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Mental models are frameworks that help people to understand and organize complex information. Mental models are used in many fields, including psychology, cognitive science, computer science and architecture. They are also used in marketing and management strategy. Mental models can be applied to the understanding of any system or conflict. In this article, I will go through two sets of mental models that are effective for PR. Also, I will showcase how these two mental models interact and feed off each other.
The Pareto Principle is a law of nature which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle is named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who made the discovery in 1906. He observed that 80% of Italy‘s land was owned by 20% of its population, and he found similar distributions everywhere he looked. How does this principle translate into PR? Let’s take a look.
Early on, when you start earning media coverage for your brand, you notice that 20% of the coverage leads to 80% of your brand awareness, website visitors and social sentiment. Out of approximately your first ten articles, two of them will go viral and will have a huge impact on your business.
Well, now you might be thinking to yourself, “Why not just aim for the 20% coverage?” I will tell you what the catch is:
While analytics can help in indicating what type of article will perform better than another, there are many dynamic factors that you don’t have complete control over in PR. Some include how a journalist chooses to frame a story, how viral the article will go on social media, and if there is some big news about Elon Musk on that same day, for example.
So, what can be done to acknowledge the Pareto Principle in PR?
While analytics can’t do all the work, they can definitely contribute astronomically. My PR agency, for example, uses advanced analytics software to track storylines, articles and social media sentiment in order to gain more insight into how a specific story or angle will be able to perform. This increases the chances that the PR strategy we have set up will be more effective for the brand. The other solution to this leads me to the following mental model that is crucial and super effective for PR.
The Compound Effect in PR
The Compound Effect principle is a strategy for compounding small gains over time to achieve large, long-term results.
The principle is based on the idea that many small actions can produce large positive outcomes when they are compounded over time. It states that the benefit of action will increase exponentially as it is repeated more often. How does the Compound Effect function in PR? Let’s take a look.
Remember when we talked about the Pareto Principle (80/20)? The fascinating thing about PR is that all media coverage compounds for the long term. Even the 80% of the coverage that did not go viral, like the 20%, is still indexed on Google search and creating a variety of touchpoints over social media. This is an incredibly important insight. Brands that go all-in on PR and do it consistently, without just trying to hit a very specific target publication, are able to compound their way into efficient brand awareness, website traction and strong thought leadership presence.
So how are we able to incorporate both the Pareto and Compound Effect principles?
I am glad you asked (or I asked myself). The way to incorporate these mental models into PR is to initially create a PR strategy that focuses on messaging and a targeted audience. Later on, when you start earning media coverage and gaining more insights and analytics, you will be able to structure your next strategy accordingly, while taking in account that almost all press mentions are valuable, and as long that you are consistent and innovative with your PR efforts, you will be rewarded. Your focus should be on creating momentum around your brand and providing upfront value to your audience. If you do that, just like legendary football coach Bill Walsh said, “The score will take care of itself.”