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June 25, 2018
How to Measure the Value of Earned Media Placements
Zhana Veleska

Measuring the value of media outreach can be tricky, so it’s no surprise when clients ask for clarification. The truth is there are several ways to measure the effects, and selected KPIs should be representative of what’s most valuable to your organization.


Unlike our counterparts in advertising, a dollar value isn’t easily assigned to PR placements. That’s because PR stories are earned — not paid for – and a story about a company’s product and/or service by a third party is often considered more valuable than a paid advertisement.

In the PR department at CBD, we emphasize transparent, consistent and straightforward measurement. This allows our clients to really understand the results and makes it simple for them to share insights with their colleagues.

In this blog post, we will cover the basics. As an example, we’ll use this article that our PR team secured for client Rabobank.

We proactively pitched this story idea to the reporter, which led to a phone interview for one of Rabobank’s subject matter experts (SME). A few days later, the reporter published the piece online, heavily featuring insight from our SME and his report. We then sent the story to our client, highlighting a few metrics and noting the client’s prominence in the placement as well as the overall tone.


Below, we’ve listed and defined the most common PR measurement terms used by our team. We typically include this information when we notify clients that a media placement has been published:

  • Circulation is the total number of people that subscribe to a print publication. For newspapers, this is typically a daily circulation number while magazines often use a monthly figure.
  • Unique visitors per month (UVM) is the number of different people who visit the outlet’s homepage during a given month.
  • Reach is the term we use to measure broadcast placements. This generally refers to the number of households that likely heard or saw the broadcast.
  • Impressions are simply the sum of the UVM, circulation and reach. Put in other words, impressions represent the total number of people that could have read, seen or heard that media placement. We typically keep a running tab of total impressions across an entire campaign or year.

It’s important to note that many agencies and professionals use varying formulas for calculating these numbers. Historically, agencies have multiplied print circulation numbers by 2.5 or more, based on the logic that most magazines and papers are viewed by more than one person.
At CBD, to keep things simple, we never use multipliers. The numbers you receive from us are reported through our media database tools or the publication itself.


Lastly, remember that audience size isn’t everything. It’s simply one measurement tool that can help measure the success of a campaign. For instance, it’s possible that a small, targeted trade publication could be more valuable to you than a USA Today story. It all depends on your business goals.

Other metrics to consider:

  • How much coverage did your brand receive in this piece? Are you featured, or mentioned?
  • Does the story include any or all of your most important key messages?
  • How does it help meet your communication objectives or business goals?
  • Does it include hyperlinks to drive traffic back to your website?
  • Is it receiving online amplification and engagement from the writer, readers and others?

What do you think is the most effective metric for determining the value of earned media placements? Tweet us @cbdmarketing and let us know!

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