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How to measure PR : the metrics that matter

Published on By Tara Schwenk

Throughout this three-part series, we've navigated the intricacies of selecting the right agency and maximising your agency’s potential. However, our journey wouldn't be complete without delving into the realm of measuring the effectiveness of PR.

Beyond the Yardsticks: Evolving metrics in PR measurement

Welcome to the final part of our series, where we’ll show you how to really measure the success of your PR agency.

We have witnessed the ebb and flow of various PR measurement trends over time, and so are no strangers to the plethora of questions that can arise when measuring the success of PR.

The PR industry once relied on outdated metrics like Monthly Unique Users (MUUs) and Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) to gauge campaign success. MUUs counted print copies or website visitors, reflecting coverage reach. AVE equated media coverage value to ad space cost. While offering some quantification, these metrics fell short of capturing PR's full impact.

Interestingly, remnants of this approach persist, especially in countries where print media still has a higher relevancy than in the UK or the US. However, for the UK and US markets these metrics are out of date.

At Lemongrass, we’ve always been advocates that the best PR strategies are holistic: They involve both print and online, traditional and digital PR, social and influencer marketing.

Thus, we've moved beyond outdated metrics, embracing a refined approach. Because as PR evolves, success evolves too. It's not just about coverage quantity, but its about quality, sentiment, and engagement. Digital transformation and evolving media dynamics introduce more sophisticated measures, offering a complete view of PR's impact.

What are you actually wanting to measure?

Clients have diverse PR goals. Some aim for broad digital exposure, while others target placements in renowned publications like Conde Nast Traveller. Forward-thinking travel clients also recognise the importance of a balanced backlink profile influenced by PR.

Each client's aspirations are distinct, reflecting their identity and goals. Success varies, and our role as PRs is to collaborate with clients to define success at the outset of our relationship.

How we set KPIs with our clients: Fusing human aspirations with data precision

A powerful PR strategy harmonises human aspirations with data-driven insights. These aspirations can vary, from CEO's preferences for specific publications or speaking opportunities to the PR team's desire for compelling narratives and the inhouse SEO’s wish for better findability on Google.

To bridge these perspectives, we begin each client relationship with an immersion workshop. Through these workshops, we uncover client aspirations and can then craft tailored objectives for success measurement. Immersion workshops align the entire client team's vision, fostering cohesive goals.

Now that we’ve got the human side of PR covered it’s important to look at data. Does what the client team wants align with what their target audience is interested in – and does it align with how Google sees the client. (Hint: often there’s overlap, but sometimes reality and perception are wide apart).

Therefore we next take a look at a clients digital footprint and do a backlink audit to assess a client's coverage and competition, guiding our media targeting. This data-driven approach underpins our PR success tracking.

A Backlink Audit

  • Identifies gaps and opportunities for quality PR coverage and links
  • Shows you how you compare to the competition in terms of PR coverage and links
  • Allows you to build media target lists that convert interest into bookings, thereby enhancing authority and visibility.

Once you know your gaps in coverage and links you can identify how you compare to the competition in terms of PR and SEO.

You then build target media lists based on insight rather than guesswork.

Next you fuse those data insights with creative ideas (from the immersion workshops) and that will allow you to land coverage in those publications and on those websites that really make a difference to your travel brand.

The convergence of human insight and data-driven strategy is where the real magic happens—narratives resonate, strategies flourish, and brands find their digital voice.

What to do if you don’t quite know what KPIs to set?

We recognise that the landscape of PR metrics might seem complex, but in the following paragraphs we are explaining the different options. And if you are considering becoming a client but are unsure about the specific metrics to measure or where to direct your PR efforts we’ll work together with you to find the metrics that are best suited to achieving your goals.

When a luxury hotel in Scotland was gearing up for a grand spa launch, they wanted celebrity endorsement, at considerable expense. However, our research-driven expertise unearthed an alternative. Rather than conventional celebrity partnerships, we proposed a dynamic digital PR campaign. This strategy embraced tailored storytelling resulting in a much broader reach, which felt more organic to the end consumer. If uncertainty clouds your path, rest assured, our team stands ready to guide you.

So, what should we keep track of? Well, it boils down to what matters most to you.

As the saying goes, "What gets measured gets done."

1. Sentiment over volume for brands in (and out of!) crisis

Success can't be solely gauged by volume of coverage or AVE or number of clippings anymore. Quality engagement, message resonance, and deep connections matter more.

In some instances, measuring “success” based on volume can be downright disastrous. Crisis communications, for example; measuring the volume of articles during a crisis means you might be getting lots of coverage, but for all the wrong reasons. In a crisis “positive sentiment” is the only measure of success, not volume.

We measure things like sentiment using analysis techniques - like natural language processing - to measure emotional tones in coverage—assessing positivity, negativity, or neutrality.

Brands seeking enhanced online visibility should prioritise Domain Authority (DA), a key gauge of search result rankings. Relevance, content, and link count are also key for Google visibility.

It would take up too much space to go into the intricacies of all of the above measurement metrics here, but broadly speaking each link acts as a digital endorsement, guiding potential customers to book a holiday with you, to visit your destination, to invest in your brand, to see you as a thought leader in your space.

