The Myth of Press, PR, and Viral Marketing
When some companies ask to work with Demand Curve, they expect us to whip out our growth hacks and make their company go viral.
People think we hack Instagram and Twitter by writing bots that automatically follow people. Or hijack wifi networks to insert our own HTML. Or subtly edit Wikipedia pages to point at company sites. Or train dogs how to surf so that newspapers will write about their surfboard.
All these things sound sexy. But they usually don’t lead to paying customers. Going viral is not growth unless it leads to paying customers.
Here are a few more examples of the wrong way to think about growth:
The theme here: doing something particularly noteworthy so that you get featured in the press.

What Actually Happens

When you get news coverage or go viral, you get a big initial hit. And then the traffic goes away.
Here’s a real graph from one of our clients
We’ve seen this across a number of companies.
With rare exceptions, it is very foolish to rely on press and PR as a growth channel.
The companies that do get it right invest tens of thousands to millions of dollars into it. They have super broad audiences and take a lot of big swings. They miss a lot. But they can afford to.
That Dollar Shave Club video? Here’s the real story behind it. They had a background in theater, were meticulous about crafting the video, and had enough expertise to cram what usually costs companies $50,000 into $5,000.
And, most importantly, they haven’t been able to repeat their success. More people hear about them through Facebook ads now.

When is Press and PR Worthwhile?

Long-term, getting press and doing “remarkable” things are good for one thing: social proof.
People are more likely to buy from you if they trust you. If the New York Times and Shark Tank logos are on your site, potential customers will trust you more.
Unfortunately, except in very very extreme cases, you don’t get ongoing traffic from getting press. Most companies learn this the hard way.
So…have you just launched? Do you need more credibility? Maybe do some PR outreach so you can refer to it. Otherwise, stick it on the backburner.

So...what should you do instead?

When it comes to building a business, you want to find a reliable, scalable way to get more customers. Don’t depend on getting lucky.
There are a number of proven ways to consistently get people to hear about you. We call them acquisition channels.
To pick them, you need to have a strong idea of who should buy from you. Read about that next.