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Top PR KPIs and metrics to measure in 2023

Pradeep Kumar

January 17, 20239 min read

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The job function of a PR and corporate comms team has evolved from executing primary roles like crisis monitoring and media relationships to a more forward-looking role of driving business value and boosting growth. Releasing press releases, collecting media coverage, and providing executives with PR clipping reports aren’t the only focus of PR teams anymore. Futuristic PR teams are driving business value via Reputation Management instead.In simpler terms, they’re building a positive brand perception and brand image that can bring in new customers, create brand loyalists, and ultimately boost revenue. So, how do PR KPIs come into the picture here? Well, let’s find out.

Why do you need PR metrics and KPIs?

First, let’s ask, “Is there even a need to define appropriate PR KPIs?” The answer is a straightforward yes. If accurately aligned with the organization’s vision and mission, PR KPIs can do wonders for you, your team, and your organization. Some of the superpowers of KPIs are:

  • KPIs make business goals tangible and your progress measurable.

  • KPIs give confidence to leadership that their investments in PR are in the right place

  • KPIs boost your PR team to aim for greater things

  • KPIs prove the PR team’s contribution to the organization’s growth.

Though PR KPIs have existed for years, PR teams are on the back foot, facing stiff challenges in measuring and proving their efforts against business goals. The primary reason is that KPIs haven’t been modernized, even though PR job functions have. Unfortunately, many are using decade-old KPIs that are irrelevant to dynamic modern-day organizations. That explains why 90% of PR professionals struggle to gain valuable meaning and insights from data.

To assist you in the “modern PR KPI” journey, we’ve compiled a list of tried-and-tested metrics that help make modern PR teams successful. We’ll first talk about upcoming PR metrics and then cover a few traditional ones that should be revised to stay relevant.

Emerging PR measurements

1. Media impact score

As you might soon realize, there are a wide variety of metrics that capture different aspects of a PR job function. Presenting all these metrics to an executive in one go is often overwhelming and, hence, not actionable. Modern-day leaders are looking for a single North Star metric that illustrates if their PR efforts are on the right track.

This particular metric can also guide your team to build a strong PR strategy by pinpointing content that resonates the most with your target audience, journalists who can vouch for the brand, and areas where the brand perception needs a fix. As such, this impact metric is the way forward to measure, monitor, and attribute PR success.

How to measure: Sprinklr’s Media Impact Score is specifically designed to capture the essence of all PR metrics under one unified measurement, be it the volume or quality of media coverage, virality of news articles, or mentions of corporate pillars. This provides a 360-degree view of how your brand is perceived in media and, more importantly, how you can improve it. Very few PR tools can make this as convenient for you.

A trend chart showing media impact score, relevance index, rank index, and engagement index.

Media impact score, relevance index, rank index and engagement index

2. Relevance index

For a PR team that’s striving to build a positive brand perception, it’s important to measure if the key brand messages are being placed by media outlets as the team had planned. The relevance index measures this and answers questions like, “Is my brand keyword mentioned in the article’s title?”, “Is my key message placed at prominent positions where the readers are likely to read and remember it?”, “Is my brand mentioned within articles centered around my competitors?”, and much more.

How to measure: Traditionally, PR analysts can assign scores by reviewing news articles and identifying key messages. But this involves a lot of manual work and should ideally be automated. Tools with powerful text-analytics capabilities, like Sprinklr, can deliver precise insights into keyword positioning at scale.

Becoming a media monitoring disruptor

3. Social amplification

If your brand gets caught within the cycle of negative social virality, your valuable brand perception can take a turn for the worse overnight. This is why modern PR teams have started measuring the impact of news articles across modern and traditional channels. An article from a not-so-popular blog can go viral, thanks to a well-landed Tweet from a social influencer. On the other hand, media outlets do scrutinize social channels for brand stories to curate viral content. But there’s truth to the fact thatvirality can definitely boost a brand’s reputation when it’s leveraged correctly.

How to measure: To stay ahead of viral articles, you need to measure, in real time, how articles are shared on social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc., and how people are engaging them. PR tools that prioritize modern social channels can provide in-depth reports and alerts on social amplification.

A trend chart showing media coverage versus social amplification.

Trend of media coverage vs social amplification

4. Non-newswire coverage

The digital world has made it easy for media outlets to churn out articles every day. Outlets and journalists pick content from newswires and flood the internet with articles. Newswires can provide advantages like gaining the visibility of a popular journalist or outlet. At the same time, when overused, it is viewed as pushed or paid content, and readers ignore them. So, it becomes critical to measure if newswires are truly assisting with your goal of driving business growth.

How to measure: You need a lot of manual effort to identify if an article is derived directly from a newswire or not. As such, automation that uses string-matching algorithms can tag this data at scale.

