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-fuelled 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. Before we jump into how to do this, let’s first discuss what is meant by KPIs and how they differ to metrics.
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 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.
PR Metrics vs. KPIs
The terms ‘PR metrics’ and ‘KPIs’ are used interchangeably; however, there are distinct differences. For example, metrics refers to the measurement of PR activity whereas KPIs measure performance aligned with a broader business strategy. In sum, KPIs em body strategic objectives—they measure PR performance against a predetermined organization goal.
Four Steps to Align PR KPIs to Business Goals
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 PR actions? What is the desired result? Begin thinking about goals in overarching umbrella terms that capture the totality of your PR 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.
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.
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.
Regardless of your role, 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.
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.
With social media platforms, like Instagram, that have dialled down the importance of the number of likes or followers, you’re more than likely going to need to include other metrics in your reports. While it is important for you to understand the numbers, such as mentions and social reach, there is a wider context surrounding the numbers.
Almost 8 million people engaged with Zara’s #DearSouthAfrica campaign, but their success wasn’t just in the numbers. If, for example, the branded hashtag that you used for a specific campaign generated 10 000 mentions on social media, this would be considered a good thing. But if 8 000 of those mentions spoke negatively about your campaign, there’s something to be said about the sentiment surrounding your campaign.
So if numbers aren’t the only thing you need to analyse, what is?
- Trending Themes: the keywords that are associated with your brand, campaign or product
- Sentiment: how positively or negatively your brand, campaign or product was spoken about
- Media Exposure: the percentage of your audience that encountered your brand, campaign or product
- Heat Maps: geographical representation of where your brand, campaign or product is being spoken about the most
- Share of Voice: the amount of media coverage your brand, campaign or product received when compared to your competitors
There’s more to add to this list, but as a brief overview, it’s clear to see that the numbers aren’t always ‘all that’. There’s a qualitative component you need to analyse to help you make sense of the quantitative components. By analysing the metrics that matter, you’ll have a report that holistically gives you the right representation of your brand impact.
The Two Types of Reports to Consider
There are a few reports you can consider when wanting to prove your ROI, but the two to take note of are Objective-Specific Reports and Time-Specific Reports.
These reports usually show the impact your brand, campaign or product had based on the objectives or KPI’s you set out. Did you want to increase sales or brand awareness? Were you hoping to get more engagement with your brand through the influencers you chose for a campaign?
These are just some of the objectives that you may have set out, and having a media monitoring tool, like Meltwater, will help you stay on top of these objectives. But once the campaign or product launch is over, you need to analyse the objectives and metrics you placed to understand the impact your brand or campaign had. This is where you can use Objective-Specific Reports, where you are also able to benchmark against your previous campaigns, brand awareness efforts or influencers you used.
These reports focus on how successful your objectives were over a period of time. Perhaps you ran a campaign with influencers for 2 weeks in the build up of a new product launch. Now you need to measure the impact that campaign. You can do this by using time as a measurement of the progress of your objectives and KPIs. Perhaps traction only picked up a few days after you launched the campaign, or there was a massive increase in mentions on a particular day.
Time-Specific Reports also help you see the trends that happened over the time period of your campaign. Were there more mentions during the evening during the course of your campaign? Does your social reach or media exposure increase every weekend? These are just a few ways that using a report like this can help you spot some trends within your campaign or brand awareness efforts, and in turn, showcase the effectiveness or success of your initial objectives.
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/ PR 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.
Using a tool that gives you an in-depth analysis allows you to not just quantify the impact of your campaign, but helps you prove your return on investment (ROI) and justify the success of your campaigns. One sure-fire way to do this successfully, is to implement reports.
Making Data-Driven Decisions
Once you have a report, what next?
The answer is simple: implement! Whether you’ve used an Objective-Specific or Time-Specific report, the data you gain should help you decide on the necessary changes in your PR or business strategies. In essence, your reports should help you turn your data into actionable insights.
With the largest global media database, Meltwater knows how to provide you with accurate information that helps you see the reality of your brand, campaign or product launch. Reporting, on the other hand, helps you visually see this reality to then make decisions that will broaden the bigger picture of your marketing or business strategy.
One of the benefits of being able to analyse your objectives and metrics with Meltwater’s Media Monitoring or Social Listening Tools is that this is done in real-time. With interactive dashboards, looking at your marketing efforts and activity in real-time gives you the ability to be strategic in the way you respond to the data that reports provide you. This works well for global telecommunications company, Liquid Telecom, who use Meltwater’s key insights and trustworthy data to compile comprehensive reports to make data-driven decisions.
Measuring PR success can be made easier with reports that include more insights than just the numbers. With the right data and type of report you use, you’ll be able to accurately see the impact your brand is making and what your next steps can be to optimise your efforts even more. Want to learn more about how Meltwater can help optimize your PR reporting? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.