How Fast Should You Spend Money on a Communications Campaign?

500 Words on Thursday | Written by Lee Schneider

So you have some money to spend on a communications campaign? Great! It may surprise you to know that the amount of money you have to spend is not as critical as how fast you spend it.

Here’s the thing. In documentary production we are able to make a nice chart of how money is spent. If you view it as a timeline,  you’ll notice something right away. At the start – when it is just you and an idea – things are pretty cheap, but as production continues – adding a crew, an editor, composer, and graphics –  things get more and more expensive. If you need to make changes at the beginning, it’s cheap. If you need to change something at the end, it is not cheap.

Now, when you look at communications and PR, most people turn that formula on its head. People seem to think like movie moguls who want their blockbuster movie to ‘open big,’ so they blow an enormous amount of money on the opening weekend, the premiere, the launch, the one-time media release, figuring that if you make enough noise at the beginning it will last to the end.

That might work for the next Transformers movie, but in the online world it’s a fast-and-furious waste. Online movements that last tend to start slowly. Those that blow up at the start tend to fizzle out. So when you ask, ‘How fast do I spend my money?’ Not fast. Spend longer instead.

Say you have enough cash for a solid Google AdWords campaign, about $100 a day. Running that campaign over a month will get you good traffic to your site. Running it over two days in a massive mega-buy will make a nice blip in your Analytics shaped like the Matterhorn. But it won’t matter because it won’t last. I’ve seen StumbleUpon feature websites on the front page – massive traffic is the result – usually for part of a day. Then it goes away, dipping back to the site norm. Life resumes. WordPress once featured a blog of mine on Freshly Pressed. In the space of a few hours more than a thousand people showed up to read it, and I made a hundred new WordPress friends. Then life resumed as before.

There are a few mass market venues that still matter. If you get on a television news show you will make friends who may head over to your site in droves. (How many miles per gallon do you get in a drove, anyway?) If you are featured on a prominent podcast, radio show or written about in a magazine or blog, you get yourself a link that generates traffic for a long time.

The loyal audience that you build slowly means more. Your critical mass number doesn’t have to be big at the start (though it might be big later.) Spend what you need to make an impression, but spend over time.