Question: You are about to go into a meeting with the C-suite members of your company to report on the success of your PR campaign. Would you rather be able to say:
A.) The campaign is working well, we have generated over 12 million impressions
B.) The campaign is working well, we have reached 91% of our target audience an average of 4.2 times.
OK, so it would have been best to be able to report a direct causal link between PR activities and sales with an estimated ROI of 250%, but, between the two examples above, most of us would rather have reach and frequency data than just impressions. Reach is typically expressed as a percentage of the audience and therefore requires the practitioner to know the total audience size and how many of the audience were ‘reached’ with a given combination of articles. You also need to understand media consumption dynamics. In the advertising world this sort of analysis is common and expected.
The power of reach is that it provides a much more realistic estimate of possible impact than impressions. For example, if you are targeting women and get a hit in the New York Times, most PR pros today would lay claim to nearly 5 million impressions. Some, citing pass-along readership and/or a mythical PR credibility advantage, might even inflate this number by a factor of three and claim almost 15 million impressions (For additional discussion on the use of multipliers, please see this IPR White Paper) . In fact, you have reached a little less than 2 million women with the New York Times hit. Reach paints a more realistic picture.
In the UK, Metrica purports to have reach and frequency data gleaned from a primary study of 12,000 consumers. They use it as a standard metric in their bespoke media content analysis offering. So why don’t any of the U.S.-based media content analysis firms offer reach and frequency metrics? The database development would be expensive but uptake most likely would be strong.
While both impressions and reach only represent opportunities to see (OTS), at least the reach approach requires the potential reader to be someone who could actually buy your product or service. Baby steps of progress. Next, perhaps we’ll start to measure people who actually saw an article and took the time to read it. Maybe we’ll use the word du jour and call these ‘authentic impressions’.
As always, thanks for reading. -Don B