How communications teams are using Memo readership for strategy planning

It’s planning season and the Customer Experience team has been heads down holding user feedback calls. It’s a recurring exercise that gives us a pulse on how communications teams are actioning readership data and helps us prioritize 2023’s product strategy to support them.

Among discussions of feature requests and upcoming launches (publication regions! campaign tags!), one big theme emerged: readership data has become valuable input into our customers’ own 2023 strategy. 

Many comms teams are in the middle of planning how their brands’ key messages will be delivered to which audiences via which channels next year. Whether it’s for weighing different channels, setting next year’s benchmarks, or revising strategy based on newly discovered trends, accurate readership data (that is, the unique visitors to an article) provides a tangible guide for planning and prioritizing. Keep reading for 5 examples our team sees every day.

To learn more about how accurate readership can uncover real impact and help you make smarter comms decisions, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.

Media relations planning (part 1): Assessing beat reporters on readership

Customers with dedicated reporters covering their brands and industries often run 2022 lookbacks to understand which beat reporters are delivering for them.

Previously, these analyses were conducted with volume and sentiment, but that doesn’t actually reveal impact. Readership adds a new layer of intelligence, revealing the beat reporters who actually get the most eyeballs on their coverage.

Users who also track competitor readership have built-in benchmarking to understand where their readership sits relative to other content authored by a reporter. In both cases, these teams have a clearer direction for who to target for the year and can tailor their activities accordingly.

Media relations planning (part 2): Finding new highly-read reporters to prioritize

“When it comes to the media landscape, I only know who I know. Help me learn who I don’t know.” Our team gets this request a lot, especially when it comes to placing stories that extend beyond brand and product news. 

For example, an office-supply store could pitch its new category of “work from anywhere” products to one of its go-to retail industry reporters. If they want to be a thought leader in the era of hybrid work, they need to look beyond the retail beat for inclusion in broader stories about the future of work. 

Understanding the reporters writing about thematic issues that span multiple brands and industries is one of the most-requested insights reports from our team, especially as comms groups map out their priority channels for upcoming brand news and narratives.

Planning brand messaging: Identifying the most-read angles and outlets for key stories

Regarding narrative, most Memo customers know the news stories that reflect their brand values and vision. For example, a technology company might want to focus on news around digital transformation and ethical AI next year. A retailer might want to associate its brand with stories about smarter consumer spending and supply chain responsibility.

They turn to readership data to better understand the sources telling those stories. Filtering their readership by topics and outlets helps comms teams spot the factors that drive readership on a theme, such as headline angles, publications, and reporters – all intel that can inform content planning for the year ahead. (For more on this, see “All about article topics, Memo’s secret weapon for readership insights.”

These topic-based analyses are also an area where users often lean on our Insights Analysts, who help countless brands understand readership trends in areas ranging from broad themes like ESG to specific moments like the Super Bowl

Planning brand moments: Learning from past events to inform future campaigns

For discreet moments in the coming year – product launches, seasonal campaigns, events, etc – reviewing readership from similar moments in 2022 can highlight the publications that are likely to drive the highest traffic and awareness for brands. 

Impressions can be highly misleading and can prompt teams to overlook publications that attract high readership for specific topics. As our Insights Team illustrates in a report that compares actual readership to potential reach, publications with relatively low monthly traffic often outperform highly-trafficked outlets in certain subject areas. This visibility into a publication’s strengths is especially important when allocating scarce resources such as exclusives, press day invites, and executive interviews.

In addition to looking at their own historical performance, comms teams with competitor tracking also frequently analyze comparable moments from industry peers. The benefits here are twofold: they see the publications covering competitors that they’re under-indexed on, revealing a clear path to grow share of voice, and they get readership benchmarks for their industry to set measurable goals around.

Tracking results over time: Running YoY readership comparisons

Understanding which placements drove readership in the past provides valuable signals about the tactics to lean into next year. Many users work with the Customer Experience team to pull year-over-year readership analyses, especially for recurring and cyclical news cycles (e.g. annual conferences, seasonal sales, etc). Looking at changes in how readers engaged with coverage from previous rounds can identify the strategic and tactical shifts moving the needle.

I could go on listing all the ways customers have leaned on readership for comms planning. But for now, I hope I’ve conveyed two overarching themes: first, accurate readership data has transformed communications strategy. While it is particularly noticeable this time of year, it’s something we see day-in, day-out working with such innovative customers. 

Second, I hope it’s clear how supportive the Customer Experience and Insights teams are in these exercises. We truly take a consultative approach to answer our customers’ questions, working together to shape the report’s methodology and presentation. And if you don’t know where to start, we have no shortage of ideas. Contact your customer success rep or email success@memo.co anytime.

To learn more about how accurate readership can uncover real impact and help you make smarter comms decisions, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.


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Readership in a crisis: 4 ways PR teams use Memo for Crisis Communications

In today’s hyperconnected world, crises can erupt in an instant. A single tweet, memo, or decision can ignite a firestorm of negative press.

