The PR BlogDigital PRMonitoring, Algorithms & SEODigital PR is All About Small Numbers

Digital PR is All About Small Numbers

Outbound reach is overrated.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

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.

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

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

At least, that’s what we think.

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.

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

Small numbers matter more than we might think.

Magnifying glass, visual art, highly detailed - Small Numbers in Digital PR
AI art. Prompt: “Magnifying glass, visual art, highly detailed.”

As digital PR specialists, we tend to inflate the online space. We talk about how many views, shares, or likes a piece of content has gotten.

We talk about one hundred million views on Youtube like it happens more often than it does. Sure, a massive hit song with a great video performed by a celebrity artist.

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

We seem to have a fear of small numbers, almost. 1Please note that I’m not discussing belief in the law of small numbers. The belief is a cognitive bias where we tend to underestimate the variability in small samples.

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

For instance, let’s talk about numbers that indicate reducing time or loss.

If you want your message to go viral, you should be optimising for making a specific number smaller:

Cycle time is the time between someone being “infected” and when that person “infects” someone else.

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.

Shorter cycle times, more viral spread.

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

Other examples are drop-off rates for websites and funnels:

“A good drop-off rate will depend on the industry, product, and other factors. Simply though, your drop-off rate should be as low as possible.”
Source: Upflowy

If you look for those smaller numbers, you will start to notice them everywhere.

The more I apply this thinking in digital PR, the more I wonder if the most powerful number in digital PR is the number of one.

The French poet Victor Hugo (1802-1885) said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

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, has the potential to ignite a butterfly effect and that it could set off a mighty chain of events.

Our job, therefore, is to find that one person, idea, or igniting action.

Inbound vs Outbound

The inbound mindset is a fundamental shift in public relations.

Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The difference between inbound and outbound.

Instead of focusing on trying to spawn non-existing audiences, PR can do so much more with existing online publics.

If your inbound PR strategy is good enough, you might not even need an outbound PR strategy.

Jerry Silfwer speaking about inbound marketing
Jerry Silfwer (Doctor Spin) speaks about inbound marketing.

Read also: The Inbound PR Strategy

1 Please note that I’m not discussing belief in the law of small numbers. The belief is a cognitive bias where we tend to underestimate the variability in small samples.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.


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