What Acoustics Can Teach Us About Integrated PR Campaigns

In case it wasn’t already apparent, it’s getting noisy in the world. There are more things to distract our audiences than ever before – new apps, new websites, new sources, new games, new shows on TV or Netflix, new music. We passively receive more information today than past human beings received in their entire lifetimes. That noise means that in our PR and marketing campaigns, we have to be ever louder.

How do we do this without becoming completely obnoxious? One potential answer lies in the science of acoustics and the idea of amplitude, or how loud something is. Let’s start with a look at how things used to be. There is and always has been background noise in the minds of our audiences, stuff that they’re perceiving.

The Acoustics of PR

In order to overcome that noise to a degree, we would have to take an action, like getting a media placement. Those actions would be our noise, and in a moderately noisy environment, we might not be heard all the time, but we’d be heard when we took action.

The Acoustics of PR

If we did a good job of consistently taking different actions, from social media posts to earned media placements to paid media campaigns, we could consistently rise above the noise and capture, however briefly, the attention of our audiences.

The Acoustics of PR

Unsurprisingly, as more and more marketers and PR folks figured this out, the overall level of noise rose.

The Acoustics of PR

When that happened, our steady drumbeat of actions became less effective. Ask yourself how effective your various outbound channels have been recently versus a year or two years ago. How has email marketing or social media marketing or direct response marketing been working for you? A fair number of our colleagues have indicated that it is harder now to make an impact with a single action than it was previously.

The Acoustics of PR

So how do we overcome this problem? The answer lies in acoustics. If you make a series of sounds together, they become louder, even if no one sound is louder than the other. If you have access to a musical instrument like a piano or guitar, you can try this for yourself. How loud is pressing one key versus pressing three or five?

In order to overcome a noisier environment, the lesson we learn from acoustics might be to do more integrated PR campaigns, but do them synchronously. For example, suppose we get a media placement like a New York Times exclusive and send out an email about the Times article on the day that it releases? In that case, we’d have the promotion of the media outlet’s efforts to its audience stack up with our email promotion of our efforts as well:

The Acoustics of PR

Suddenly the amount of noise we can make increases without us “shouting” or being louder on any individual channel. We can briefly rise above the noise. Now what if we added a paid media campaign on top of that, anything from a simple Facebook Sponsored Post to a full-blown remarketing or media amplification campaign?

The Acoustics of PR

We can rise significantly higher than the background noise and be heard. It should almost go without saying that what you’re promoting should be intrinsically worthy of sharing and being talked about, something truly newsworthy. No amount of promoting a bland press release will make it any more likely to be heard.

Right now, a great story can be heard even through the noise, but only if it’s truly stellar. Most stories, most media campaigns, need augmentation through synchronization in order to stand out above the noise, because we’re not just competing against our direct industry competitors. We, as marketing and PR professionals, are competing against the Pope, House of Cards, and everything else in the news cycle that is vying for the same amount of attention as we are.


If your marketing and PR campaigns aren’t getting the lift they used to be, look at the timing of what you’re doing and determine how to time things so that more happens at the same time. Your email campaign promoting a product launch or big news placement should happen within minutes of a social media announcement, and a paid sponsored campaign should hit nearly simultaneously. Only through synchronization can we hope to punch through the noise, however briefly, in order to be heard.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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