Head to Head: Are the days of media impressions over?

In this series, Mumbrella invites the industry's senior PR professionals to share their opposing views on the industry's biggest issues. This week, Agent99's Sharon Zeev Poole goes head to head with Frank PR's Laura Jones on the best way of evaluating media impact.

Measurement in PR has always been a topic of furious debate with many believing that advertising value equivalent is a flawed metric. In this debate, Sharon Zeev Poole argues media impressions don’t reflect the true impact of a campaign, while Laura Jones believes that media impressions form an important part of the PR evaluation funnel. So are the days of media impressions over?

Yes, argues Sharon Zeev Poole, director, Agent99

If we’re talking about that galaxy far, far away where AVEs have gone, then yes, the days of media impressions as a means of proving a campaign’s worth are definitely numbered.

Whilst the metric is still there in all its glory in many post campaign reports, with the amount of information and tools available to us these days, it simply doesn’t inform us in the slightest of the
true impact that a campaign has had.

Zeev Poole says media impressions don’t inform brands or agencies of the true impact on a campaign

We are bombarded by brand messages all day of which majority are ignored. So do impressions really do anything? An impression is really only where the journey begins, but it’s what happens next that makes it really interesting, and can authentically demonstrate the true difference a campaign can make.

I believe that our persistent reliance on impressions as a metric (along with highly inflated AVEs in some shuddering instances), is only detrimental to the communication sector’s growth and long- term sustainability.

Developing measurable metrics around the key campaign objectives which may include (perhaps alongside impressions or reach) shares, quality of reach, general sentiment, lead generation, conversion rate, click through rate, referral traffic, awareness pre and post campaign, the conversation we were able to generate between a brand and its consumers, and business impact, will only help to cement earned media as an essential component of the marketing plan.

There is no doubt that measurement can be challenging, and is top of mind for our industry. However, I think that it’s our responsibility as professionals to work with our brand partners to look at objectives, dream outcomes, what is available (and is realistically within budget), and how we can best access the information together to make us all better marketers.

No, argues Laura Jones, managing director, Frank PR

“No, I don’t believe the days of media impressions are over, but I do believe the days of reporting media impressions as the only, or most important, evaluation metric are.

In a predominantly online world, we have more ways than ever to evaluate our contribution to the objectives of the businesses we work with. And we have a responsibility to do just that. Dig into data and understand what delivers – so we can make recommendations, founded in evidence, for future spends and campaigns.

Jones says media impressions are the broadest part of the “evaluation funnel”

Quantity of coverage, along with media impressions and unique users, sits at the broadest part of the evaluation funnel, the awareness end, giving big comparable numbers, particularly valuable to clients who have been used to now defunct AVEs.

But these big numbers have little meaning without looking at what we at Frank call talkability – quality and engagement metrics to measure word of mouth – sentiment, key message penetration, views, shares, comments, likes and more.

This is often where evaluation stops. But the final step is the most important one; understanding how our work delivers against business and marketing objectives, whether it’s sales, increase in website domain authority or behaviour change. This is where we need to work hand in hand with clients, getting to grips with brand tracking, sales data, google analytics and more, linking engagements to actions. It’s not until we complete all three parts of the evaluation process that we can really test, learn and grow.”

  • As told to Abigail Dawson. If you’re a senior PR professional who would like to take part in a future Head to Head, please email abigail@mumbrella.com.au

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