(Remember what we said about starting each PR relationship with a backlink audit – that’s why, so we can see how you fare in comparison to the competition and build media lists that work)

However, amassing backlinks isn't just about quantity—it's strategic. Links highlight content value. Relevance is key; links from reputable travel or lifestyle platforms are like endorsements, boosting authority and audience connection.

You might assume that your links should only come from travel-focused sources or platforms. However, let's consider a real example from our client, Discover Africa. While they specialise in exclusive South Africa tours, a link from a motoring website can also hold significance. Imagine promoting self-drive Africa safaris on such a platform. This approach adds variety and relevance to your link profile, broadening your reach beyond the obvious and resonating with diverse audiences with great interest crossover.

Lastly, discerning 'follow' or 'no-follow' links is pivotal. 'Follow' links boost SEO authority, while 'no-follow' links don't, but will drive traffic. A blend ensures a natural link profile, enhancing visibility and measuring success effectively.

3. Outshining the competition: Measuring the gaps

Consider this: A South America-based tour operator came to us with the aim of "ranking highly on Google." However, achieving this is never as straightforward as it seems. We stressed the importance of strategy over a simple desire for high rankings – which keywords did they want to rank for? Did these resonate with what their audience was actually searching? We undertook competitor analysis to identify the market leader's strengths in Google rankings. This analysis revealed their dominant keywords and search terms, and armed with this insight, we built a tailored campaign to surpass the competition, bridging the gap between traditional and digital PR seamlessly.

Offline, this concept holds true. Imagine wanting your audience to be captivated by your hotel in Conde Nast Traveller, not your neighbour’s. Just as you strategically choose print media placements, your online presence requires the same care. It's about link quality, relevance, and resonance, not just quantity.

In essence, whether in the online PR realm or the tangible world of traditional placements, the principle remains constant: Your brand should be encountered in the right context. Just as you’d want your hotel featured in an inspiring magazine, your website content, keyword strategy, and authoritative links should harmonise, enriching your brand’s presence and perception, which begins with measuring how your competition achieves this.

4. Measuring your reach: Finding new audiences – how competitor insights can help uncover a PR strategy

So, you are getting lots of honeymooners, but also want families or adventure travellers….

Navigating the intricacies of PR and SEO success goes beyond mere keyword rankings. True victory involves aligning your digital presence with your audience's desires, as demonstrated by a London hotel's quest to capture the family market.

In their backlink audit, a notable gap emerged compared to their London based competition —family-oriented content and coverage. The client responded proactively, creating tailored family relevant content. We brainstormed family PR ideas that we could pitch - and landed lots of coverage in publications from Vogue to Family Traveller to Mumsnet.

In this case you'd measure topical interest. How many articles and links have you or your agency secured that positively talk about your travel brand to the family market. Or any other audience group you want to go after.

As you can see success in PR in 2023 combines SEO insights with creativity to make sure your PR strategy works for both your audience and for Google.

For more audience insights, explore our blog post Travel brands: Use data to find Your audience – and tell your story.

5. Measuring impact: Diverse storytelling to drive sustainable consumer choices

Measuring success in 2023 should no longer just be about quantitative metrics (in fact it never should have been about JUST that).

It's about setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with a purpose-driven narrative.

A traditional approach might celebrate press coverage solely for existing. However, if we want to see the world become a better, more sustainable, more inclusive place, then our definition of “PR success” needs to change.

Too many journalists come from white, privileged backgrounds. Success in this context becomes about how many stories are being told by underrepresented communities. Intrepid recently launched a brilliant campaign to that effect. See more here .

Success in this context also means asking yourself how many articles that get written about your travel brand leave a positive imprint on the world, encourage travellers to make more sustainable travel choices. In other words we need to move away from quantity to quality and positive impact.

The significance here transcends PR; it's a shared responsibility for our people and planet. As individuals, communities, and brands, we all hold a stake in safeguarding our environment and nurturing social equity.

The metrics we set against our PR efforts become a tangible commitment to realizing the collective future we envision. It's a call to action for brands to champion diversity, inclusivity, and positive impact. The measurements we choose—whether they quantify stories from marginalized voices, gauge the depth of change ignited, or assess the resonance of impactful narratives—paint a vivid picture of our commitment to building a world and communities that thrive sustainably.

6. Measuring variety: So you can grow your business

Measuring success solely by clippings in prestigious publications like The Times, Vogue and the Financial Times is outdated and inaccurate. It's like judging a symphony's richness solely by its volume, not by the diverse instruments that contribute to the overall beauty of a piece of music.

Repeatedly featuring in the “top” 10 publications might seem impressive, but it's limiting your chances of success. In an online world diverse links/clippings from relevant (to your audience!) publications surpass links from the same, albeit famed, 10 outlets. Strategically, relying on a highly limited source for links has downsides, as Google favours links that are diverse, relevant and high-quality. Repetition could raise SEO concerns, impacting rankings, while diversification expands reach and resonates with a broader audience.

