5 Hidden Ways PR Pros Use Math
Ever heard a PR practitioner complain about math? PR measurement guru, Shonali Burke, sums it up nicely:
It drives me a little bit crazy – OK, a lot crazy – when I hear PR pros declare they can’t do math; some of them even sport this statement as a badge of honor. Another common disclaimer is that PR pros ‘went into PR because they didn’t want to do math.’
But let’s take a step back for a minute and look at the realities of PR and math.
For starters, if you’re a functioning adult, you’re doing math…every day. You wouldn’t be able to pay bills, manage credit cards, tip your waiter or generally do things necessary to keep the lights on if you ‘can’t do math.’ And when it comes to PR, you’re *also* doing math, though you might not realize it.
If you’re managing a client’s budget, you’re doing math. If you’re using data points to pitch a story, you’re doing math. If you’re managing a research project for a client which comprises surveys, you’re doing math. If you’re running your own PR business, you’re absolutely doing math.
And when measuring PR, even if your metrics are primarily output metrics, you’re doing math. What else would you call counting all those impressions, hits and followers?
I think many [PR] pros think ‘differential calculus’ or other complicated functions when they hear ‘math’. But that’s something even I wouldn’t want to do on a daily basis! However, regular math? Everyone does it without even knowing it, so it’s time to stop being frightened of it!
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
In order to boost your computational confidence, we tapped a few mathematically-minded folks to help uncover 5 hidden ways PR pros are using math.
Think PR doesn’t “do math”? Think again.
1. Probability Theory & Classification
To see these two principles in action, look at the intrinsic ranking methods used to identify priorities and hierarchies before, during and after PR campaigns.
Not every PR activity gets the same amount of attention or time dedicated to it. By weighting outputs, ranking outlets and making explicit choices to use some words or messages more than others, you’re totally enacting the underlying principles of Probability Theory and Classification. Go you!
2. Calculus & Geometry
Visual content is EVERYWHERE and non-number minded folk are likely to point to imagery as more of their jam. It might come as a surprise to visually-driven individuals that all visualizations (e.g. graphs, pie charts, etc.) are tapping calculus and geometry to tell their stories.
Visualizations makes it easier to extract meaning from numbers while providing indicators of rates of change, growth in profit, etc. Don’t ever say geometry never did anything for you.
AirPR Software Engineer and self-proclaimed math enthusiast, Ryan Rapp, astutely pointed out the applications of statistics in PR:
“Statistics answers the question of how many of X do we need before results are reliable and perhaps repeatable.”
Furthermore: “When you look at a lot of articles, you can find labels and apply designation to subsets of placements, like this 20 percent of outlets are generating leads, that 80 percent are perpetuating a specific message, etc.”
4. Multiplication & Arithmetic
Ever find yourself calculating the percentage change in a PR metric over time? What about looking at shifts in company share price? All of these activities require the application of basic arithmetic or multiplication.
Google Analytics Advocate, Adam Singer, rightly states:
“Determining ROI of a campaign or understanding the statistical significance of a test are all table stakes skills for communications pros. Even if your area of focus doesn’t involve these things today, it likely will in the near future. This is a good thing, as the more we can hone our craft to to be as much science as art, the larger our budgets will get.”
Don’t freak out. Though complicated to pronounce, this one is actually incredibly easy to understand. Combinatorics is used to calculate degrees of separation and maximum reach within audiences according to how interconnected those groups are. Think: the network effect.
Combinatorics gives you a sense of how information can be theoretically spread across different groups. When you engage influencers or target specific journalists, you’re calling on the power of Combinatorics to help you realize the greatest reach and impact of your work.
See? You’re a total math rockstar!
At the end of the day, “doing Math” doesn’t necessarily mean busting out a protractor, figuring out the statistical significance of a subset of data points or living in Excel-land. It simply means acknowledging the quantitative underpinnings of PR’s often qualitative work.
Everyone does Math, so let’s embrace the power of the discipline if only to embolden and empower the number-crunching prowess that lurks deep down in every PR pro.
Say it with me now: “I AM A PR PRO AND I CAN TOTALLY DO MATH!”
This article was written by Leta Soza, the PR Engineer at AirPR where she specializes in PR strategy, content marketing, community cultivation and analytics. She is currently a contributing writer for 500 Startups, PRNewser, and Entrepreneur and is the co-editor for AirPR blog: The Riff. Soza holds BA in Marketing and a BS in Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago. @LetaSoza
Communications Best Practices
Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.
Cision Product News
Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.
Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.
A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.