Tracking the progress and results of public relations campaigns has always been tricky as PR focuses on building brand awareness and influencing audiences, and is not necessarily a direct driver of sales and revenue.

However, in the age of technology and data-driven marketing and communications, it’s now easier than ever to monitor and analyse key PR metrics and impress your CEO, senior executives and colleagues.

Best practice measurement and reporting of PR metrics fall into three categories – awareness, insights and investment – so we can look at the bigger picture but also be more agile and targeted in our PR approach.

Here are five essential PR metrics to impress executives and colleagues:

Key messages/topics penetration (insights)

Ideally the key messages and/or topics you are focusing on in your PR activity should align with what the overall business is aiming to communicate to your audiences. An analysis on whether the media coverage achieved contains key messages and/or key topics is vital to understanding whether your campaign is achieving cut through. This is particularly useful if your campaign contains a hashtag or catch-line such as with L’Oreal Australia and their ‘Makeup Genius’ campaign.

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Top media outlets (insights)

Using a comprehensive media intelligence platform like Meltwater enables you to see a list of top media outlets that have published an article about your company, brand or product. This can be analysed in terms of volume of coverage, audience reach, genre etc. This is useful if you’re aiming to reach and influence a particular niche, genre or audience, such as if you’re looking to increase coverage in business media outlets instead of technology media outlets.

Sentiment (awareness)

This is a breakdown of media coverage by positive, negative and neutral tone. This is essential if you’re in crisis communications mode, or if you’re comparing media coverage against a competitor. If you find that the higher ups are wondering why a competitor is generating more media coverage in terms of volume – it’s worth reviewing if the majority of the competitor’s coverage is neutral or negative in tone.

Share of voice (awareness)

The share of voice metric shows how media coverage for your company or client compares against competitors. This can be measured and analysed in terms of audience reach, volume of coverage, sentiment, topic comparison etc. This is particularly interesting to share with the marketing team who are most likely monitoring company market share. This is also a good indicator of the level of media interest in your company or client, and a good way to review further PR opportunities and other media to reach out to.

Value (return on investment)

As with any project or campaign, PR is no exception when it comes to understanding return on investment. There are numerous methods of calculating PR value, such as ‘Advertising Value Equivalent’ to determine the monetary value of media coverage as a comparison to advertising spend. Others use ‘Cost Per Contact’, which is also known as ‘Opportunity to See’ to determine the cost of reaching an audience by taking your PR budget for a campaign and dividing this by the reach achieved from media coverage. This is particularly useful to show the relative cost of using PR to reach an audience as compared with direct marketing, advertising, etc, which use similar measures. It can also provide a benchmark for future activities. In addition, PR professionals can track incoming leads – these are inbound enquiries / touch points assisted by PR activity such as events, sponsorships, website traffic from a media release etc.