Replacing the Age Old Media Impression Calculation?

For many years, public relations professionals relied on circulation figures and media  impressions to justify the success (or failure) of a print media relations campaign. Providing clients with a long list of media “hits” with attached impression numbers was what we called “reporting our success.” But, today, with easy access to online and mobile media and the rise of social media, what people are reading and how they are being influenced is changing emerging being revolutionized. It’s only natural our way of reporting whether or not a media relations campaign is successful would change, as well.

Of course, I’m still waiting for that magical new formula. If you believe the six media monitoring vendors we’ve talked with in the last two months about this, the new Magic Success Reporting Formula is still being developed and might not be far away. In the meantime we still report media impressions (along with tone: positive, negative, neutral).

We tried sending reports from other monitoring services, which rate influence and resonance and other fun buzz words. But, our client’s eyes glazed over at the multi-color charts and long lists of hits with live hyperlinks to “see more.” They told us they didn’t know much more than when we just sent them an old-fashioned excel spreadsheet listing stories earned with a final media impression number at the bottom.

I feel their confusion.

And, then today I learned that daily newspapers are beginning to rewrite their own circulation rules. They appear to be engaged in a “do-over.” Determining their “circulation” and readership will now take into account online editions and mobile apps, according to this well-written blog. Good for them. 

Of course this means when we compare our media impression numbers from last year to this year, we’re in a conundrum. But, nevertheless, a new calculation should be developed. 

In addition to reports from the media monitoring companies,  we’ve toyed with the ideas of assigning a separate numerical value to our client’s “wish list” and including a separate report on what news stories in which they are involved are retweeted, shared and posted by others. But, still we wonder.

Where is the line between enough information to calculate success and just too much data, numbers and (albeit fun) charts?

I’d be curious to know what other methods public relations agencies engage when calculating media campaign successes. What say you?

Note: For those of you who are already beginning to pine for the days of smudged fingers and crackles made during page turning, check out this blog: Reflections of a Newsosaur. It made me want to go buy (and read) a real newspaper.

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