Other times, it’s a slow burn. You hear murmurings of a reporter working on a piece, you get the call for a statement, then you wait.

Either way, a crisis news cycle can mean late nights and lost weekends fielding emails from the C-suite, panicked over the negative stories, and desperate to put out the fire. But just how big are the flames? Are they getting bigger, or starting to die down? Is there even much of a fire at all?

Knowing exactly how many people are reading coverage during a negative news cycle can answer those questions and feel like a lifesaver. Article readership data (i.e. unique visitors to an article) brings weekend-saving clarity and direction for crisis communications and rapid response. Below are 4 ways Memo customers incorporate readership into crisis comms.

To learn more about how accurate readership can uncover the true impact of a crisis, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.

1) Verify the extent of a crisis story with article readership

The Comms teams I’ve spoken to all say something similar: “we know when a crisis story is bad, and we know when it’s nothing, but we don’t know about everything in the middle.” 

Just because a national outlet like the New York Times or Forbes published a negative article about your brand doesn’t mean everyone will read it, regardless of what your CEO might fear. For example, these three headlines (in alphabetical order) are from the same publication. One has 2,000 readers, another 200,000, and another 2,000,000 readers:*

“FedEx driver dumped packages at least six times in ‘debacle’”
“Jury awards woman Walmart accused of shoplifting $2.1 million”
“Outages at Slack, other websites paralyze businesses”

This 1,000x differential in article readership is not unusual. (To learn why see our report “3 graphs that illustrate the problem with PR impressions.”

At its very least, having article readership readily available when a story breaks can be, as someone I spoke to once put it, “a chill pill for my CEO.” If the story isn’t gaining traction, responding could only create more noise and awareness than the story had initially.

And at its best, readership provides crucial guidance into managing a crisis after a story breaks, which brings me to my next point:

2) Form a response and allocate resources based on the outlets and angles fueling the fire

When formulating a response in a crisis news cycle, it helps to know what to respond to. In some cases, this could be what’s getting the most attention.

For example, let’s take Starbucks. As many positive articles they receive about the return of the pumpkin spice latte this season, there lately seem to be just as many (if not more) about its baristas moving to unionize. When it comes to hot-button issues, the spin on a story can create a narrative with a life of its own. Take a look at the following headlines:

“Starbucks CEO to unionizing baristas: ‘Why don’t you go somewhere else?’” (New York Post)
“Starbucks Just Fired a Union Organizer for Allegedly Breaking a Sink” (Vice)
“Starbucks weighing better benefits but says they could exclude union workers” (CNBC)

All of these articles came from the same news cycle only a few days apart, but there’s an 8x difference in readership between the least-read and most-read headline.* This data reveals which narratives resonate most with the public, and could help Starbucks target and prioritize a response plan. Should the rapid response team recommend a clarifying statement from the CEO? Or talk to HR about the alleged sink incident? Or get a spokesperson out to CNBC? 

3) Benchmark readership on a crisis internally and against competitors

Comparing the extent of a crisis news cycle against others like it helps communications teams create a benchmark that contextualizes the severity. Put another way, it tells you how bad is bad.

I’ve seen Memo customers do this in a couple of ways. In some cases, they’ll compare readership on a recently concluded news cycle to past crisis events. This allows teams to, for example, track the effect of a response on how quickly issues were contained relative to the past. 

In other cases, they’ll look at crises weathered by competitors or industry comps. Just as share of readership on proactive press shows the initiatives working for your brand and competition, readership share on negative press can reveal which brands are getting hit hardest in the press. For industry-wide crises (e.g. big tech antitrust, cryptocurrency sell offs, etc), this type of readership benchmarking also contextualizes how your company is faring compared to competitors.

4) Identify crisis news readership trends to better equip your team in the future

The first rule of crisis comms is actually talking about crisis comms. Plan for a crisis in advance. Errant tweets, leaked memos, and unpopular decisions will happen. Understanding how past news cycles have played out – the trajectory over time, the readership on spokespeople responses, what outlets and reporters had the biggest impact – can help crisis communications teams anticipate their needs.

As an example, Memo’s insights team found that for one brand’s recent negative news cycle, 79% of readership was driven by articles published within the first three days. The average readership on each article published after that three-day window slowly declined each day. Given the recurring nature of this type of story, the Comms team can operate with clearly defined timing parameters in the future.

To learn more about how accurate readership can uncover the true impact of a crisis, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.

*Due to contractual obligations, Memo cannot publicly release our publications’ article-level unique visitor data, so I use differentials and anonymized publications where appropriate.

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.

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.

To learn more about how you can get deeper insights on who is interacting with your brand and make smarter comms decisions, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.

#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.

To learn more about how you can get deeper insights on who is interacting with your brand and make smarter comms decisions, check out Memo’s approach to comms measurement.