3 graphs that illustrate the problem with PR impressions

“We know impressions are inaccurate, but at least they’re directionally correct.”
“We know impressions are inaccurate, but we divide them to be more realistic.”
“We know impressions are inaccurate, but no one is forcing us to change.”

“We know impressions are inaccurate, but.” It’s a common and persistent refrain in the PR industry. Years of having no alternative metrics created a status quo of measuring the potential, rather than the actual.

Unfortunately, impressions are not directionally correct at the article level: highly-trafficked outlets don’t always get higher article readership (i.e. unique visitors to an article page) than lower-traffic outlets. And dividing monthly impressions by 7 or 30 days is not a realistic assessment of how content performs: on the same day in the same publication, one article can get one million readers, another one thousand. 

You might say Memo has a refrain of its own: “Impressions are not just inaccurate, they’re misleading.” We’ve published data that shows how impressions distort share of voice and how impressions overlook important outlets. But mechanically, why is this?

Our team analyzes readership data every day. We want to illustrate exactly why impressions obscure the insights that are so glaringly obvious with readership. 

Actual readership among a publication’s articles is highly variable

We pulled an entire month’s worth of content published on an outlet that receives roughly 30 million unique monthly visitors. Each box represents an article, and the size of the box represents that article’s readership, i.e. the number of unique visitors to the article in the first 7 days of publication.

Each of the approximately 800 boxes is a single article published in August 2022 on the same publication. The size of each box represents that article’s readership.

The most-read article that month received over 2000x more visitors than the least-read article. 

There is brand coverage that completely hit it out of the park, and there is coverage that could benefit from further amplification. 

There are article topics that tend to fall on the upper left corner of that graph, and topics that tend to fall on the lower right corner.

There are takedown pieces that blew up, and takedowns that barely made a splash.

Article-level readership provides a wealth of information about earned media performance and strategy. So what about impressions?

Impressions (wrongly) report that every article performs the same

We can visualize the same ~800 articles with potential impressions instead of actual readership. This is what we see:

Each of the approximately 800 boxes is a single article published in August 2022 on the same publication. The size of each box represents that article’s potential reach (aka impressions or UVMs).

Did we get a lot of eyeballs on our product press? Does this outlet get high readership on our industry’s news? Is this negative story worth a spokesperson response? Potential reach doesn’t help us answer any of these questions, but readership does.

It’s the difference between a clippings report where every article has the same performance metric (left) versus a readership report where you know exactly how many people saw the coverage (right):

Sure, the report that tallies up to 225,000,000 potential impressions looks impressive. But with 258 million adults in the US, business leaders know it’s a bogus figure.

Lower UVM publications can get more article readership than higher UVM publications

The monthly unique visitors on a site can be a helpful proxy for publisher authority when, for example, trying to understand the landscape or build an initial media list. But impressions are a horrible proxy for article performance, even across different publications. 

Everyday we see outlets with relatively low monthly visitors publish articles that receive higher readership than content on relatively high-traffic outlets. (A Memo report further examines this trend.)

In fact, one of the first things new Memo users say is “I can’t believe how many people read our placement on [insert niche outlet].” 

To illustrate, here is the same publication visualized above next to a second publication with approximately 75 million UVMs:

Each of the approximately 800 blue boxes is an article published in August 2022 on a publication with 30 million UVMs. Each of the approximately 1,300 purple boxes is an article on a publication with 75 million UVMs. The size of each box represents that article’s readership.

The higher-UVM outlet published the most-read articles among the two publications. But there are hundreds of articles on the lower-UVM outlet that received more readership than content on the higher-UVM outlet. 

We’ve now illustrated that impressions are 1) not directionally correct, and 2) not a realistic assessment of article performance, no matter how you slice them. 

Still, if no one is forcing the issue, why change?

Comms has become more entwined with marketing and business strategy. Its measurement will be too.

One of the biggest PR measurement trends that emerged this year was that Communications teams are working more closely with Marketing and other business functions. With this seat at the table, however, comes expectations of more rigorous measurement. 

Our team has worked with some of the earliest adopters of readership data. The Comms groups that embraced this change a year or two ago are already operating at a different level. They’re more strategic with media relations. They’re better equipped to handle crisis stories. They’re giving earned media its due credit in the broader marketing mix. 

No longer misled by the false impression (pardon our pun) that content performs uniformly on a publication, they’re making better business decisions.

All about article topics, Memo’s secret weapon for readership insights

While the wealth of readership data that the Memo platform provides is certainly exciting, it is hard to extract those insights without having a way to “slice and dice” the numbers. 

This is why our app assigns each article a “topic,” a label that provides an instant understanding of that article’s content. 

Say you want to hone in on coverage about hiring and workplace benefits – perhaps to see which outlets get high readership on the subject, or how your share of readership compares to competing employers. You can filter by topic in the app, in this case Business News – Hiring, Wages, Benefits, and view readership stats specific to this theme. 

