Discover Insights: Setting KPIs to Reflect Your Communications

Data insights help set good KPIs
Lee Roden
  • By Lee Roden

Setting the right KPIs is an essential part of any healthy PR and communications strategy, but bad KPIs which don’t reflect noteworthy breakthroughs or lead to more distraction than progress are still too common...

Whispr Group’s experts combine their knowledge with our cutting edge insights software to help our communications and PR customers avoid those problems on a daily basis, so we asked them for some key pointers to help ensure you set KPIs that accurately measure your big breakthroughs, and reflect the hard work your comms team puts in to create value for your brand.

Map what you’re going to measure & why

Before you rush to create a KPI, always put in the necessary preparation. Even if you think you already know which indicators will be useful, take the time to properly map out what you’re going to measure and why you’re going to measure it. Clearly define what you most need to impact with your work; which areas are particularly important for your business, areas where you need to make changes and wish to measure the progress? Consider the following questions:

  • What outcome do you hope to achieve and why?
  • In what way can you measure progress?
  • How can you impact that progress?
  • Who is responsible for making it happen?
  • At which periods will you review progress?

“Consider too whether you need some KPIs for internal use that can be more detailed, and some more easy to digest KPIs for external use towards a broader target group within the company,” Whispr Group’s Intelligence Product Director Simon Scharfstein explains. “And analyse the KPIs you’ve used historically – they may or may not be relevant.”

It’s always worth applying the tried and tested SMART formula to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the KPI:

  • How Specific is your goal?
  • How Measurable is it?
  • Is it Attainable?
  • Is it Relevant to your business?
  • What Time frame is needed to achieve it?

The better informed the KPI is, the more likely it is to adequately reflect the progress and breakthroughs you make.

Ask for direction to discover your insights

It’s not always a bad thing to trust your professional instincts for direction on which KPI to pursue, so long as they hold up to the above questions. It may well be the case that you and your team have already noticed an aspect of your communications work that isn’t being adequately tracked, and is worth measuring to test or prove progress in a demonstrable way.

Many of Whispr Group’s customers take advantage of our communications insights experts as a sounding board in this part of the process, as Tele2 Executive VP of Communications Viktor Wallström explains:

​​If we come up with something and say we want it covered, we always feel Whispr Group takes it seriously and makes a genuine effort to see how they can provide the solution. But they’re also honest if they don’t think the approach will work in practice, rather than just saying ‘here’s a KPI’ even though it won’t be scientific enough.

One major benefit of having an insights partner involved in your communications KPI tracking process is that they will have access to tools that broaden the measurement possibilities. Access to tools often dictates and restricts the choice of metrics being monitored for companies who choose to do all of their measuring in-house, but that doesn’t mean those metrics are the best ones to use – in fact the opposite can prove to be the case.


Measure areas you have impact on

Getting more granular in setting your KPIs is one way to help better ensure you’re measuring areas that you have a direct impact on, and that the measure is clearly tied to an outcome. A KPI measuring media discussion about your brand can be useful for example, but one specifically measuring initiated media coverage that’s a direct result of your press releases and contact with journalists is even more informative, as the cause and effect link to your communications work is crystal clear.


Good KPIS should reflect your communications and PR breakthroughs accurately

Ditch your irrelevant KPIs

While striving to create more actionable KPIs is important, it’s equally vital to be ruthless and willing to ditch KPIs that are difficult to understand, not clearly actionable or risk existing as little more than vanity metrics which may look good at first glance, but ultimately don’t contain much substance when scrutinised.

Data overload can contribute to this problem: companies with access to a large amount of data can often be tempted to set KPIs linked to those datasets even if it isn’t necessarily relevant. That in turn dilutes focus and takes up time that could be used to analyse more relevant sources with actionable results that have a clearer link to your communications output. The data you’re analysing and the KPI linked to it should always provide a clear learning about your strategy, otherwise it’s worthless.

Not every communications data set needs a KPI

Challenge traditional KPIs

Dare to think beyond the boundaries of traditional high level KPIs like reach, impressions and so on. While useful, these alone don’t cover the entire spectrum of communications work. An increasingly common KPI for Whispr Group PR & communications customers for example is one tracking the amount of negative media coverage that they successfully provided comment or balance to, an unavoidable aspect of communications work to which teams dedicate a huge amount of effort, and one that is of significant importance to a brand’s profile.

A further example would be instead of just tracking the number of positive articles about your brand, add a further layer of analysis and have a KPI tracking positive articles specifically carrying your core messaging. Positivity about your brand is never a bad thing of course, but positive coverage that also transmits your key messaging is one of the most powerful reflections of the achievements of your communications work.

It may also be beneficial to create specific KPIs for one-off or temporary communications projects, our Intelligence Product Director Simon Scharfstein notes:

Don’t be afraid to set further KPIs for campaigns and one-offs on top of the ones you use to evaluate monthly or quarterly publicity. It’s most likely that the desired outcome differs between temporary campaigns and communications efforts compared to ongoing publicity efforts.

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