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Failure IS an Option: Mistakes That Inspire

Greg Jarboe

July 4, 2003

Peter Drucker has observed, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Through trial and error, I've discovered a corollary in PR measurement: "If you can measure failure, then you can manage success."


Let me give you two examples.

I'm the co-founder of SEO-PR ( My partner and I have developed an innovative approach to marketing that combines search engine optimization (SEO) and public relations (PR). This enables clients and agencies to write press releases that generate sales leads as well as publicity.

While we had successfully tested our new idea on our own web site, we also needed some positive beta tests on both B2C and B2B sites to provide credibility for our new business.

Fortunately, we have a number of friends in the industry. So, we were able to enlist their help in putting together a few pilot projects. The key benefit wasn't early success. It was our approach to PR measurement, which tracked precisely what worked and what didn't work. This enabled all of us to discover the formula for long-term success.

Our first client was Jim Kinlan, a founder and the Vice President of Marketing of KMT Software. He hired us to provide four hours of consulting, so that he could implement our approach himself on his company's B2C site, TemplateZone ( This first attempt produced mixed results -- but they were measurable results, so he brought us back for another four-hour consulting gig to address what he needed to do to redesign his Web site as well as to optimize his press releases.

Three months later, has increased its reach by 40%, its page views per visitor by 39%, and its "organic sales" significantly. Kinlan accomplished this by measuring his modest early effort to discover how to turn it into a bigger success later.

Another early client was Te Smith, Senior Director Corporate Communications at Zone Labs ( She was working on a press release to introduce a B2B product, Zone Labs Integrity. Since time was tight, we focused on optimizing her press release, and not on where it would be posted on the Zone Labs web site.

The Zone Labs announcement was made at a major industry conference. By the end of the first day, 100 other companies had also made announcements at the same conference. But the Zone Labs release was still ranked #1 on Google News for a key term in a very crowded category.

That generated a number of leads, but we couldn't keep the momentum on the following day because we hadn't addressed the company's larger web site issues. Nevertheless, by measuring even our short-term success, we were able to make the case for a more comprehensive effort to ensure ongoing success.

The moral of these stories is crystal clear. Measure, measure, measure and measure some more. This will enable you to know what needs to be done next, which is what management is all about.

It also helps if PR measurement is focused on something valuable like leads and sales. That's what other parts of the marketing mix are expected to generate. Public relations can generate leads and sales, too, once it gets into the measurement business.

Greg Jarboe is co-founder of SEO-PR (, which helps clients and public relations firms in San Francisco and Boston to optimize and promote web sites.


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