Take a trip with us back to 1960s America. The country was in turmoil but the music was groovy, the clothes were outtasight and Detroit was pumping out some of the coolest vehicles of all time. As we learned more about capacity and lean management, the margins of the automobile industry grew and times were good. Managing production capacity was as easy as forecasting demand, and then ensuring you had the resources to meet that demand.

But as the information age emerged, managing capacity grew more and more difficult until today. Where production and services merge into a strange hybrid model, as in earned media and digital PR, managing the capacity of the “thing” often brings more questions than answers. This is the first of a two-part post that will be our dive into capacity management of earned media. We’ll also give a few tips on ways to keep it all under control. project-management-earned-media

“My capacity for country music is 0.0004 seconds”

First things first: Let’s define capacity. While in other aspects of life one could define capacity by saying something like, “My capacity for country music is 0.0004 seconds,” we’ll be defining capacity as “the ability to work off an existing demand.” By defining it this way, we can begin to see that capacity is directly related to an output quantity and a time dimension. When demand is understood and fixed, the math is simple. Producing and serving X deliverables takes Y time to match Z demand.

When demand is NOT fixed, or when the production of deliverables depends largely on a third party not fully under your control (as it is in earned media and digital PR services), the math gets quite a bit more difficult. At this point the time variable becomes inconsistent. In some cases an editorial pitch may land a placement in a day or two. In other cases it may take months, if at all! So, how on earth do you manage that? Forecast with historical data.

“Is this something we need to be tracking?”

Historical data can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If the data is good, forecasting your ability to meet a certain demand becomes a bit clearer. If the data is bad, your forecasts will be significantly off and capacity management will quickly turn to client expectation management. By pulling accurate historical data, you can begin to see ranges and similarities in production.

For instance: you may realize that, on average, it takes you three weeks to land four pieces of editorial coverage. With this information you can begin placing time tables around your production and services. The more data you have to fall back on, the more accurate your ranges will become. This is the first step toward understanding what you and your team are capable of.

He can be kind of a control freak”

Once you’ve forecasted and created a picture of your capacity, it’s important to regulate anything and everything that you can control. Outside forces (a blogger’s response to a guest post pitch, for example) will always remain a non-constant; but things like the time it takes to write your guest post, or the number of pitches you can write and send out in a given day, are things you actually can regulate and make constant. This is where goal setting and deadlines become invaluable. If you can use your historical data and forecasting to prove that 35 percent of your editorial pitches result in a published piece, and that you are able to write an average of 15 pitches per day, you can begin working your math backwards.

First, the number of pitches needed:


Where x equals the number of pitches needed to be sent, and y equals the number of published pieces your client is expecting. For instance, if your client is expecting 25 pieces of content placed the number of pitches (for our example) would be about 72.

Now the number of days needed to complete said pitches:


Where x equals the number of pitches needed to be sent and y equals the number days necessary to complete said pitches. According to this equation, you would need between four and five days.

By setting the goal of finishing your pitches within that timeframe, you’re regulating the piece of the puzzle that’s within your control. This makes define your capacity more plausible, even with the added inconsistency of the third-party variable.

This is just a start. Next time we’ll talk about different types of strategies, the link between quality and quantity and capacity thieves.

Image credit: Wikipedia