Read our blog post on “Why being 10 times in the Times isn’t as good as you think” if you want to find out more.

7. Measuring social media exposure

The same principle applies to the realm of social media. While the allure of big influencers might be tempting, it's crucial to assess the actual impact they might have. Casting a wide net might garner a high number of impressions, but that's just half the story. Engagement rates—the interactions and reactions your content generates—are far more telling. A colossal following doesn't necessarily translate to fervent engagement. Often, smaller influencers with a niche focus boast significantly higher engagement rates.

For instance, if a lavish hotel offers a free stay to a prominent influencer with millions of followers, but the aspirational grandeur of the hotel doesn’t resonate with the majority of the influencer's audience then the appeal of a luxurious free stay might be limited to a small fraction of their followers, rendering the return on investment disproportionately low. In contrast, collaborating with a micro-influencer, whose audience aligns acutely with your offering, can yield a much more favourable engagement rate and conversion potential. Interested in knowing more? Read our blog ‘the ultimate guide to influencer marketing’ here, and stay tuned for more social media strategy in our coming blogs.

8. The power of Social Listening: Measuring emotions

Success isn't just about media coverage and press releases—it's about understanding the conversations happening online. Social listening is the tool that gets you closer to your audience's feelings, hopes, and concerns.

In the age of social media, people share thoughts, preferences, and opinions. Social listening monitors these discussions for insights that traditional metrics miss. It uncovers themes, emotions, and trends shaping how your audience sees your brand.

For instance, imagine a hotel introduces an eco-friendly initiative. Traditional PR would track media coverage, but social listening digs deeper. It searches social platforms for mentions, revealing real-time reactions. This approach reveals if the audience embraces the idea, wants more details, or has doubts. With these insights, PR can adjust strategies to address concerns or amplify positive feelings.

Social listening is also a two-way street. It's not just tracking mentions; it's engaging in real conversations, answering queries, acknowledging feedback, and joining discussions to build a transparent brand-consumer relationship.

Beyond brand interactions, social listening detects trends and market shifts, giving PR pros foresight to adapt and seize opportunities. It's a dynamic compass guiding brand strategy in the ever-changing digital landscape.

As you measure PR impact, social listening adds depth. It enhances understanding, helping you craft stories, campaigns and strategies beyond basic metrics. In the digital age, where conversations unfold online, social listening amplifies your brand's voice and strengthens your connection with the audience.

9. Following the digital breadcrumbs: UTM tracking

Think of UTM tracking as digital breadcrumbs that guide you through how people interact with your online press coverage. UTM tracking consists of adding unique tags to URLs to offer a revolutionary shift from passive observation to active engagement.

Don't be put off by the tech jargon; UTM tracking is your window into audience interactions. In simple terms, UTM parameters added to URLs reveal where clicks and interactions originate.

For instance: if your press release gets featured in a prestigious online publication with a link to your site, traditional metrics would pat you on the back, but UTM tracking goes further. It shows the source of the click—was it from a sidebar mention, a call-to-action, or another location? By using this data-driven approach you are able to digger deeper than surface analysis; and adapt your strategy on the fly. Via UTM tracking you might discover that an article on sustainable travel gets more clicks than luxury accommodations, and so you can quickly pivot your PR strategy to reflect this.

UTM tracking is versatile—use it for emails, social media, or press releases. It uncovers layers of engagement and empowers you with actionable insights. In the dynamic PR landscape, UTM tracking is a game-changer, guiding you with data towards excellence. So, if you're not using UTM tracking yet, generate it easily on platforms like GA tools. Replace your link and start measuring your success in a whole new way!

10. Type of coverage: Measuring the nuances

The variety of coverage types—from round-ups and opinions to human interest stories and profiles— can paint a unique picture of your brand's story. Each piece of coverage adds a stroke to your brand's perception, and measuring these nuances provides a more holistic view of your PR impact.

Take round-up articles, for instance. These compilations showcase your brand alongside peers. Measuring their effectiveness involves assessing your position in the list, context, and the publication's Domain Authority. It's about quantifying both visibility and prominence.

Opinion pieces establish thought leadership, reflecting authority and insights. Measuring their impact goes beyond clicks to encompass resonance, engagement, and dialogue sparked.

Human interest stories and profiles dive into your brand's human side. Measuring involves assessing emotional connection, empathy, and the lasting bond created.

For travel brands, distinctions matter, and a round-up feature differs from an opinion piece, so measuring these isn't just numbers; it's understanding what resonates, and picking up on coverage nuances to create narratives that forge deeper connections with the audience.


As we conclude this exploration of PR success measurement, it's evident there is no one size fits all metric for measuring success.

Success is as individual as your travel brand. It involves blending human aspirations and hopes with data.

Start with what you want the outcome to be and a good agency can provide direction as to what KPIs you should measure to achieve those outcomes.

At Lemongrass, we grasp these nuances. We've seen PR measurement trends evolve. Success isn't just numerical growth; it's crafting resonant narratives, amplifying voices, and building connections. Get in touch to discuss your objectives and see how we can help you achieve your goals.