Or conversely, if a topic is creating a lot of noise in your media coverage, you can filter it out to focus on the readership data most relevant to you. Pretty handy, right?

This month, we’re excited to release a new machine learning-powered classification system that improves both the categorization process and the topic taxonomy. 

We’re calling this launch “universal topics.” And while a faster, more consistent topic schema might not seem flashy, I promise that it’s an actual game changer for surfacing deeper readership insights at scale. Here are the details:

Memo’s article topics are built for how PR & Comms teams view media coverage

Unlike tools that generalize the subject of a piece of content, Memo tags articles with topics that are relevant to the coverage categories PR & Comms teams think about every day. An article about the new iPhone wouldn’t just be “consumer electronics” or “iPhone.” Rather, Memo might label it Product – Launch – iPhone 14 so that the user knows this was product-related press about the launch of the new iPhone.

Universal topics follow a pattern of Primary Topic (all) – Secondary Topic (most) – Tertiary Topic (some). For many longtime Memo users, these labels will look familiar. Here’s how the taxonomy works:

First, every article is assigned one of 13 possible Primary Topics:

  • Advice: How-to, instructional, and advice-driven articles
  • Business News: Corporate news, earnings coverage, executive news, etc.
  • Celebrity: Celebrity interviews, paparazzi coverage, gossip, and partnerships
  • Content Availability: Coverage of how, when, and where to access content
  • Corporate Initiatives: ESG-related initiatives by companies
  • Deals & Promos: Sales announcements and promotional offers
  • Event: Summits, conferences, sporting events, awards ceremonies, etc.
  • Human Interest: Feature stories that portray people in an emotional way
  • Incident: Coverage of crimes, deaths, cyberattacks, etc.
  • Industry Trends: General industry news and commentary
  • Issue: Coverage of large societal issues
  • Product: News about a company’s products, including launches and reviews
  • Merchandising: Articles promoting the availability of retail goods

Content and industry nuances are captured with subtopics

Once the Primary Topic has been identified, most articles will receive a Secondary Topic, and some will receive a Tertiary Topic. 

For certain Primary Topics, there are finite lists of corresponding Secondary Topics. All of the possible Secondary Topics for Business News, for example, are the following: 

  • Business News – Earnings 
  • Business News – Expansion
  • Business News – Hiring, Wages, Benefits
  • Business News – Leadership
  • Business News – M&A & Partnerships
  • Business News – Stocks & Markets
  • Business News – Thought Leadership

For other Primary Topics, there are infinite Secondary Topics. For instance, the primary topic Event has endless possibilities. In these cases, we use machine learning to pull out named entities that identify the specific event. An article that discusses the Emmy awards will be labeled Event – Emmy Awards. An article about the Academy Awards will be labeled Event – Academy Awards.

The primary topic Product is a combination of finite and infinite: the Secondary Topics are always either News, Review, Launch, or Roundup. Then we use entity extraction to pull a custom Tertiary Topic, typically the name of the product. So an article titled “Apple Launches iPhone 14 and 14 Plus” would be categorized as Product – Launch – iPhone 14.

The new topic schema enables easier readership analysis

A major benefit to the newly launched topic conventions is that the consistent structure makes it easier for brands to hone in on the coverage they care about for a given analysis.

In the iPhone example above, a brand like Apple could zoom in on iPhone 14 launch coverage to measure the readership of that campaign; they could look at the entire product news cycle for the iPhone 14 (the launch, product reviews, product promos, etc) to track readership over time; or they could compare all product launches across different devices to find the best outlets for the next device launch.

Imagines of Memo's readership dashboard filtering by different topics
Consistent topic hierarchies and naming conventions make it easier for Memo users to filter for different types of coverage.

Universal topics balance article fidelity with industry flexibility 

Previously, topics were assigned at the brand level, meaning an article’s topic might differ across accounts. 

By acknowledging that the topic of the article is a singular entity, universal topics create more value by prescribing an identity to that article, rather than assigning a topic in the context of the account’s dashboard. 

The launch of Brand tags in our platform in 2021 (labels that indicate which brands are included in an article) removed the need to clarify the brand context in articles with topics. In the past, for instance, when an article only mentioned an account’s keywords in passing, Memo assigned it the topic Mention. While that is the context of the article in relation to the brand, it doesn’t actually tell us anything about the contents of the article! 

With universal topics, each article’s topic is a direct representation of what that article is about. As described above, Secondary and Tertiary Topics provide more detailed entity information to make the topic relevant to the industry and brand. Altogether, this structure ensures consistency in reporting and allows Memo to provide deeper insights at scale.

Universal topics are also processed faster with new AI models

An added benefit to this launch is a standardized delivery time of the topic assignments. The granular customization at the brand level was possible with our legacy keyword-based topic assignment system, but it posed a hurdle as we migrated to more advanced, scalable machine learning models. And frankly, it took a long time to process.

Now, when you log into the dashboard first thing in the morning, all of the articles for the previous day will have a topic in addition to readership, every time! No more waiting for updates at 12pm EST or later. 

