One of most basic functions of any business department is to demonstrate to management the value it adds to the overall business. This is no different for public relations, which justifies the investment in media relations and executives’ time with measurable results.
In most instances, these results are a combination of the number of placements in the media and the total number of impressions from those placements. (In the past, ad value equivalency played a part in these measurements, too, but many reputable PR agencies have dropped this metric because it does not reliably reflect the value added by a public relations program.)
An important distinction: When a public relations team reports “impressions,” they’re not implying that 42.3 million people actually read your story on pcmag.com. Impressions are more of a coefficient that show the readership of a given outlet, and your quality coverage’s potential to reach decision makers.
That said, there are several tools available to PR professionals to assist with measuring impressions.
Cision is perhaps one of the best-known platforms in the public relations industry. In addition to its usefulness for monitoring media trends and crafting targeted media lists, Cision maintains statistics on website UVM (unique viewers per month) and in-print circulation numbers.
Other market intelligence and measurement tools include utilities like Quantcast and SimilarWeb, which can provide UVM data based on a URL.
TrendKite is a purpose-built PR analytics tool that pulls impression data from SimilarWeb and contextualizes it with user-defined parameters.
Some of these utilities even develop browser extensions that enhance their usability and provide at-a-glance statistics for easy results tracking.
Much to the displeasure of PR professionals, however, many of these tools can report wildly different results for the same outlet.
No matter which tool you settle on, it’s important to develop a standard and stick with it. Consistent reporting practices will deliver better insights on what strategies are working, and provide executives with more reliable reports on the value your efforts are contributing. Communicate any changes in reporting methods to the client before you make them. Most importantly, make sure they approve of your measurement methods and understand how any changes may cause inconsistencies in long-term results comparisons.
As a side note, many of these measurement tools are great for researching inbound media requests as well. In an upcoming blog post, we’ll detail how to use these tools to identify illegitimate media requests that appeal to a customer’s desire for quick and easy coverage, but often can result in wasted time or even monetary loss.