TOP Talk

Measure and Monitor Success With Critical Earned Media KPIs

Posted January 29, 2021 By Kathy Wilson

Topics: Earned Media Relations, Measurement and Analytics


Data on a chart


To build a meaningful earned media measurement process and program, you first have to know what success means to your business. That boils down to one key measurement piece: key performance indicators (KPIs). Identifying your KPIs is a critical step towards establishing a baseline for the growth and progress of your earned media program.

How do you know what KPIs are right for your program? This comes back to your earned media program goals. Are you focused on building awareness? Reach would be a strong KPI to monitor. Or maybe you’re working on lead-gen. In that case you’ll want to keep your eyes on contacts.

Most of your KPIs will need to be tailored to your specific program needs, but the following KPIs should be a part of every earned media measurement program:

Share of Voice

This metric is a common approach to measuring how much of the conversation surrounding a particular category your business is “owning.” Share of Voice (SOV) could be applied to a number of metrics, but in earned media it’s most commonly used to track against competitors. Like other KPIs, SOV is highly customizable. You can look at the total number of mentions per competitor, or hone in on specific keywords using a tool like Meltwater, Critical Mention, or Talkwalker.

To turn general SOV into a critical KPI, set it up against a measurable objective. A goal could be to increase your business’s SOV by X% quarter over quarter by upping the news rhythm, placing more quotes, or securing a few additional features. Keep in mind: you have no control over the volume of your competitors’ PR and marketing activities - and who knows, their budget and resources may be significantly greater than yours. That’s why we recommend SOV should never be your sole measure of success. Rather, it should be used alongside other KPIs like the Amount of Coverage and Type of Coverage.

Amount and Type of Coverage

Another way to measure the success of an earned media program is to evaluate the coverage secured by type of publication (e.g. business, trade, vertical, regional), as well as the type of coverage that is secured — whether it’s a feature article, a byline, or a mention. 

If you take a somewhat à la carte approach, you can build robust KPIs by setting your goals against a combination of the three terms defined above. For instance, a company may set a goal to increase its coverage in national business press by 20% or work to ensure 20% of its coverage is feature stories.

T1 Tip: Use a dashboard to keep track of earned media in real-time. Set up columns to break down the coverage by date, publication, title, and type (and key message pull-through/sentiment if you’re tracking those KPIs, too). 

Get a free tracking template in “The Complete Guide to Earned Media Measurement.”

Referral Traffic

For brand awareness, referral traffic is a critical KPI. It’s the amount of traffic heading to your website through pieces of earned or owned coverage. 

Google Analytics is an essential tool for measuring all site traffic and allows brands to easily monitor which sites are sending the most traffic to their websites (and even the pages on which those referral visits are landing). If you secured a byline in a widely circulated magazine and you want to see how effective it was, monitor the number of users clicking the link to your website to learn more. 

Unlocking Earned Media Success

Every measurement program should reflect (and inform) a company’s unique PR and marketing goals. Establish a measurement baseline using the critical KPIs mentioned above (and a few others you’ll find in the guide below) to evaluate the success of your current PR/Marketing program in supporting overall business goals. Keep an open mind about adjusting your strategy after learning what’s working and what’s not, continue to monitor your progress, and pat yourself on the back every now and then — let measurement help shape your success story. 

In “The Complete Guide to Earned Media Measurement,” we’ve collected even more critical KPIs, along with best practices and tools to get your earned media measurement program off to a strong start. Download your free copy here: 

The complete guide to earned media measurement - download now.

Kathy Wilson

About Kathy Wilson

Identifying and showcasing the unique and authentic elements of a company’s story – those “aha!” storylines that set a great company apart from the merely good ones. Then developing a strategy that leverages a variety of storytelling channels, whether it’s traditional media, social campaigns or visuals, to bring that company’s value proposition to life. 20+ year PR veteran.