We have been working hard over the past several months to revamp our topic system, and we are so excited to share these improvements with our clients. The scalability of this system paves the way for deeper and faster insights, reports, and product features – so this is just the beginning.

Why social media has broken social listening, and how to fill the gaps

Key takeaways:

  • Social platforms that once served up a silver platter of data on earned-media engagement have deprioritized news articles.
  • With often <10% of article traffic originating from social media – and little correlation between the two – social listening is a misleading proxy for article readership.
  • It’s time to rethink the role of social listening for Comms and Marketing, and find new data sources to fill the gaps.

23% of U.S. adults use Twitter.

And among them, just 10% are responsible for 92% of Tweets.

It’s a surprising finding coming from the Pew Research Center, but should I be so shocked given my own habits? I have a Twitter account that I use for some aggressive lurking, but never Tweeting. When I want to share an article I found on Facebook, I usually copy the link and fire it off in group texts or Slack channels. I might like the occasional post from a brand on Instagram, but I’m acutely aware of the activity my friends, family, and ex-boyfriends can see on the platform. While I wouldn’t go so far to call myself the norm, that Pew study suggests I’m not an exception either. 

With so much engagement on brand content happening outside of social channels – and with the engagement inside those channels driven by the vocal minority – what role does social listening serve for Comms and Marketing teams? To understand where social listening can continue to provide valuable intel, we first need to dissect where it’s no longer relevant in 2022:

The days of measuring earned media performance with social are waning.

There was a time when the only datapoint we had for quantifying article performance was potential impressions (i.e. the publication’s unique monthly visitors). So when news content exploded on Facebook and Twitter, it’s no surprise that PR & Comms teams flocked to social listening tools to report actual engagement with articles posted to feeds – finally a more tangible metric!

But news content just doesn’t have the same prominence it did a decade ago on social media. When analyzing our users’ press, Memo’s Insights team often finds that social referred less than 10% of an article’s traffic (organic search, email, aggregators, and the publication’s own website are more common traffic drivers).

Most articles about these brands received less than 10% of their traffic from social media channels over a 28-day period.

With Facebook and Instagram emphasizing creator content over posts from your followers, and with Meta further confirming it will no longer pay publications for content in the News tab, the decline in news readership from social media is likely to continue.

Social engagement on an article isn’t even directionally indicative of readership.

Measuring the performance of news content via social engagement is incredibly misleading: the number of likes/shares/comments an article receives is not directional to how many people actually read that article. 

To illustrate, take the below mapping of social engagement (vertical axis) against article readership (horizontal axis) for 600 articles about a large fast food restaurant. There is no discernible trend that defines the relationship between how much engagement an article receives on social media and how many times that article is actually read. (Technically the correlation coefficient here is 0.18, so a very weak positive relationship.)

Many highly read articles have low social engagement – not surprising given how little traffic social often refers to articles.

Conversely, some articles have high social engagement but relatively low readership – also not surprising given that users share articles without reading them (usually on hot-button issues) and the proliferation of spam bots.

This unpredictability in how users interact with news content on social media is also driven by changes to the platforms themselves – changes that have implications to marketing more broadly. 

Beyond PR, platform changes have also made social listening a less valuable signal for marketers.

The social media landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. “TikTok says it’s an ‘entertainment platform.’ Snapchat calls itself a ‘camera company.’ Meta says it’s a ‘metaverse’ company. The era in which social networking served as most users’ primary experience of the internet is moving behind us,” to quote Axios’ Sara Fischer, who was in turn summarizing Scott Rosenberg’s article “Sunset of the social network.”

Platforms that once served up a silver platter of data on consumer trends, brand relevance, and news engagement are moving away from the user experiences that facilitated this centralized measurement. Public news feeds are giving way to private groups and messaging channels; posts authored by connections are being supplanted by creator content; and short-form videos are the future.

Even Twitter, the most accessible platform to social listening tools, is in flux: it has yet to find a sustainable business model and is one acquisition away from an overhaul of its own. Until then, discourse is skewed to a minority of users (the 10% of power Tweeters), and politically biased (over two-thirds of those users identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents). 

This isn’t to say social listening doesn’t have value; we just need to acknowledge its gaps.  

We need to be more judicious about what we rely on social for, and where we supplement gaps with other data. I’ve already discussed the shortcomings of using social listening to measure earned-media engagement, so let’s take another use case:

Using Twitter as a barometer for brand health, for example, can easily over-index on the negative. Among the 90% of infrequent Tweeters, how many emerge only to @ an airline for missing luggage or air some other grievance in hope of rectification? If Twitter is for complaining, it can certainly help measure threats to brand health, but it will overlook the engagement happening outside the platform with more positive brand stories.

And we need other data sources to reveal the trends that social listening can no longer surface.

There’s a trove of content about brands that people engage with everyday online: articles in the press. And unlike social platforms – where most activity is public to at least a group of followers – engagement with articles is often private. Readership is free of participation bias, virtue signaling, and algorithm manipulation. It’s an honest signal for the stories and brands that consumers are interested in and, for the first time, it’s finally measurable.

