Impressions: the ubiquitous metric for PR success. The greater the number of impressions, the better your PR agency is doing… right? We recently saw a PR agency touting its 2.34 billion impressions secured for a local Atlanta brand.
Chances of that being accurate? One in 2.34 billion. That would mean each person in the U.S. read about that client three times, plus all their cousins in Europe twice removed.
But in all seriousness, calculating the number of people who saw your media coverage, surprisingly, isn’t an exact science.
While social and digital platforms give you accurate number-of-eyes-on-your-communications counts, things get muddier with estimates for print, online and broadcast coverage. PR impression reports typically tell you how many people could have potentially been exposed to your message, not how many people actually saw it.
That said, there are ways to try and get closer to accuracy. Here are a few ways agencies typically calculate impressions and our solutions for doing it better.
- Multipliers. While this is hopefully a dying metric, I have known several agencies who use “multipliers” to calculate print impressions. This is multiplying the print outlets’ circulation by a pass-along rate (meaning one issue of a magazine might be read by three people). If using a multiplier, a magazine with a circulation of 50,000 could be reported as potentially reaching 150,000 people. While it’s true one magazine can be read by multiple people, it’s also true that some are never opened, or only read partially. Because it’s such a grey area, we choose to report exact circulations without multipliers (and it’s good to ask your agency if multipliers are used – or not).
- UVPMs. So your company was featured on USAToday.com, which has 87 million unique visitors per month (UVPM). It’s not uncommon that an agency will report the UVPM in your impressions report. However, if you’re a frequent visitor to USAToday.com, you know that content is updated daily, and the likeliness of someone stumbling upon your article even a week from now is highly unlikely. Also, many PR databases include UVPMs for online outlets. But instead of taking Cision’s (the database we use & love!) 36M UVPM for Mashable as THE reach number to enter into your impressions report, we recommend factoring in the life span of the content’s visibility, and utilizing it to divide the UVPM to get a more accurate reach number.
- Influencer Coverage. We regularly partner with influencers for product and service reviews, and are able to track impact by looking at resulting purchases, coupon-code redemption and web traffic. But, when it comes to sharing overall reach, it’s again not uncommon for agencies to use UVPMs. As with online media coverage, we recommend looking at content frequency to gauge the percentage of unique monthly visitors by with which to divide the overall UVPM numbers. Also, don’t rely on reach numbers from influencers’ media kits (they can be outdated, or based on unique page views or overall traffic numbers). Use a third-party resource, like Quantcast.com, to verify the actual UVPM and go from there.
And don’t forget: numbers aren’t everything. There are many ways to determine the success of a PR campaign. Impression counts are only one metric!
We believe it’s better to err on the side of caution when calculating overall campaign reach, and avoid inflated numbers where we can. But we’re constantly evolving our techniques and would love to hear from other agencies about how you get as close to accurate as possible.
Have any thoughts about the above? Share them with us below!