What are impressions in PR and Marketing?

Media impressions are broadly defined as the number of times that a piece of media is consumed. The term is usually used to describe digital media for which the number of interactions and engagements can be easily tracked in ways that were previously inaccessible for print media. The idea of using impressions as a metric is that they’re a relatively simple, easy-to-understand value that’s equally accessible to media platforms, advertisers, and other consumers who might be interested in comparing one publication with another. Significantly, they’re used to measure the value of a site as an area in which to display content, so a PR agency often gathers a total number of impressions that a particular campaign received across publications and platforms, both paid and earned.

What is the difference with reach?

Impressions are sometimes confused with related concepts: reach, for example, is measured in terms of the number of people who consume a piece of content, so if one person chooses to read a piece three times, the impressions attributed to the piece will grow to three – but its reach will remain as one. Similarly, impressions and page views are linked but separate concepts: “page view”, as the name suggests, is applied specifically to a page and how many impressions it receives, while an impression can be applied to any element on the page: an advert at the top of a page might receive more impressions than an advert at the bottom of the page, if those visiting the page don’t scroll down far enough to see that advert.

The concept of impressions can be applied to new platforms and forms of media that continue to emerge, while its meaning may need to be re-evaluated according to the specifics of these platforms. An impression on a website, for example, may be simple to measure in that any visit to the site may be counted as one impression, while the impression on an individual piece of content may raise more complex questions: does an entire video need to be watched to count as an impression, or an entire article read? This distinction leads to the concept of active and passive impressions, and it’s worth understanding and investigating the difference in the environments relevant to a brand.

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