Memo is named a Top 100 startup to work for. This is the team culture that made it possible.

This week, Memo was recognized as a Top 100 Early-Stage Company to work for in 2022 by Will Reed, a prestigious search firm specializing in go-to-market executives. 

The list was created to spotlight the startups that are transforming their industries while also setting a new bar for human-first culture. 

We are really proud of this acknowledgement and feel that it is an honest reflection of our culture, growth trajectory, and, most importantly, the employees who make these achievements (and everything else) possible. 

I’ll talk about Memo’s company culture by way of my own experience 

In describing our culture to Will Reed, I realized that for me, much of what makes Memo great started before I even walked through the (virtual) doors on my first day. So I want to share my culture experience as a candidate, an employee, and the Director of People, from my interviews to onboarding to getting selected for Will Reed’s Top 100.  

Memo’s product piqued my interest. The people sealed the deal.

When I was first approached by the company, Memo’s product immediately drew my interest. Creating content is cool, and understanding how your content is resonating with readers is even cooler – especially when this data is being made available for the first time.

So while the opportunity to introduce entirely new data to an industry was compelling, it was the people I met during the interview process that made me join.

You can have a great product, but without a psychologically safe work environment that promotes inclusion and belonging, and a leadership team who trusts its employees, it doesn’t impress me much (think Shania Twain). 

My interview process stood out from past experiences

I’m not just saying this because I now run recruiting at Memo: I truly enjoyed my interview process, from Memo’s first outreach message, sent by my now manager, to how they kept me updated on next steps. The informal chats with the leadership team helped me get to know them from both a professional and personal perspective.

Unlike some past interviews, I felt like the Memo team was trying to get to know me and my thought process for different scenarios versus searching for “the right” answer. In retrospect, I see now that this was a reflection of how the team approaches problem solving internally, where the best idea wins, regardless of whose idea it is. It wasn’t all serious either; I distinctly remember some tangents about TikTok algorithms and an interviewer’s recent wedding.

Now that I’m here, the culture and people and hands down the best part

I know, it sounds obvious and cliche, but hear me out. The foundation of good culture is putting people first, which starts with respecting each other as humans. Sure, we have disagreements, but we agree to disagree, commit, and still go out of our way to help each other. There are no politics, no one who says “that’s not my job.” 

Our culture extends beyond the employees already here: it’s how we treat candidates in the first outreach, how we communicate difficult decisions to the candidates we don’t hire, to onboarding new hires, to how we treat employees on their way out and onto their next adventure. 

Another big part of our culture is valuing remote over in-person. Other than our first five hires, everyone has been hired remotely. Our work culture is flexible, and we work across 3 time zones. We are meeting- and time-conscious, and putting in face time just for the sake of it is highly discouraged. 

Lastly, start-ups are a roller coaster; each win can feel like we’re conquering the world, and each loss can feel like there’s no tomorrow. We take a cue from our CEO Eddie – who has been through this multiple times – to stay even-keeled about it. We celebrate the wins and learn from our mistakes, staying grounded throughout.

While we’re dead serious about Memo’s mission, we make sure our work life has a decent dose of levity. Trending topics in Memo Slack this week include Real Housewives in #bravo, the tragic discontinuation of Klondike’s Choco Taco in #virtual-watercooler, and who’s going to win this evening’s virtual happy hour contest (the house favors Karlie 10-1). 

This is why I felt confident presenting our culture to Will Reed

When I was given an opportunity to outline our culture to Will Reed, I was comfortable doing so because – even with less than a year at the company – I feel the culture so strongly every day.

Culture continuously evolves, whether we actively work on it or not. We want employees to incorporate their own interests, experiences, communication styles, and personal values into our team culture. We are still in the process of defining our culture on paper and articulating our core values – and the whole team will embark on that journey together.

Share of Voice is a broken metric. Here’s how we fix it.

Key takeaways:

  • Traditional SOV measurement is not just inaccurate; it’s misleading 
  • Share of Readership reveals what’s actually working for your brand and the competition
  • Below we walk through a real-world example of SOV vs Share of Readership

Share of Voice (SOV) is one of the most common metrics that PR & Comms teams use to benchmark the quantity and quality of their coverage against their competitive set. 

A major goal in looking at a brand’s SOV is to figure out your company’s position in the market. By  understanding which competitors are succeeding, how they’re doing it, and where, you can identify and act on gaps in strategy.

But even important calculations like SOV aren’t immune to “garbage in, garbage out.” Inputs need to be accurate and transparent to in turn ensure an accurate representation of the competitive landscape.

And regarding that representation of the competitive landscape: What does it mean for a competitor to win? Are they getting written about in more publications? In publications with a higher potential reach? Or is there something else?

