Reach Metrics

Download our one page MediaSignal overview, learn how we do it!

How do you value earned media?
Quantifying Company Communications

Companies invest money and people to achieve their communications and marketing goals. Understandably, CEOs and executive teams want to know their return on investment (ROI) and use key performance indicators (KPI) to track progress. But measuring paid, owned, and earned media can be quite different and it should be.

As of late, quantifying earned media has been the chatter of the executive communications community. If you ask some, they will tell you, “Communications? You are either doing it or you’re not. It’s that simple.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t satisfy the CEO who wants hard data regarding her/his investment. Luckily, there is some data that can be obtained but it won’t be the hard dollars-to-dollars equation s/he would like.

Understanding how paid, owned, and earned media are measured will allow company leadership to set meaningful and obtainable goals.

Paid Media (Marketing):

ROI on paid media, or paid marketing, efforts is easily quantifiable. It is a direct dollars-to-dollars equation with the expectation of gaining a profit from your investment. Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows marketers to track KPIs such as leads, marketing qualified leads, and qualified sales leads to adjust their digital advertising as needed to improve the quality and quantity of sales.

Owned Media:

In today’s digital world, owned media – blog posts, white papers, websites, ebooks, and social media (traditionally, social media crosses several categories of comms, but for purposes of this article, we will keep it here) – is easily quantifiable. We can look at hard data KPIs via Google Analytics which track clicks, click-through rates, bounce rates, time on page, social interactions. Additionally, Social media strategies may set goals to achieve more followers, more interactions, and even target specific audiences for growth. All easily obtainable and quantifiable numbers.

Earned Media:

Earned media, or public/media relations, is just that – earned. The investment is employee time and some resources, such as the Science4Data media monitoring service, wire and/or media list services. Earned media drives significant brand exposure and provides an authentic voice for your company. And how consumers feel about your brand can significantly impact their buying decisions, but with earned media there is no direct dollar connection to sales like paid advertising. So, what performance accountability measures should you use?

Way back when I was an intern for a PR firm, we literally clipped newspaper articles and glued them on paper to provide to executives before their morning client meetings. Executives also reported the number of media mentions, national vs. local media breakdowns, and positive/negative tone. With the move to digital media also came automated news monitoring. Interns everywhere rejoiced!

Digital monitoring services today measure several points of soft data which allow companies to set strategic communication goals. Here are the most common KPIs for earned media.

  • Editorial Mentions – This the coverage your company receives over a given period. This calculation captures the media attention your team worked hard to place with and without using a wire service. Your PR pro may have pitched the exclusive story or submitted an op-ed that won top placement, which deserves to be calculated.
  • Coverage Quality – Speaking of top placement, being able to provide coverage quality from those editorial mentions is important to any executive summary. Let’s be honest. Some publications are more important than others to reach your targeted audience goals. This per publication calculation can also provide a cumulative view of your coverage quality in the marketplace.
  • Potential Reach – This is the potential audience size that may be reading your placement. Media monitoring services use the publication’s audience or subscription size. Then the audiences are aggregated for the total potential reach.
  • Share of Voice – This measurement allows for competitive intelligence by providing the percentage of voice your company or executive has in the media marketplace compared to your competitors.
  • Sentiment – What is the tone of your earned media? This breaks tone into positive, negative, and neutral, and is particularly important as it could impact consumer sentiment about your brand. Typically, this calculation is both per article and is a cumulative view over a given period.
  • Social Amplification – After the story breaks or the op-ed lands, did it resonate? This measurement allows you to monitor where and how many times it was amplified on social media.

This is a solid start to valuating your communications efforts. Many executives also want to know the actual, not just potential, readership of news or releases. Score another point for the digital world because most publications track this information and if you use a wire service, they can also track the actual views activity.

What about driving traffic to your website? A word of caution because if you’re using a press release, the traffic may be reporters who will bounce out of your site once they obtain the info they need. However, a good story, op-ed, or release should link back to your website in some way. Then your customer relationship management (CRM) software and/or Google Analytics will tell you if your news drove a reader to your site and then capture the reader’s movement. This may eventually lead to sales, if that’s your goal, but may have a longer lifecycle than direct marketing.

Your communications team often has a bigger vision and broader mission that isn’t directly tied to sales. Providing your team with the best tools and using the right metrics, you can set realistic, obtainable goals which lead to team and company success.

Photo by AdobeStock

About our Guest Blogger

Raegan Bartlo is the Principal and Founder of ACE Strategic Communications. An award-winning speechwriter and C-Suite advisor, she creates and executes strategic, multi-channel communications plans, messages, and content that raise the profile and enhance the image of public and private organizations. She has worked in the public and private sectors, at the state and federal levels, to advance public policy and organization goals working in and partnering with industries such as technology, web accessibility, financial services, education, healthcare, energy, conservation, and agriculture.