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Performance Metrics That Matter for Public Relations

August 31, 2023 (8 min read)
Media metrics like share of voice or sentiment tracking help companies understand the success of their communications

With today’s 24/7, digital connectedness, keeping up with your company’s media exposure is an ever-evolving challenge. It can be impossible to track every traditional news mention as sources proliferate—not to mention keeping up with public sentiment on social media. Then, when you need show results from your efforts, it’s difficult to know where to start.

Zeroing in on the right data, not just mentions and views, can elevate your monitoring beyond just measurement to best assess which in depth PR metrics, KPIs, and technology will help you quickly and effectively maintain a corporate advantage—and prove the worth of your efforts.

In this article, we will discuss how basic media monitoring is no longer enough and how to move to real time media monitoring that uses deeper metrics to help measure your success. We will also explore tools to analyze context for your media coverage over time, visualize measurements tied to your specific business objectives, discern actionable insights, and demonstrate outcomes that show changes in behavior, options, or actions.

When there is an intentional alignment between the captured data, the identified PR KPIs, and the in-depth PR metrics’ analysis, you can get the greatest amount of insight with minimal time and effort. Let’ dive in.

Basic metrics for media monitoring and why they are not enough

We are all aware of the basics levels of media monitoring that measure general hits and impressions in traditional trades, print, digital and blogs locally and globally. While these basic ways provide a minimal amount of information and insight, they don’t give you much insight into how your audience is behaving or the impact your campaigns have.

Moreover, these stats are tied to past business tactics, so they are observations of what has happened previously and do not allow you to measure program effectiveness or offer actionable insights for the future. This is a great first step to understand what has worked before, but it won’t help you keep up with research on industry trends or make any innovative decisions. For that, you need deeper insight into your audience and their actions.  

MORE: Best practices for a modern PR campaign: Review and refine

Why deeper metrics help you measure your success

Deeper metrics—such as coverage over time, sentiment tracking, and others we’ll explore in more depth in the next section—help you to better measure your company’s success by going beyond output to understanding outcomes and developing a strategy for the future.

An output, which is just the basic reporting on the number of hits and impressions, doesn't tell you much of anything because it captures a static number without the context of the competitive landscape, audience behavior, or community sentiment. Even if you track the output over time, you’re missing key information that will allow you to better assess the success of your campaign.  

Conversely, analyzing outcomes of a campaign helps you demonstrate a change in behavior, opinion, or action. What did your audience do once they got the information you shared? How did that behavior or opinion change over time or with different messaging? Did outside factors or changing share of voice impact your results.

With this level of detail, you can turn metrics into actionable insights, giving you a tangible strategy to present to your C-suite moving forward.

The best metrics for complete media monitoring

There are several ways that you can take your media monitoring to the next level and get a more complete picture of your brand’s performance. In this section, we’ll explore our favorite metrics, why each is valuable, and how best to use it to assess your initiatives.

Coverage over time

Coverage over time helps you to fully understand your story, your brand, or your campaign’s trajectory over a specified period. Depending on the detail you need, it can be used to quickly analyze year-long coverage and illustrate impact throughout the campaign.

For example, you can compare media coverage for key metrics such as website traffic or social media engagement, sales, or overall brand health. This will give you an idea of when your audience is most engaged with your brand or if there were any factors that caused engagement to decline—like holidays or off-seasons.

Similarly, a look at coverage over time will allow you to recognize if certain news or an unexpected event may have contributed to coverage and engagement. For example, imagine that you work for a nonprofit organization that that serves at risk youth. Longitudinal media tracking for your nonprofit will allow you to compare spikes in media coverage with spikes in donations or program participation to see if there is a correspondence between media coverage and your other business efforts.

On the flip side, a public scandal can also increase mentions—but for the wrong reasons. Getting a sense of your average coverage will allow you to understand when these spikes take place and why. This helps you to assess your overall business strategy and align any areas that may be competing or detracting from your efforts.

MORE: Insight is everything: Harnessing the power of media intelligence

Sentiment tracking

Sentiment metrics help you to understand not only what your coverage is, but also how your company or brand is perceived. It's an excellent gauge of a company’s health, offering a specific point-of-view. It more specifically provides directional top line analysis about how people feel.