The fundamental issue with the traditional methodology for SOV is that teams are still relying on PR estimates like potential reach and volume of mentions as the determining factors to analyze success and their positions in the market. But as I see day-in, day-out at Memo, not all press is created equally, and content can perform drastically differently within the same publication. Let’s take a look:

How Share of Voice in the press is traditionally calculated

Legacy media monitoring tools like Meltwater and Cision typically allow you to calculate Share of Voice in two ways:

1) Volume of press = ([# of mentions for your brand] / [# of mentions for your brand + competitors]) x 100

2) Potential Reach = ([your brand’s total potential reach] / [aggregate potential reach of your brand + competitors]) x 100

While method #1 gives your team a general understanding as to how often your brand is written about versus your competitors and method #2 gives your team a sense as to the average prominence of the pubs writing about you versus your competitors, both are missing a critically important aspect of coverage performance: what’s working for my competitors? How many people are actually reading these articles? 

Rethinking Share of Voice for 2022 (and beyond)

To accurately assess how you stack up against your competitors, look at Share of Readership (SOR), which gives you a competitive benchmark grounded in reality, and better identifies opportunities to insert your brand in the conversations that resonate most in your industry.  

Let’s look at a real-world example comparing SOV to SOR between two major brands during June 2022: Hulu and Netflix. (Full disclosure: While this is actual data exported directly from a competitive report in Memo’s dashboard, I’ve changed the time period and names of the companies for this article to respect customer privacy.)

Tracking from a media list of the top 400 publications in the US, here is the breakdown in coverage:

  • Hulu mentions: 708 articles, 10.54 billion impressions
  • Netflix mentions: 694 articles, 10.13 billion impressions

Using method #1, Hulu and Netflix have a share of 50.5% and 49.5% of the coverage respectively – about a 50/50 split.

Using method #2, Hulu and Netflix’s share of impressions come out to 51% and 49% – again, about a 50/50 split.

So if I’m Hulu or Netflix, there’s not a whole lot to take away from SOV analyses based on clip counts or impressions, other than to keep chipping away at the competition by doing more of what we’re doing already. This is where treating all press equally, even if from the same publication, can mask critical indicators of competitive performance.

Here’s why: The combined 708 articles Hulu was mentioned in had a total of 6,221,717 readers. Netflix’s 694 articles, however, were read a total number of 12,019,205 times:

Netflix has a Share of Readership of about 66% whereas Hulu has a SOR of about 34%, a much different outcome for the month of June, and a jumping-off point to deeper insights: what press led Netflix to capture more interest from readers? How can Netflix reinforce its dominance? Where are the relevant topics for Hulu to insert itself next month? 

Impressions and clip counts don’t just miss; they mislead

Based on traditional SOV analyses, Hulu and Netflix would have both come to incorrect conclusions about where they sit in the competitive landscape.

And it’s easy to see why traditional SOV would mislead them: they’re fairly similar competitors who get written about with similar frequency in similar publications. Treating each article equally (method #1), or treating each article within a publication equally (method #2) completely ignores the variation in how readers respond to different content. (We published an entire report on readership vs UVMs here.)

If your goal is measuring how consumers are engaging with you versus the competition, shouldn’t success and SOV be defined by the number of people that are actually being reached?

Understanding your competitors’ success can no longer just involve understanding where and how many times they are getting mentioned in the press. Readership finally allows brands to dig deeper and see what’s truly working in the competitive landscape. Will you seize the opportunity?

How to roll out readership in your Comms org: 9 tactics from Memo customers

“Data like readership is for the Comms team of the future. A change not for the unambitious – and a challenge to the status quo that has eclipsed PR for decades.” –CCO, Fortune 500 company

How can I convince the data skeptics in our group to track readership? How do we send campaign reports with thousands of readers when executives are used to millions of impressions? How have other customers introduced this new metric?

You’re not alone. We’ve heard it all. From the most data-hungry communications teams to groups just getting their measurement practice off the ground, all Memo customers share the same challenge: adopting a metric of earned-media measurement for which there is no organizational precedent or historical context.

But change is the only constant in life, as the adage goes, and PR measurement is definitely changing. It would be disingenuous to pretend that widely adopting readership is as easy as flipping a switch; most of our customers are global corporations with a complex network of Comms groups and stakeholders to navigate. 

Yet time and time again, we’ve seen our users grow from a core group of early adopters at a brand to an organization-wide audience. Here are 9 ways we’ve seen these customers successfully introduce and report out readership, often in combination with each other. 

The takeaway: Rolling readership out incrementally, leading with insights, and reporting in a way that is aligned with but enhances existing practices is the best way to garner buy-in and adoption.

Introduce readership incrementally (#1-3)

Instead of overhauling their PR reporting from the outset, most teams find success rolling out readership incrementally. This means a select group of people have access to Memo’s platform, and they selectively loop in new team members through various reports. Over time, stakeholders get accustomed to seeing readership regularly and begin to proactively request readership in additional reporting.

