“I need a quick hit.”

Maybe you’ve got a new product release coming up that you forgot about. Maybe a competitor made a huge splash and your board of directors or CEO wants a bigger splash. The request comes from on high to churn the waters of media — fast. Here’s the problem: the quick hit that creates overnight success is a myth. It doesn’t exist.

Why doesn’t the overnight success exist?

Think about the role of media in your company. Media – earned, owned, and paid – generates new audiences, new people who pay a little bit of attention to you. Marketing then mines the audience for leads, people who just might want to do business with you. Sales tries to convert those leads into customers. Our job as public relations professionals is to create earned media.

Consider what earned media is. Earned media is anything someone else says about you. You earn it by creating something amazing and by doing something great. You earn it by building real relationships with influential media personalities like bloggers and reporters.

When was the last time you completely trusted someone in an instant? When was the last time you were willing to bet your reputation and perhaps your career on an immediate connection you just made? Chances are it was long ago, if ever.

Trust takes time. Greatness takes time. The idea that your company can hit the market and create immediate amounts of mass trust is fiction. Believers in the quick hit will cite examples like Apple’s iPhone. What they neglect to notice is that the iPhone took years to develop. Its announcement leveraged the trust and reputation Steve Jobs spent years rebuilding in the company.

People love to talk about “hockey stick growth.” Hockey stick growth exists, but it’s not what those people believe it is:

hockey stick.001

People cite “overnight successes” like Taylor Swift or Gangnam Style. Look at the statistics of one of Taylor Swift’s earliest videos, Love Story:


It took a year and a half to reach the first 20% of the video’s success, and that’s with the backing of a major record label.

Look at the “overnight success” of Gangnam Style, as shown by YouTube statistics:


The “instant hit” took two months to even get noticed. The most popular music video on YouTube in the history of YouTube took half a year to reach a billion views. What’s the likelihood that anything else is going to achieve “overnight success”?

Overnight success is a myth, an urban legend. It’s so rare that you’d be foolish to bet your business on it. Instead, plan for a long-term campaign. Work with your public relations team to create sustainable success. Create enduring trust in your brand and your products. Once you’ve built a legacy of trust around your brand, you’ll enjoy listening to competitors lament your latest “overnight success.”

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst


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