The Public Relations BlogDigital PRData-Driven PRIn Digital PR, Small Numbers Make the Biggest Impact

In Digital PR, Small Numbers Make the Biggest Impact

Tiny metrics, mighty results.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Digital PR is all about small numbers.

In digit­al PR, we speak fondly about for­ging rela­tion­ships and patiently build­ing trust, but when it comes down to it, we need to reach a crit­ic­al mass of people to keep our jobs.

So, we grav­it­ate toward big num­bers. Size mat­ters, and the big­ger, the better.

At least, that’s what we think.

Here goes:

How We Fear Small Numbers

The inter­net has changed the game of digit­al PR and online mar­ket­ing in pro­found ways, but not when it comes to big num­bers. The web has made us more, not less, focused on big data, ana­lyt­ics, and met­rics — myself included.

In digit­al PR, we fre­quently dis­cuss impress­ive stat­ist­ics, like a video achiev­ing one hun­dred mil­lion views on YouTube. While this may be true for a hit song per­formed by a celebrity, our cor­por­ate con­tent often fails to gain trac­tion, prompt­ing us to move on to the next project.

The inter­net has amp­li­fied our focus on large-scale data, ana­lyt­ics, and met­rics. We feel com­pelled to reach a crit­ic­al mass of people to main­tain our pro­fes­sion­al standing.

But when our cor­por­ate con­tent goes nowhere, we ignore it and move on to big­ger and bet­ter endeavours.

The Mission: Strive for Smaller Numbers

By pay­ing atten­tion to smal­ler num­bers, we can find them all around us and use them to our advant­age in digit­al PR.

For example:

For a piece of con­tent to go vir­al, it needs to con­vert at a decent level, and the pop­u­la­tion size must be able to sus­tain its expos­ure. But from a math­em­at­ic­al per­spect­ive, what mat­ters, is cycle time.

For instance, let’s con­sider num­bers that indic­ate redu­cing time or loss. To make your mes­sage go vir­al, you should optim­ise for short­er cycle times — the time between someone being “infec­ted” with an idea and when that per­son “infects” someone else. Shorter cycle times lead to more vir­al spread.

Shorter cycle times, more vir­al spread.

Similarly to cycle times, drop-off rates for web­sites and fun­nels should be min­im­ised. According to Upflowy, “A good drop-off rate will depend on the industry, product, and oth­er factors. Simply put, your drop-off rate should be as low as possible.”

Read also: How To Build a Viral Loop (Using Maths)

Greatness and Impact In Small Numbers

Rather than allow­ing appre­hen­sion to cloud our judg­ment when faced with small num­bers, we should wel­come their pres­ence and acknow­ledge their vital role in digit­al PR. 

In a land­scape dom­in­ated by the pur­suit of ever-increas­ing num­bers, recog­niz­ing and lever­aging the power of small num­bers can set us apart and pro­pel our digit­al PR efforts to new heights.

But work­ing with both big and small num­bers in digit­al PR has taught me some­thing extraordinary:

  • Let us not dis­reg­ard the small num­bers, for with­in their humble nature, great­ness and impact may be found.

We should talk more about small num­bers in digit­al PR. Not less.

By appre­ci­at­ing the impact of these seem­ingly mod­est fig­ures, we can uncov­er new strategies and oppor­tun­it­ies for growth and success. 

A Beautiful Idea: It Always Starts With One

This focus on smal­ler num­bers sug­gests that the most power­ful num­ber in digit­al PR is — one. As French poet Victor Hugo (1802−1885) said, “Nothing is more power­ful than an idea whose time has come.” 

A single per­son or idea has the poten­tial to change everything. One action can cre­ate a but­ter­fly effect, lead­ing to a massive chain of events.

Perhaps our mis­sion as PR pro­fes­sion­als is to dis­cov­er one per­son, idea, or ignit­ing action that can make all the difference.

  • The pur­suit of influ­en­cing many is in vain if we can­not ignite the flame with­in a sol­it­ary soul.

As a PR pro­fes­sion­al, I believe one per­son or idea can change everything in a world full of big num­bers. I think that one action, a lead dom­ino, can ignite a but­ter­fly effect and set off a mighty chain of events.

Read also: Critical Mass in Social Media: How Many Followers Do You Need?

A Contrarian Approach to Results

As digit­al PR pro­fes­sion­als, we find ourselves drawn to big num­bers — the more views, shares, and likes, the better. 

But we should be look­ing for num­bers that we can make smaller.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: Suggested Reading

Berger, J. (2016). Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Simon & Schuster.

Watts, D. J. (2011). Everything Is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us. Crown Business.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising Without Organisations. Penguin Books.

PR Resource: Inbound vs Outbound

Jerry Silfwer speaking about inbound marketing
Jerry Silfwer (Doctor Spin) speaks about inbound marketing.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Inbound vs Outbound

The inbound mind­set is a fun­da­ment­al shift in the PR- and mar­ket­ing industry.

Historically, many PR- and mar­ket­ing depart­ments have argued:

Why should we spend our PR- and mar­ket­ing budgets on ‘already acquired’ audi­ences?”

The truth is — it’s the oth­er way around.

Instead of “spam­ming” non-exist­ing audi­ences, pub­lic rela­tions and mar­ket­ing can do much more with exist­ing online pub­lics. 1Silfwer, J. (2015, June 11). The Publics in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

Drawing a line between those who know you and those who don’t know you is noth­ing new:

  • Pull mar­ket­ing vs push mar­ket­ing
  • Hot leads vs cold leads
  • Permission mar­ket­ing vs tra­di­tion­al marketing
  • Internal com­mu­nic­a­tions vs extern­al communications

This inbound shift is the online equi­val­ent of draw­ing the line between those who know you and those who don’t know you:

  • Inbound com­mu­nic­a­tions vs out­bound communications

If your Inbound Shift PR Strategy is good, you might not need to pri­or­it­ise out­bound PR strategies — because your inbound audi­ence will attract out­bound publics.

Learn more: The Inbound Shift PR Strategy: Beauty From Within

Logo - Spin Academy - Online PR Courses
1 Silfwer, J. (2015, June 11). The Publics in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has



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