Here are the Memo tools we’ve seen leveraged to slowly but steadily disseminate readership: 

#1: Circulate top-read press via daily Readership Emails 

These daily reports of the three top-read headline and non-headline mentions are an easy way to start distributing readership data throughout an organization. There’s no limit on the number of recipients, and we’ve seen these emails balloon from a group of four people in a measurement team to dozens of Comms employees, all the way up to the CCO.

#2: Isolate readership with campaign-specific Flash Reports

Many customers use Flash Reports, which are on-demand readership summaries of specific campaigns or news cycles, as a stepping stone to reporting out readership more broadly.

Flash Reports answer questions that are top-of-mind for a team running a campaign – e.g. How many people did we reach? Which outlets had the biggest impact? How did interest in this news cycle play out over time? – without making them sift through data on coverage that’s not relevant to them.

#3: Dazzle executives with MRV summaries

To combat the common fear that “trading millions of impressions for thousands of readers” will make communicators look worse (it won’t, we promise!), presenting MRV (Memo Readership Value) alongside readership to executives is a great entry point to reframing the value of a reader.

We write more about MRV here, but in brief, it’s a methodology to assign a dollar value to earned readership using paid-media rates in a way made possible with accurate article readership and traffic source data.

Lead with insights (#4-6)

Many customers generate buy-in for readership by showing how easily it lifts the veil on long-held questions and takes the guesswork out of campaign planning. Leading with insights over metrics will help connect the dots between readership and how it can be actioned. Here are some ways to surface these insights:

#4: Report aggregate readership at the outlet level

Definitively answering which outlets and reporters perform best for your campaigns is nothing short of a superpower – and fortunately this intel is readily available in your Memo dashboard. 

Next time you’re tasked with providing strategic guidance on media outreach, filter your coverage for topics related to that campaign and you’ll have a clear view into the most impactful sources:

#5: Share findings and takeaways from Insights Reports

Insights Reports are custom analyses designed to answer key questions on earned-media performance and strategy, and readership has taken these insights to a whole new level (see 10 PR strategy questions finally answered with Insights Reports). 

We’ve witnessed multiple customers get Comms groups hooked on readership by introducing it through insights reporting. Typically, our primary contacts monitor for opportune moments to support analyses and planning with readership. They’ll tell their Memo rep the questions they’re hoping to answer with readership, and our Insights team gets to work. 

#6: Introduce readership within a Reporter Database

Memo’s Reporter Database isn’t just a list of names with the coverage they’ve authored; it’s an entirely new way of helping Media Relations teams prioritize relationship building and outreach. It includes readership on reporters’ articles, tags for frequently covered topics, and summary stats for easy comparison.

Enhance existing reporting (#7-9)

Finally, customers often treat readership as additive in the early days, using it to enhance existing measurement while they allow time to understand the best way to phase out legacy practices.  

#7: Report readership alongside other metrics

One large corporation was not ready to eliminate UVMs from their global reporting, but still wanted to include readership in campaign summaries. So in a global campaign recap, they reported their usual metrics – clip counts, UVMs, social engagement – and introduced a new metric: “verified readers from our new partner, Memo.” 

#8: Report relative performance instead of absolute values

For groups that are anchored on massive impression numbers, it can take time to make readership palatable, especially if those audiences aren’t privy to the insights and context of longtime Memo users. Ways we’ve seen customers report out readership results without readership itself include:

  • % of your brand’s readership driven by a specific article/publication/topic (e.g. “this placement is responsible for 58% of our announcement’s readership”)
  • An article’s readership percentile (e.g. “this placement’s performance is in the 90th percentile for our historical coverage”) 
  • The % of readership your brand received on an outlet relative to competitors (e.g. “Acme Corp had over 2x more readership on Fortune last month than competitors”)

#9: Add “share of readership” to SOV reports

Related to the above, monitoring share of readership amongst competitors, especially when contrasted with share of coverage volume, reveals who is generating meaningful engagement with their press – and is a powerful way to demonstrate why readership provides a more accurate view of media performance.

There’s no silver bullet to transforming a measurement practice overnight, but Memo provides multiple tools (and some wonderful customer success reps) to help you steadily introduce readership and prove the value of more accurate measurement.

How 4 customers showed ROI on their switch to readership

Return on investment. It’s a phrase used relentlessly in all aspects of business, and a particularly difficult metric for Comms teams to measure. Put another way, “being asked for ROI is the perennial thorn in my side,” per one Memo customer.

Determining a hard ROI from earned programs – that is, a quantifiable bottom-line outcome resulting directly from money invested – is in practice impossible. Not because earned press isn’t valuable, but because it is part of a larger customer journey and should be evaluated more holistically with an integrated marketing program.

For example, any traffic or sales you can directly attribute to an editorial product review only represent a fraction of that article’s wider impact. That press also drove brand awareness, product consideration, and purchase intent – even if that purchase happened several months after the fact. 

(That’s not to say there aren’t better ways to report the value of earned media. Memo’s goal has always been to help our customers prove with data what we already know: earned media is extremely valuable, we just need better measurement for it. Whether it’s providing metric parity with paid media, or even helping calculate the paid media cost of your earned engagement, readership is making the results PR delivers more tangible and moving us closer to isolating its ROI within the greater marketing mix.)