How to detect PR crises in real time and proactively resolve them

Modernizing traditional PR measurements

1. Media coverage

This is the classic, bread-and-butter metric for traditional PR teams, and it has never lost its relevance. When reported from different perspectives, media coverage can help quantify your PR efforts more convincingly in these ways:

Sentiment distribution of the media coverage. A single negative article can adversely affect the brand perception that’s been built over a hundred positive articles. So, measure the tonality of articles. This can be achieved easily by using AI-based sentiment models. AI-powered PR tools, like Sprinklr, are capable of providing phrase-level sentiment insights which are more granular and actionable.

Historical benchmarking provides the delta media coverage that you achieved against the previous month, the previous quarter, the previous year, a previous campaign, and more.

Geographical distribution is critical to understanding if media outlets are creating an impact in markets where your business is attempting to grow. So, measure if your PR efforts are creating an impact in the organization’s target markets and plan ahead.

A bar chart showing the percentage of articles with positive and negative sentiments across different countries.

Percentage of articles showing positive and negative sentiment in different countries

2. Media outlets' value

The quality of PR coverage is as good as the media outlets, journalists, or influencers who curate it. And how do you go about defining media outlets as “good” anyway? Well, the reach metric of the media outlet is a traditional way. But it’s time to look behind the “plain vanilla” media-reach metric.

  • Outlet relevancy should answer these questions: “Does the outlet’s primary audience overlap with your target audience?”, “Is the outlet well-known within a specific industry or for a specific topic?”, “Is the outlet international, and does it have a high stature in the PR industry?”. Note that your customers will engage with similar content in different ways, depending on the relevancy of the outlet. Sprinklr mines insights from outlets’ social handles to get a better estimate of the outlets’ target audience or related industry.

  • Outlet rankings, such as Domain Authority (powered by MOZ), provide rankings based on how probable the outlet and its content appear in search engines. Your customers are building the perception of your brand based on what they read about you online, and Domain Authority helps to capture it. Sprinklr provides more advanced ranking metrics, such as Global Rank (powered by Similarweb), which takes into account the total and unique traffic of the outlet as well.

  • Potential media reach helps to capture the potential eyeballs on the content you worked hard to get out. Note that the reach numbers are often exaggerated, and you must consider the quality of the reach rather than its volume. It’s useful to estimate and report the readers of an article, instead of reporting reach at an outlet level.

A chart showing the whitespaces based on a media outlet's relevancy.

Whitespaces based on outlet relevancy

3. Share of voice

The share of voice (SoV) is probably the “mother of all PR metrics,” and it will continue to be for a long time. It is such a powerful metric that it is capable of painting a clear picture of where the brand ranks within the industry to executives. But the problem is, PR teams stop comparing media coverage across competitors. You should also:

Mix SoV up with other metrics. Benchmark all your PR KPIs against that of your competitors, whether it is the share of media impact, share of social amplification, share of top-tier coverage, share positive media coverage, and so on. This opens up opportunities and areas where your PR efforts can be more focused.

Share of narratives provides you with the brands which are dominating a specific industry topic or corporate pillar — for example, sustainability. This is super-useful to understand the PR strategy of your competitors, and it provides whitespaces where you can extract the best ROI on your efforts. This is one of the few metrics your executives truly need to build thought leadership!

A chart showing the share of narratives for each brand.

Share of narratives

Before-after analysis can give you a better idea, too. SoV is often used as a static metric. But there’s more to it than just percentages. Use it to track SoV over time, SoV before and after your campaign or product launch, SoV over geographies, SoV of your executives against that of industry leaders, etc.

4. Earned media value

Earned media value (EMV) or ad value equivalency (AVE) is one of the “vanity” metrics that several modern PR teams have stopped leveraging. This is due to the ambiguity and inconsistency in its measurement. If your executive pressures you to attribute a dollar value to your PR efforts, you need to come up with an EMV measurement framework that’s customized to your company’s goals. The framework should consist of KPIs that want to be part of dollar attribution, such as the KPI-to-dollar-conversion rate, and the like. For example, if the potential media reach suits your business needs, EMV can be the potential media reach multiplied by a conversion rate (of viewing the article) of 5% and a $0.4 per article read.

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Final thoughts

That brings us to the end of the modern PR KPIs cheat sheet.Though the PR industry is behind in the race for innovative measurement strategies, it is catching up. There is a clear shift from tracking volume and reach metrics to more outcome-driven metrics, like reputation levels, key-message penetrations, share of narratives, and customer engagement metrics. As PR teams are challenged to prove their ROI, it is high time to start measuring the right KPIs and setting metric-driven goals for more successful PR efforts.

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