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Public relations and the zero moment of truth

If you haven’t read the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) by Google’s Jim Lecinski, you’re missing out on a wonderful framework for thinking about your marketing and communications. You can download it for free here, but to summarize, there are four general stages of the marketing process in the ZMOT framework:


  • Stimulus: when the consumer becomes aware of a need.
  • Zero moment of truth: when the consumer goes in search of answers to fulfill their need. This includes social media, search engines, word of mouth, reviews, and more.
  • First moment of truth: when the consumer enters the buying process and sees if your product or service fits their need.
  • Second moment of truth: after owning your product or service, the consumer decides whether or not it lived up to their expectations.

You might be tempted to think, if you read only marketing blogs, that with search, mobile, and social media, there’s no longer any need for public relations or communications. However, when you dig into the ZMOT study, you discover that earned media is a vital part of the stimulus phase:

2011_ZMOT_Macro_Study.pdf (page 11 of 19)
Source: Google/Shopper Sciences, Zero Moment of Truth Macro Study, Apr 2011

Paid and earned media comprise the top 5 sources of ways consumers became aware of their needs and then went in search of how to fulfill those needs. This is one of the most vital reasons why your communications and marketing must be integrated!

If you’re getting great earned media and spending lots on ads, but you’re poorly optimized for search, then you’re effectively advertising on behalf of your competitors. If you’ve got earned media and paid media working hard for you, but you’re not doing anything with social media, then consumers who have become aware of a need will ask friends and family about their recommendations and you won’t be there when they ask.

The core lesson is this: in order to make the most of your marketing, advertising, and public relations efforts, everything must be integrated from top to bottom.

2011_ZMOT_Macro_Study.pdf (page 11 of 19)

Your PR/communications agency can’t work independently of marketing. Marketing can’t work independently of sales. Sales can’t just sell things without working with customer service. Do all of that well, and your existing thrilled customers will power the next wave of earned media for you.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Download our new whitepaper, PR and the Google Customer Journey

Posted on December 10, 2012 in Press Release, Social Media, Strategy

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn has been featured as a recognized authority in many books, publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, BusinessWeek and US News & World Report, and television networks such as PBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and ABC News for his leadership in new media and marketing. In 2012 and again in 2013, Forbes Magazine recognized him as one of the top 50 most influential people in social media and digital marketing; Marketo Corporation named him a Marketing Illuminator, and PR News nominated him as Social Media Person of the Year. Mr. Penn is the Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, a public relations firm, as well as co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp New Media Community Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. He is an adjunct professor of Internet marketing and the lead subject matter expert and professor of Advanced Social Media at the University of San Francisco. He’s the author of the best-selling book Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer.
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