But given all the intangible outcomes that earned ROI fails to capture, proving out ROI on the tools you need to get the job done is even more difficult.

Fortunately, four Memo customers have paved the way, sharing how Memo’s data and team of experts helped them demonstrate a return on their platform investment. In brief, it comes down to showing how readership helped them move faster, plan better, and respond smarter.

#1: Time is money (return on media research)

A home-goods company was launching physical stores in a new location. They wanted to get the word out, but having no relationships or prior experience in this new region, they needed help determining which local outlets and journalists to pitch. 

To ensure they were spending their time and resources wisely, they leaned on Memo readership data to quickly identify the most-read local outlets and journalists to create a go-to-market strategy with assured success.  

#2: Don’t make a small problem a big problem (return on crisis response) 

A global fast food brand was in crisis, but didn’t know just how deep. Was their most recent crisis a national or maybe even global dilemma? Or was this actually only capturing attention in local markets where the incident occurred? 

Enter readership. Memo was able to confirm that while readers were somewhat engaged on local outlets, the story was generating very low readership on national news outlets. Based on this finding, the brand was able to minimize harm by not bringing more attention to the crisis with a national response, and instead developed a response strategy that was targeted locally.

#3: Turning good data into great data (return on business analytics)

An American automotive brand already had an impressive media quality scoring algorithm that they used to inform their communications strategy. It included inputs like sentiment, tonality, message pull-through, and potential reach. However, this last metric was inflating and skewing their dataset, creating a less valuable scoring output.

By replacing outlet-level potential reach with article-level readership in their algorithm, the brand was able to uncover a whole slew of insights by identifying varying performance at the article level and adjusting their strategy accordingly. (More on UVMs vs Readership here.)

#4: Timing is everything (return on campaign planning) 

A Comms team for a global streaming service was trying to understand why some competitors were more successful than others when promoting new content. 

Utilizing Memo insights reporting and our team of analysts, they found that while there were many similarities in the publications and even journalists writing about these launches, the clear indicator for success came down to timing. Memo analysts ran a timing analysis that pointed to higher readership on shorter campaigns. Specifically, campaigns that launched closer to the content release date were getting more engagement, with the sweet spot being 14-20 days prior to release.

The brand was able to use this insight to alter their launch strategy to minimize promotion and spending too soon, and ramp up efforts when they were 20 days out from release. This adjustment not only resulted in higher readership, but also time and cost savings leading up to the launch.

How to compare owned channels with earned press on Memo

How does readership on owned content from our corporate press center/blog/news site compare to readership on earned press?

It’s a question we receive a lot, and fortunately, it’s a question that’s incredibly easy to answer for two reasons: first, readership on earned coverage provides an apples-to-apples comparison to unique visitors on your owned site (it’s the same metric!). And second, Memo offers an integration.

Below we outline the steps to add your owned-and-operated content to your Memo dashboard, and we highlight some of the major insights this capability offers customers.

Tracking owned channels on Memo: benefits & use cases

Some customers are merely curious about owned versus earned readership, while others have specific goals in mind:

Secure more budget for earned campaigns. Readership removes any questions on how many people your campaigns reached. Showing how earned performance stacks up to owned can strengthen the business case for investing in PR.

Place the right content in the right place. Over time, you may start to surface patterns in the type of content that does best on your owned sites versus through the press.

Contextualize earned readership. When seeing article readership for the first time, people often ask “is this good?” Owned readership provides an immediately accessible benchmark. 

How to track readership from owned channels on Memo

Step 1: Give Memo read-only API access to your channel’s Google Analytics. We can use the Google Analytics API to fetch a URL’s unique visitor count. Go to analytics.google.com and navigate to the property associated with content you want to track on Memo:

Then go to Admin > Account Access Management > Add users. Enter the email address provided by your Customer Success Manager at Memo, and select “Viewer” under roles (this ensures Memo can pull readership with the Google Analytics API but cannot make any changes to your Google Analytics reporting or account settings).

Step 2: Email a list of owned URLs to your Memo rep We need to know the specific content you want to pull into your Memo dashboard. So once per week (or less frequently, if preferable), we’ll ask you to email us a list of URLs to track. 

…and that’s it It’s that easy. Some important implications though: adding your owned content to Memo dashboard will automatically include that readership data in your reporting. You can use filters to exclude owned channels:

Frequently asked questions about tracking owned channels

Is there an additional charge for tracking owned content with Memo? No, the generous Customer Success team at Memo is happy to facilitate this add-on free of charge.

Can I track owned content if we don’t use Google Analytics? Yes, Memo has additional implementation options. Contact your Memo rep to find the best solution for your configuration.

Will my owned readership be available to other Memo customers? No, your owned channel can only be tracked on Memo accounts that you have authorized.

Have a question we didn’t answer? Get in touch at success@memo.co.