Currently, there are two common methods for sentiment tracking:

  • Automated tracking: Faster, more efficient, and more cost effective, but misses nuance and some accuracy
  • Manual tracking: Suited to complex or nuanced themes or crises, but slower and time consuming

It’s best to combine these two processes to maximize efficiency but use human discernment to double check the automated output.

For example, you may need to track full article sentiment versus sentiment in a portion of larger article. Let’s say there’s an online article comparing the new recipe of Cherry Coke to the recipe of Cherry Pepsi that ends with a rave review for Cherry Coke - i.e. Pepsi sucks. If you only have article-level sentiment analysis, it may get flagged as positive from an automated search, and you may miss the negative coverage at the bottom.

However, if you have entity level sentiment or have checked the automated results, the article will be flagged as negative for Pepsi and more of a positive article for Coke. This enables you to formulate a game plan for when your boss comes knocking for answers.

Interactive and dimensional charting

Interactive and dimensional charting are a way to think about data visualizations. For any media monitoring program, having charts of the data can help with anomaly detection, incident specific monitoring and measuring, and in tracking patterns and trends over time.

This gives you a way to quickly glean insight and decide what you need to dig deeper into.

Share of voice

Share voice metrics offers industry-level tracking and competitor comparison. It allows you to see how often your brand is mentioned compared to your competitors, which gives you more context to truly assess how your brand is performing.

After all, business doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so your metrics may seem successful on their own, but if you are far below industry average or a competitor is blowing you out of the water with positive news coverage, you may need to change your strategy.

MORE: Why targeted press releases are vital to your success

Key messages and topics

You may know your key messages and topics, but are they what is getting across to your audience? By tracking and identifying of keywords and phrases and spokesperson performance, you’ll get insight into whether the message that is being heard is the one you wanted to convey.

You can automate some of your keyword and phrase identification with a media monitoring tool that is set up to track alerts for key ideas. You’ll quickly be able to see if the public is talking about your company the same way you would.  

For example, you are a regional financial firm and trustworthiness is one of your core brand promises and attributes. You may opt to set up your search parameters and your dashboards to monitor/look for mentions of your brand that occur within five words of the keyword ‘trust’ (or similar verbiage).

If those keywords are not being associated with your company in news or public sentiment, you may have a reputational issue and need to regroup.

MORE: The most common crisis communications scenarios

Media performance and organizational results

Media performance and organizational results demonstrate the strategic value of public relations beyond a singular metric. You get a complete look at everything you're monitoring to compare them to your business results by integrating multiple data points against a single goal.

This metric allows you to take a step back from your campaign and demonstrate your performance outcomes, such as increasing nonprofit donations, picking up more media mentions from press releases, or hitting a sales target that was tied to an ad campaign. Being able to marry these data points together is very useful when you have multiple data points you’re considering.

“With and without” reporting

Many factors go into the ultimate outcome of a campaign or business, and it can be challenging to pinpoint exactly what made the impact in your success (or failure), especially when there’s an anomaly—like an unexpected spike in coverage, budget challenges, or a sudden change in public sentiment due.  

That's where “with and without” analysis is helpful. You can use filters to include or exclude information, allowing you to track specific major events and your brand’s performance around that event and compare that to prior periods. Often, the instance may be beyond your control, but comparing this data allows you to determine your plan forward.  

MORE: The ultimate crisis communications checklist

Improve your media metrics with media intelligence

Creating a robust media intelligence strategy by monitoring metrics that give you the most relevant insights from campaigns and communications will not only help your communications strategy, but it will help your business outcomes overall.

While manually monitoring all these metrics can take time and be incredibly tedious, a top-notch media monitoring tool takes care of heavy lifting by automatically identifying the most relevant data from each search, visualizing it as charts, graphs and word clouds that can be easily explored and exported.

Nexis Newsdesk™ allows you to easily go beyond basic coverage reports, analyzing everything from coverage sentiment to trending topics to help you understand how your messages are working in the real world. It then translates your searches into beautiful, easy-to-understand coverage reports that are perfect for sharing earned media progress with your C-Suite. So you can get the data you need to move your story forward