With an ever-growing emphasis placed on connecting marketing actions to outcomes, measurement matters more than ever. Rapid advances in digital technology allow for marketers and PR professionals to measure performance across all activities; however, with the vast array of tools and platforms, the task is daunting. Although accessibility is at an all-time high, without guidance, it’s easy to fumble when it comes to monitoring, reporting, and improving overall performance.

While measurement is a critical component of any PR or marketing program, it’s manageable if you start with an understanding of which KPIs are essential in attaining your organization’s strategic goals.

What is a KPI?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that exhibits how effectively an organization achieves its strategic objectives. Essentially, an effective KPI is an actionable metric that keeps your strategy on track. Organizations use KPIs to efficiently manage, control, and achieve desired business targets, but what constitutes a good KPI?

KPIs are only effective if they help marketing and PR teams understand and evaluate how their actions contribute to overall organizational goals. Organizations don’t need to choose too many KPIs to be successful, but the quality of each KPI is key—determine which metrics are most important to the organization, which are also dynamic and measurable.

Marketing Metrics vs. KPIs

The terms ‘marketing metrics’ and ‘KPIs’ are used interchangeably; however, there are distinct differences. For example, metrics refers to the measurement of marketing activity whereas KPIs measure performance aligned with a broader business strategy. In sum, KPIs embody strategic objectives—they measure marketing performance against a predetermined organization goal.

Defining Strategic Goals and Establishing KPIs

As indicated above, you need to define your organization’s strategic goals before you can effectively establish KPIs. What are you hoping to achieve through your marketing actions? What is the desired result?

Begin thinking about goals in overarching umbrella terms that capture the totality of your marketing activities. Consider: building brand awareness, increased social engagement, lead generation, improved leads to sales conversion, greater customer advocacy, and loyalty. These are just a few examples of goals specific to a PR and/or marketing team that also have clear and defined actions feeding into them.

KPIs are best established by asking, “how do we achieve our goals?.” For example, what are the specific actions needed to build brand awareness, increase social engagement, further generate leads, etc.? If your strategic direction is clear, it’s easy to construct KPIs that get you there. For example, if the goal were lead generation, the corresponding KPI would be the total amount of leads. While it’s okay to begin by thinking in broad terms, ultimately the specificity of your KPIs set you up for greater success. Therefore, it pays to get SMART.


Given that marketing departments operate across multiple channels, the type of metrics you want to track will vary for different marketing roles. Regardless of your role, however, effective KPIs all take root by being SMART.

The term SMART has been entrenched in the management and goal-setting vernacular since 1981 when George Doran first introduced the acronym. The five SMART conditions help to establish clear and actionable KPIs, offering a consistent guideline for success:

Specific – Is the KPI clearly defined and identified?

Measurable – Is the KPI quantifiable? How do you measure progress?

Attainable – Is the desired outcome realistically achievable?

Relevant – Is it relevant to broader organizational goals?

Timely – Is it measurable on a consistent monthly or quarterly basis? What is the time-frame?


While fulfilling the five conditions of SMART make for a good starting point, a well-rounded KPI needs to be continually evaluated and modified over. That’s why it never hurts to think SMARTER. According to the KPI Library, the additions of Explainable and Relative create a more relevant and well-rounded KPI. These additional steps are important as its vital that your KPIs are communicable and digestible, particularly to stakeholders and decision-makers. Additionally, it’s imperative that your KPIs are still applicable and measurable as your business, volume, or objectives grow.

Although KPIs will vary across departments and responsibilities, the process of creating KPIs remains consistent. If PR and marketing teams understand how their activities contribute to the larger organizational goals, ultimately KPIs will help us work SMARTER and propel our organizations towards efficiency and effectiveness.

To start on the path to SMARTER, download our ebook, The Keys to the Kingdom.

KPIs: KeystotheKingdom