Picture a world where everyone on your team has the information they need to be successful. Everyone has clear goals—and set timeframes for achieving them. They all track key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantify, measure, and optimize their programs and measure PR to prove its ROI. Everyone knows exactly where their projects stand.

This world is no longer a fantasy. But taking advantage of this brave new data-fueled world requires identifying the right KPIs, using tools that measure PR performance, then presenting results in clear, convincing reports.

It can seem overwhelming to zero in the right KPIs, gather the data you need to track them and show how your PR activities are contributing toward the company’s goals. Start by looking at your business goals, and breaking down what you need to do to get there. As you progress and compare results over time, you’ll gain significant insights into what’s working and what needs refining.

Four Steps to Align PR KPIs to Business Goals

Although the idea of setting PR KPIs can feel a little intimidating at first, it isn’t that complicated once you document what you’re trying to achieve with your external communications, how those efforts positively support your business, and how you can measure that support. We’ve broken down how to do this into four steps, with the questions to ask yourself along the way to identify your KPIs.

Step #1 Identify Business Goals

  • What measurable outcomes are your efforts designed to increase? Market share? Web traffic? Positive brand sentiment? Brand awareness? Attendance? Enrollment? Donations?
  • Are you entering a new market or launching a new product? Or are you maintaining or growing an existing business and product line?

Step #2 Define PR Strategy

  • What is your top measurable priority? Here are some ideas:
    • To change perception
    • Build brand buzz
    • Manage brand reputation
    • Establish thought leadership

Step #3 Focus Efforts

  • How can your efforts in PR contribute to specific business goals through media outreach, awareness building, and customer engagement?

Step #4 Align Accomplishments to Business Value

  • How can you connect what you’ve outlined above to concrete business value?
  • Document what PR can both do and measure and compare that to what the business is trying to achieve will help you decide which measurable KPIs are the most important.

Identifying Your PR KPIs

For a simplified KPI example, using the above framework, let’s look at building awareness for your brand through thought leadership. You’ve identified specific themes to emphasize in your outreach. Your goal is to increase media coverage associating your brand for a thought leadership boost.

If you know from experience that it typically takes three interactions with a reporter before you get a reply to your pitch, and you typically need to reach out to 10 reporters to get a month’s worth of coverage, your monthly outreach quota would be 30 outreach attempts. If your hit rate gets better over time, and your goals stay the same, you’ll be able to lower your monthly outreach quota and dedicate your time and resources toward other KPIs.

In addition to internal KPIs, which measure how you are performing against yourself over time, you’ll also want to benchmark your results against those of competitors and aspirational brands. This is important as it gives you an accurate picture of the possible results a company in your industry can attain.Measure PR ROI Here we benchmark volume of coverage, comparing January of this year to the same period a year ago. The gold line, representing this year, shows that we were able to start the year off with more momentum and build on it.

The Right Tools to Measure PR ROI

KPIs are worthless if you don’t have the right tools for tracking progress. The combination of tools that your communications and marketing team uses is known as your “marketing technology stack,” and choosing the right ones involves making big decisions. PR measurement tools, like Meltwater’s comprehensive media intelligence platform, will deliver the data you need to track essential metrics. As you dive deeper, you’ll want to get yourself familiar with the tools other departments are using and the overlapping goals that you are all supporting.

Shared Communications and Marketing Goals

The communications and marketing teams will likely have several shared goals, such as:

  • Increasing website traffic
  • Growing brand awareness and engagement
  • Generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads
  • Driving marketing-sourced or influenced revenue
  • Reducing sales cycles and increasing deal sizes
  • Retaining clients and building strong brand advocates

These are all things PR can influence and measure.

However, when you understand what’s important to your colleagues—and they better understand what’s important to you—you can then align KPIs accordingly and share the metrics you need to track them. For instance, PR might traditionally focus on media coverage and the number of brand mentions. But the modern PR pro understands the importance of measuring how coverage has both indirect and direct implications on leads, including generating web referrals, and SEO increasing domain authority. When the PR team demonstrates through clear metrics that they are supporting business goals in this way, it helps move PR from being a “nice to have” to a driver of business growth.

Google Analytics Measure PR ROI
We measure earned media against web traffic. By correlating the two, you can easily make the case for your coverage driving visitors to your site.

Assigning Values to PR KPIs

As you start measuring performance, you’ll want to determine an initial baseline number as the starting point for tracking each KPI.

This baseline represents the results you expect given normal operation. Instead of looking exclusively at industry standards, compare your latest monthly, quarterly, and annual results to your results from a similar time period. Choose whatever intervals make the most sense to your organization. As your results improve, you’ll want to push yourself to even greater heights—with the data to prove your results!

For a list of the PR and social media KPIs and how to effectively measure PR success, download our e-book: “Everything You Need to Prove PR ROI.”