The scenario has been played out thousands of time between public relations agencies and clients. The agency reports on its results from a press release and produces a quantity of articles or clippings to show the client the level of activity and exposure and “results” produced from the press release.

The client, usually duly impressed with the production, will then ask the question: “What are all these ‘results’ worth?” In other words, the client is asking what did these results do for me (the client) as far as selling my product or service. The silence usually is deafening, because it is really impossible for the agency to equate exposure with tangible (sales/profits) results. Accountability is and has always been one of the great challenges of conventional wisdom public relations.

The need for accountability becomes particularly acute when the economy slows down and pressure mounts on marketing expenditures. Advertising agencies have the same problem. How many advertising agencies have won Clio or other awards for creative excellence only to be greeted by the pink slip from the client when they found this wonderfully creative advertising didn’t move the product off the supermarket or drug store shelves.

The Internet and its accompanying technological explosion have made some inroads into the accountability dilemma. One of the new concepts is called “persuasion architecture,” and one of its proponents is a company called Future Now, a company founded in 1998 by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. Future Now applies this architecture to increase online and multichannel conversion rates so prospects purchase, subscribe, register, make referrals or accomplish other goals that can be measured and optimized. Future Now’s “MAPSuite” product is a group of software applications that allow nonexperts to apply this “persuasion architecture” to their businesses.

According to Jeffrey Eisenberg, persuasion architecture is at its simplest , a method for marketers to reach their objectives by first focusing on the objectives of its customers. The process involves determining exactly what you want someone to do, identifying who that person is and then identifying what it would take to take that action.

Future Now is working with another company, PRWeb, a wire service founded in 1997, primarily as a direct-to-consumer (Web-directed) delivery vehicle. By going directly to consumers, Future Now/PR Web bypasses the media gatekeeper, the traditional target of public relations efforts. The ability to correlate exposure with results enables the marketer to quantitatively determine the results of the public relations effort.
Instead of using the media to get the press release in print, the Internet market can direct the press release to the customer.

Future Now is working with PRWeb to integrate its planning tools into PRWeb’s distribution system to use the press release as a more effective marketing tool. “A main element of the persuasion architecture is looking at user behavior online as a series of actions that lead users from one hyperlink to the next rather than isolated visits to certain pre-defined pages of content,” writes Kevin Newcomb in Clickz, the on-line newsletter. “The methodology also uses the concept of personas, idealized characters embodying traits of your real life audience, to put in place the right answers and arguments needed to convince different kinds of prospects.”

Eisenberg sums up the new logic. “Most businesses have an interest in generating something from their press release, whether it’s a purchase, engagement or something else. Rarely do they just want somebody to read it. A press release in this new environment is not dissimilar from an AdWords ad or other parts of the campaign. You’re providing a chunk of information with the intent of getting somebody to do something.