5 ways Comms orgs have upgraded media monitoring with Readership Emails

Every morning at 7:30, hundreds of people receive an email that tells them exactly how many people read their top press from the previous day.

On Wednesday afternoons, hundreds more get a snapshot of their most-read articles, publications, and topics from the previous week.

And each month, subscribers receive a broad summary of earned readership trends from the past 30 days.

All of this email reporting was automated in the past month, allowing us to offer upgraded media monitoring and measurement at scale. While Memo’s readership dashboard supports in-depth, exploratory trend analysis, we knew time-strapped Comms teams needed a way to quickly identify the stories, outlets, and competitors that deserve their attention. Readership Emails do exactly that, surfacing top-read mentions and high-level trends to spur further exploration.

Read on to learn more about daily, weekly, and monthly Readership Emails – and how PR & Comms teams are actioning this data every day.

#1: Use daily Readership Emails to surface big wins from current PR campaigns

Each morning, Memo automatically sends subscribers a daily digest of the previous day’s top-read headline and non-headline placements, as well as the most-read articles from the past three days. 

This alert gives Comms teams an easy way to spot campaign wins – an article with great pull through reached a wide audience, a syndicated piece was highly read on regionals in your target market, etc. – and an straightforward report to forward to stakeholders.

#2: Use daily Readership Emails to monitor and mitigate potential crisis stories

Given that social media often refers less than 5% of an article’s traffic (and that social engagement is not predictably correlated to readership), social listening platforms are not reliable for assessing whether a negative story that hasn’t yet blown up could evolve into a crisis situation down the road. To paraphrase one Memo customer: “we already know when a crisis is really bad; we need readership for the simmering stories that may or may not bubble over.”

Monitoring readership on negative articles allows Comms teams to better allocate scarce resources and spokespeople to the trending stories that need their attention, while also providing time-saving clarification on the ones that completely flew under the radar.

#3: Get a pulse check on your share of voice with weekly Readership Emails

Weekly emailed reports include the most-read articles, outlets, and topics over the week for your brand and – for Memo customers who also track competitor readership – a competitive share of voice.

We report out SOV differently and, if we can be so bold, far more accurately. Instead of just looking at share of coverage, we also report share of readership, revealing the competitors that are generating meaningful engagement with their earned media, and through what stories. These weekly reports let Comms teams quickly see if a competitor’s SOV has reached a threshold that warrants further investigation. 

And because weekly reports include competitors’ top-read press, subscribers can see what conversations are working for the competition and quickly devise a plan to participate before public interest moves on. 

#4: Plan for the future with PR results reported in monthly Readership Emails 

Monthly Readership Emails have all of the readership breakdowns included in weekly reports, but over the course of a whole month. Monthly reports give Comms teams an opportunity to step back and answer critical questions as they look to future campaigns. What outlets performed well for my brand that I should continue pitching? What outlets drove high readership for competitors that I should bump up to my priority list? What headlines and topics got the highest readership, and can I incorporate those angles into future campaigns? (All questions that would be impossible to answer with impressions, clip counts, or social listening alone.)

#5: Tie business outcomes to earned media performance with monthly Readership Emails

Monthly reports also provide an opportunity for Comms groups to pull out the performance metrics that marketing, analytics, and finance stakeholders would also want to incorporate into their own business analyses for the month. For example, providing the readership on reviews of a newly launched product to your Marketing team lets them incorporate apples-to-apples data from PR into their marketing mix model. 

When one article gets 10,000 readers and another 1,000,000, it’s not enough to rely on clip counts alone. Readership Emails from Memo are fast becoming an essential part of the Comms tech stack – and they’re now available to all Memo customers.

Introducing Memo’s first “Readership in Action” report

In an effort to share the value of readership data more broadly, today we published Memo’s first publicly available Insights report for the PR & Comms industry. Accurate, article-level readership data has reinvented the insights for earned-media measurement and strategy over the past two years, something I witness everyday working with the innovative and bold PR teams who are pioneering this change.

While most of our Insights reporting is highly tailored to our customers – their brands, their competitors, and their goals – this report is wider in scope. “Readership in Action” compares actual readership to potential reach (otherwise known as impressions or UVMs) to uncover the publications driving high readership for recurring news topics across three industries. 

Of course, getting high readership is never the be-all and end-all goal; qualitative factors like message pull-through and the publication’s reputation among your target audience remain critical inputs to evaluating earned media. But if you wanted to answer how many people really read a placement the next time your CEO asks; or know what messaging resonates most; or take the guesswork out of choosing an outlet for an exclusive, readership needs to be part of the equation.

My hope is that this report provides new insights for communicators in the industries analyzed here – Tech, Entertainment, and Grocery – and that it demonstrates the types of powerful learnings that readership enables across all industries.

Whether you use Memo or are just discovering us for the first time, I hope to hear what you think, and what you’d like to see next in this series. Please reach out to me anytime (success@memo.co), and enjoy the report.

Get the free report to see why readership has everyone ditching impressions.