The fiction of the quick hit in PR

Duck punch game.

One of the most common questions asked of us in the PR and earned media world is, “I need a quick hit. Can you get me a quick hit?”, implying that a company needs very fast, very short term audience generation. Unless you’ve got something absolutely groundbreaking, mind-blowingly awesome, the chances are that no agency, even us, will get you what you want – the world beating a path to your door instantly at relatively low cost due to favorable media coverage. Why? The quick hit is largely a myth.

Think about what the role of media in your company is. Media generates audience, which is then passed to marketing for conversion into leads, and then passed to sales to convert into customers that pay revenue. Now think about what the role of earned media is, specifically. Earned media is media that you earn by creating something worth talking about and cultivating an audience that trusts you.

When was the last time you found a situation in which you trusted someone instantly that turned out to be legitimate? Chances are it was long ago, and highly unusual. Trust takes time; the idea of creating mass amounts of trust instantly is simply a fanciful fiction.

Our analytics bears this out in detail. Take a look at this conversion data from a B2B business:

Time Lag - Google Analytics

Notice that while a decent chunk of conversion happens up front, 14% of the company’s revenue happens 12 days or more after the initial conversion process has started. Why? Because your prospective customers are still building their trust in you. Look carefully. Almost 24% of the conversions happen a day or more after the conversion process starts. That means that roughly 1 out of 4 people aren’t going to do business with you if you insist on instant results and instant conversion rather than taking the time to build trust with them.

Need another example? Look at the “instant hit” of Gangnam Style, as shown by YouTube statistics:

PSY - GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V - YouTube

The “instant hit” took 2 months just to break out before it got noticed and experienced significant growth. If the most popular music video on YouTube ever in the history of YouTube took half a year to reach a billion views, what’s the likelihood that anything else is going to be the mythical “quick hit”?

If you want instant audience, you can have it – but not through earned media. The shortest (but most expensive) route to instant audience is to spend a great deal of money on advertising. Paid media is quite effective at driving lots of audience in a very short period of time as long as you have the budget to support it.

Instant trust, however, is largely a fiction. If you need a quick audience, buy it. If you need a trusting, loyal audience, earn it.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on January 8, 2013 in Public Relations, 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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