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Down with the Media Impression

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I remember sitting in my first PR class. It was several weeks in and we were talking about measurement. There was a concept that was introduced to me called  the media impression. If there was a video of me during this discussion you would have seen my face develop an expression that can only be interpreted as incredulous.

I had come back to school after working at one of the largest tech companies in the world. There was always a plan and a way to determine whether we met the goals of that plan. We always reviewed to see how we could have done better because the bar was always being raised. The focus was always, always, always, on measurable results. Data was revered. You don’t have the data, there is no conversation. Period.

I was a product of this organization and questions flew through my head as we talked about the media impression:

  • So there were a million “impressions” but how many people actually saw it?
  • How many of those people who saw it actually read it?
  • How many of those people acted on it and what was that action?
  • Did that action help us reach our goals?
  • In the future, based on the information we had, how could we improve?

After consideration, I came to the conclusion that media impressions offered answers to none of these questions. If that was the case why would this this possibly be used as a measurement? I didn’t like the concept of the media impression.

While I begrudgingly came to accept the reality that media impressions were something that I had to accept as a measurement if I were to pursue a career in public relations, I secretly loathed them. I can’t tell you how happy I have been over the last several years as the PR community has moved towards focusing on measurements that actually show the value in what we do to help our clients meet their goals. I hope the entire industry continues this movement and we can make the media impression a memory.

Shane Carpenter
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