Any PR & communications agency worth its salt should be tracking, measuring and reporting the results of their campaigns. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help support a brand’s goals by introducing quantifiable measures of performance over time for a specific PR objective. 

KPIs are also a great way to better understand what is and isn’t working, allowing you to refine future media campaigns and better optimise your allocation of resources. They are also a great opportunity to prove your team’s value to stakeholders through measurable, tangible goals. Explaining you increased your brand’s awareness by a certain percentage is much more impactful than saying you executed two brand awareness campaigns, for example.

How to measure PR success

The ultimate goal of earned media is to get your brand’s story out, and land coverage in authoritative news outlets and websites to promote your brand. But measuring PR success is more than compiling links to news articles or screenshots of social media posts. How can you track whether your media relations strategy is successful? This is where metrics that quantify your work come into play.

Some standard KPIs for measuring PR campaign success include:

  • Media mentions
  • Share of voice
  • Potential reach
  • Social media engagement
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Impressions
  • Website traffic

Set specific goals

One big thing you’ll want to remember when developing your PR KPIs is that they should be tied directly to organisational goals that further the mission of the company. We strongly suggest gaining as many insights as possible about these goals and the expectations on you and your team.

If you have a separate marketing team, it’s also worth ensure your PR plan complements their strategy, long-term goals, target audience and more. You’ll likely find you have similar goals, so they should align and work congruently.

Measure what matters

When determining your PR KPIs, remember metrics are industry-specific and will vary based on your campaign and goals.

It’s also important to remember the old adage: quality over quantity.

When tracking PR measurements, quality is oftentimes a better measurement than quantity. Sure, an article can get picked up by half a dozen media outlets, but are these placements generating impressions? Serving your target audience? Generating clicks? Sending the right message? How relevant is the outlet for your target audience?

Keep in mind that leveraging the right media outlets to reach your target audience is more likely to result in increased revenue.

PR KPI examples

Here are some PR KPI examples that might make sense as you create a strategy for measuring your PR success.

  • Media mentions
  • Pitch placement success rate
  • Potential Reach
  • Key message pull-through
  • Share of voice
  • Average UVM
  • AVE (advertising value equivalent)
  • Total social engagement
  • Average social engagement
  • Sentiment
  • Website traffic
  • Geo-heat maps to see which geographical areas of their market (and competitors) are generating the most coverage

Media mentions

A media mention is exactly what it sounds like—any mention of a brand’s message, name or campaign. This could be online, on TV or through other media channels (Social mentions are generally counted separately).

Media mentions are one of the most fundamental measurable and comparable earned media metrics.

Media monitoring

The process of tracking media mentions is called media monitoring. Key media to monitor includes:

  • Online news
  • Print news
  • Broadcast
  • Podcasts
  • Newsletters
  • Social media

Back in the old days, media monitoring was a tedious task. We combed newspapers and magazines and physically cut out articles and pasted them into clipbooks. Today, technology makes media monitoring a whole lot easier.

Share of voice

Share of voice (SOV) is a metric used to compare brands against their competitors. SOV can better inform how much your brand dominates the conversation in your industry. It’s also a great datapoint to present executives and stakeholders. You can measure SOV with organic keywords, impressions, reach, revenue, mentions, hashtags and more.

It’s worth noting the quality of the marketing message’s reach is relevant to determining SOV (i.e. a spammy bot Twitter account shares your article).

Potential reach

Potential reach is exactly what it sounds like—the potential number of people who see your media coverage per month.

Potential reach is different from paid and organic reach. Paid reach refers to the number of people who see your content with paid distribution, and organic reach refers to the number of people who see your content without paid distribution (e.g. via Google search or an unpaid Facebook post).

To calculate potential reach, add up the viewership for each publication and website your coverage is featured on. For reference, reach is an outlet’s unique visitors per month (UVM), which you can find through an analytics tool, like Google Analytics.

It’s worth noting potential reach is widely considered a limited data point since it only calculates quantity—not quality—of reach.


Media impressions, a fundamental PR metric, refers to the total audience reached. In other words, if someone reads a story about your company in a news article, that’s an impression.

Impressions, like potential reach, tend to measure quantity versus quality. But, when used with other KPIs, impressions can be a good gauge of overall brand awareness.

Social media engagement

Engagement simply refers to a reader taking action after viewing the content. Metrics associated with social engagement include:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Retweets
  • Clicks
  • Mentions

You can tap into these metrics through each relevant platform. To calculate the engagement rate on a Facebook post, for example, divide the total engagement by total followers and multiply by 100%. If your post gets 200 engagements, and you have 10,000 followers, that’s an engagement rate of 2%.

Sentiment analysis

Sentiment refers to the tone of the articles that mention your brand. A sentiment can be positive, neutral or negative.

This metric can provide insights on the success of PR campaigns. It can be used to demonstrate brand impact, gauge the quality of media mentions and prevent reputational crises. This is also a great KPI to use to show off the value of your PR team.

There are two ways to calculate sentiment. The first is through scoring. For instance, you could assign scores, ranging from 1 to 10, to comments on an article. A scathing complaint would be scored 1 whereas a glowing review would receive a 10. From there, you can calculate the average.

Website traffic

It can be important to track the number of visitors who clicked to your company’s site as a result of your PR coverage and link placement. This can help you measure the overall reach of your media campaigns.

Examples of how to measure website traffic include:

  • Unique visitors
  • Unique pageviews
  • Bounce rate (i.e. the percentage of visitors who leave after only viewing one page)
  • Number of referrals from target media publications (e.g. 134 clicks from the New York Times)

There are a number of tools available to monitor website traffic. The big one is Google Analytics, which is free. A key to measuring website traffic from your earned media is to include custom UTM that link back to your website, when someone is covering your brand.

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