Measuring PR: It’s Not That Easy

Public Relations Measurement

The saying goes, “there a statistic for everything.” Case in point, a recent article was published on the Washington Redskins website and it showed that 58.1 million people read an article they posted. Oh wait, they really think that 7.8 billion unique visitors saw the article. Both of those numbers are a bit hard to swallow, especially the latter since there are not 7.8 billion people in the current world population. Having that many unique visitors would be impossible.

Here’s the story behind those numbers and the reason it is so difficult to tell by just the numbers what the actual results are from any given PR effort. Meltwater, a leading PR measurement company  communication’s expert, Riana Dadlani, explained how the numbers are reached. In 2014, the team website ran coverage about their training camp from July 24 to August 12. The numbers they reported were actually just impressions. So that sounds pretty good right?

But, here’s the tricky part about the numbers they are reporting. They calculated viewer impressions when their article made it on one of the Internet’s search engines like Firefox or Google. Even for a few seconds. Then, they count it as having received the full possible unique viewership that particular search engine received during the full month. So, if it was on Page 1 of Google search for 10 seconds, they considered their article was viewed by every person who visited Google to search for something during the month. And, the numbers were calculated by tallying the totals from every search engine or major outlet that showed the story. If the story made it on a search engine more than one time during the month, the numbers got counted for each time.

To put this in perspective. If you have a business page on Facebook, you can see how many people might have seen a post. That number means how many people were on the site while your post was showing somewhere on their newsfeed. Not everyone who saw it read it.

That is a fairly reasonable way of assessing the information by most PR standards. However, using the way the Redskin’s PR team determined their numbers, it would be like saying the number of impressions was all of the people who were on FB during that month. And, if someone shared your post, they would count those numbers again. That would be a great day if it were true, or even potentially true, but it isn’t accurate. Nor, as the 7.8 billion number implies, is it even possible. You can read more about the PR firm’s explanation at Traffic-the-Entire-Earth.

It can be difficult enough to know what is happening with PR efforts in a rather complex digital world. But, when firms report unrealistic outcomes, you have to know it’s going to create a PR crisis down the defensive line somewhere.