3 Ways to Make an “Impression” Count

In PR, the daily struggle isn’t whether you agree with IHOP’s decision to switch from pancakes to burgers, it’s figuring out how to achieve and measure success – impressions or placements; audience sentiment or share of voice; benchmarking or borrowing advertising equivalency measures? If you ask a PR professional, they will likely tell you one of the biggest challenges within the industry is “proving our value in the world of marketing.”

It has been a conundrum for years and the truth is the benefits of PR can be more difficult to track than the benefits of other marketing tactics. In fact, there is no widely accepted standard for PR measurement, so how does one even begin to measure it?

The answer is typically “impressions,” but what does that even mean? How do impressions translate when we need to answer the ultimate client question – what’s the ROI (return on investment)?

If we treat brands as people, it helps us define what exactly an impression is – think about what your “first impression” is after meeting someone new: it’s essentially a quick idea, feeling or opinion about something (brand) or someone (leader) without too much intense thought behind it. First impressions can basically make or break you. #nopressure

Every client is unique, which means there are many ways to determine PR success. I like to think of PR as the courting phase of the brand to consumer relationship – introduction, first impression and sharing thoughts, stories and ideas. Below, check out three ways we have helped clients make great “impressions” and find common ground on the almighty ROI question!


1.  Determine Placement Goals Together.
At Coyne we practice our mantra daily, “where do you want to be?” We work with our clients ahead of a campaign to determine and rank various media outlets that match best with the brand’s target audience. Seems like a no brainer – right? After all, our job is to share the brand’s story with media to communicate messages to the correct audience.

We break down our media lists and identify outlets on our “wish list” – typically mainstream or first-tier outlets that are highly-influential for each individual brand. Everything that comes after these placements counts as a media mention, but it might weigh a little less in terms of ROI.

2.  Quality Always Beats Quantity.
True or False: The more media placements a campaign lands – the more successful it is? Sounds good, but that isn’t necessarily ALWAYS true.

In PR, we could land hundreds of placements on media sites (let’s be real – new sites pop up every day) and ramp up the total number of placements to skyrocket! Woo-hoo, now we have sweet success, right? But if those media sites don’t connect to the right audiences and in the ideal way – why bother?

You should always evaluate the quality of each placement rather than just focusing on the total quantity. So, how do you do that?

Collectively decide on parameters with your client: Will this story influence behavioral changes in consumers who read it? Will this article have a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes toward the brand’s product or service? Is the media outlet credible? Is it an exclusive story about the client or a round-up of brands? Is the tone of the article positive? Does the article match the brand’s message accurately?

3.  Media love Social (as much as consumers)
More and more, PR results share a common gray area with social – especially when it comes to pitching story ideas and content to media. Media aren’t only looking for editorial print or online topics anymore – they need to feed their audiences with different and unique content for Instagram, Snapchat, Blog, Podcast, Facebook and Twitter – oh my!

With online media coverage extending out to social networks, consumers can easily share news updates and engage with the brands more than ever before. While there are several ways to measure these reactions beyond number of mentions or reach, you should consider the number of influencers mentioning your brand, their tone of voice and the sentiment of the message.

Integration is key here, so sometimes PR’s ROI looks a lot like social results.


Marketing is like one big delicious burger (I’m on the food team, so naturally my analogies wander to food). Each component (the perfect pretzel bun, oozing cheese, crisp bacon, etc) is equally as important to achieve that ultimate ROI – Advertising, Social, PR, Digital, Influencer, Retail, etc. We are all linked together and should operate as such – creating delicious campaign results!

Colleen Imler, Account Supervisor
Colleen Imler, Account Supervisor