Last year Google published a new marketing model that added an extra step into the traditional view of the customer purchase journey.

Labelled The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the model essentially states that the internet has created an additional customer touch point between the original advert and the actual purchase.

ZMOT is when consumers go online to research products, look for reviews or try to find coupons.

At a PRCA event on Tuesday Unibet’s head of search Nick Garner said that ZMOT is an area that PRs should own as it’s about influencing decisions and getting positive brand information onto trusted websites.

According to Nick:

Influence is moving online, so PRs need to be able to find the few sites that are influential and get the right links back to their client’s site.

In this way, PRs should be able to not only influence purchase decisions but also help to drive their client’s linkbuilding strategies.


ZMOT stems from a survey Google commissioned of 5,003 consumers in which 84% of respondents said that online feedback and research helped to influence their purchase decisions.

In the old model the purchase was known as the first moment of truth, so Google named this new research stage the ZMOT.

One of the reasons that ZMOT is so useful to consumers is the number of sources of information that can be accessed online.

The average shopper now uses 10.7 sources of information before making a purchase, ranging from 5.8 when looking for a restaurant up to 18.2 when researching their next car.

Therefore it is important for PRs to try and influence the conversation on blogs, forums and social media, as it is a vital stage in the purchase journey.

They also need to be aware of which demographics are involved in the conversations online.

Garner highlighted data from The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project which shows that while people aged 18-34 are more likely to use search engines and buy more online, in total there is 400% more feedback online from people aged over 35.

Separate research by Reevoo shows that 88% of consumers ‘sometimes or always’ consult reviews before making a purchase, so the benefits of improving the brand image with older consumers should not be overlooked.

So how do you influence the ZMOT?

Recognising the importance of ZMOT is the easy part, the difficulty comes in actually locating the sites that hold the most influence and working with them to try and build positive coverage.

But Garner suggested that this is essentially what PRs have always done – identify the influential people within your client’s consumer base and target them to amplify your brand message.

One obvious problem is that it is difficult to measure the impact of a PR campaign on influencing ZMOT.

Garner’s response was that even in a digital age where every visit and every click can be tracked and measured, brands were still willing to give PRs money knowing that what they do is not always easy to quantify.

Therefore ZMOT actually puts PRs in a very strong position, as though the medium is changing the skill set remains the same.

This also ties into the debate over how PRs should be involved with SEO, as Garner spoke about the importance of online influence for linkbuilding and improving social signals for SEO.

You can read more about this debate in our recent guest blogs urging PRs to get a grip on SEO and warning that SEOs will slaughter careless PR agencies. As the two industries contine to converge you can also read seven ways PRs should be helping their clients' SEO strategies.

David Moth

Published 27 September, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (7)

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Julio Romo, Communications Consultant and Digital Strategist at twofourseven

Nick Garner is spot on with his analysis.

Google research and white papers show how the consumer makes decisions. Their vision of 21st Century shopping is right, the web and social channels provides individuals with the necessary confidence to make a decision to spend the money in the pocket.

PRs are best equipped to lead this change. But there is a massive caveat. There is a lack of knowledge within many organisations of how the business landscape is changing. I would argue that there is a certain resistance to acknowledging that today engagement and interaction online drives brand sign-in and sales offline. It is about all about influence, which is what public relations is all about.

almost 6 years ago


Beth Torrie, Director at Sitecore

This is a really great concept. I'm not sure I would put the responsibility solely in the hands of pr. IMHO - The online ecosystem needs more support and ammunition than just from pr. When considered as part of the broad and revenue goals of a company - as in the video and derived from the ZMOT concet - all marketers should be considering these influences in their strategies.

almost 6 years ago


Julio Romo, Communications Consultant and Digital Strategist at twofourseven

Beth, very good point. I think there needs to be a pull down of the internal silos that still exist. Less of a battle for the 'how own social and digital' and more of an acceptance that it is owned by everybody within an organisation. That said, and I am biased, I think that PR and Comms are best experienced to lead the engagement.

almost 6 years ago



Influencing the perceptions and behaviours of consumers is exactly what PRs should be doing. Unfortunately, because most of them focus almost exclusively on pumping out the message, they miss the opportunity to directly influence decision-making in this way.

I agree with Nick Garner's comments, although I'm not 100% convinced about ZMOT. Product research can be complex and convoluted, resulting in a series of 'zero' moments online. Also, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that even though research may be carried out online, there will often be a number of offline factors influencing the final decision.

almost 6 years ago

Ivor Morgan

Ivor Morgan, Personal

Beth, is absolutely correct. For me one of the key messages behind ZMOT is that customers (and this applies equally to B2B businesses) arrive at the point of first engagement with your organisation already informed, educated and opinionated. Since they have already been influenced before they engage with you, it is incredibly difficult to identify what those influences were. So it is very important that we should, as Julio said, breakdown the silos and ensure that everyone in an organisation who creates content understands the role that it will play in ZMOT. This means that it's not simply a role for SEO, PR or marcomms, but it also applies to the customer service reps in your call centres whose call handling influences ratings, reviews and social network comments; the copywriters and merchandisers who work on your product descriptions and white papers and the people who work at your point-of-sale in contact with your customers. Optimising for ZMOT should be a company wide initiative.

almost 6 years ago


Unternehmensberatung Stephan Jäckel

I am always feeling very disgusted when it is being suggested that companies should influence how people preceive a brand / company prior or during a purchase decision process by spamming the web with propaganda and false "customer statements".

In return I always ask: Is your management that hugely uncapeable of ensuring that customer tailored products and services are being made and rolled out at consistent levels of quality that you need to cover up that inability by lying?

Oh, I always get such bad looks from people in return :)) Why is it that offendors always feel so strongy offenced when the truth about them is spoken????

Someone only needs to manipulate public preception of oneself and what one does if one's products, services or management really suck! Any company doing a good job will get so much good reputation and resposnse, feedback and natural recommendation and linking that it will just naturally outperfrom others.

Using Public Relation tactics to cover up that you are a looser is naturally destined to fail because everybody you made purchase your product or use your service by tricking his or her preception of your company's public preception will quickly find out just how much of a failure you are when you yet again screw up a customer relationship with a lousy product or service deliverd.

And is it really economical to spend lots of money on spamming the web with lies about yourself only to loose the customer after one interaction and have him/her post yet another negative comment about you somewhere in the web where it takes you yet even more money to detect it with special software and to place half a dozen counter-statements on the same page making you shine again?

Nah, Public Relations is NOTHING that any serious and respectful modern Social Business will ever rely on because it will never have to do so. Professional and successful businesses do act much different.

If now the term of "hidden champions" comes to your mind, you have made a great learning step in the right direction - at least in my eyes.

almost 6 years ago

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

The research talks about key page elements that close a sale. ZMOT is likely to play a huge part in making CRO a default element of ecommerce businesses. Enjoyed this post, it shows how important landing pages desing is. Every page ought to be treated as a landing page.

almost 6 years ago

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