leverages the strengths of diverse channels to create a compelling brand narrative that connects deeply with its intended audience. 

However, the linchpin of executing such sophisticated strategies effectively lies in selecting the right partnership management platform. Request a demo to explore how can transform your media strategy to reach the pinnacle of performance and brand visibility. 

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