Before the internet, PR accomplishments were measured by how many magazine or newspaper articles you could gather that mentioned your brand. Today, more complex data informs PR professionals of their success. Those looking to evaluate PR success demand quantitative measurements. For some, this includes web metrics, such as website traffic and click-through rates. For others, those metrics might be more specific to content, for instance sentiment or key message inclusion. One popular PR metric many companies choose to benchmark is share of voice.
Defining Share of Voice
PR Daily defines share of voice as “the percentage of all online content and conversations about your company or brand, compared to those of your competitors.” In other words, if you were to round up every article mentioning either your brand or your competitors and create a pie graph, how big of a slice would your brand get? That number is your share of voice.
When asked why they’re devoting time and effort to PR, many companies say “brand awareness.” However, brand awareness is difficult to quantify. Share of voice is one way to look at media coverage on a deeper level, because it takes into account others in an industry and how frequently a brand is being referenced. Analyzing a brand’s share of voice also provides tangible data that can help with ROI evaluations and strategic planning.
You can always measure share of voice manually. However, there are a number of tools that help with the process, including common PR measurement platforms like TrendKite.
Benefits of Share of Voice as a PR Metric
Share of voice can do more than just illustrate how you stack up against your biggest competitors. Digging into the data that makes up your share of voice can help with planning and goal setting, as well as adjusting outreach mid-campaign and communicating success overall. Share of voice can act as a great starting point to set goals for the future. Gaining a better understanding of where your brand sits today is essential before considering any change in strategy or tactics. This can also illuminate where strengths and weaknesses lie. For example, if you’re finding others gain coverage for certain types of announcements or activities that you haven’t communicated externally before, it can help move the needle in the right direction.
Share of voice can also help in planning or adjusting outreach if you see others earning media coverage in areas you have neglected to focus. If a competitor has a larger share of voice, digging into their coverage can provide direction for new media outlets to target. If your competitors are seeing more earned media success than you are, it might also be an indication that your message or outreach strategy needs an adjustment.
And, of course, as a PR metric, share of voice can communicate success. Business leaders — especially those in the industries our agency serves: B2B tech and SaaS — make decisions based on hard data and numbers, so the more you can provide, the better chance you have of prolonging that investment.
Drawbacks to Share of Voice for PR Measurement
Calculating share of voice can be very helpful in measuring the success of PR efforts, however, the results can be very two-dimensional. After all, it’s only one metric.
One drawback to share of voice is that it only measures the amount of coverage, not the quality. It doesn’t take into account sentiment, where the brand name appears, how many other companies were mentioned in the piece, or a variety of other qualifying factors. For example, there could be a scathing review in the Wall Street Journal for your brand that syndicates to other media outlets and earns millions of potential media impressions and, consequently, a large part of the conversation among your competitors. In reality, owning the share of voice in that instance was more detrimental to your brand than helpful.
There could also be moments when your brand’s share of voice is lower than desired, but the media placements you did secure are very strong. After all, depending on your overall business goals, several mentions in various publications could mean less to the brand than a very niche, on-message piece of coverage in a trade publication specific to the industry.
For a team that’s just starting to measure PR quantitatively, share of voice provides the first step on the path to credibility. It creates a narrative through data that can show how you stand apart from competitors. However, brands should take caution: Share of voice is only one metric. Like other metrics, it can be manipulated and should be looked at as part of a more holistic PR measurement strategy.
As vice president at BLASTmedia, the only B2B SaaS-focused PR agency in the nation, Kimberly Jefferson oversees strategic direction and client success for BLASTmedia’s roster of B2B tech brands. With a background in public relations and corporate marketing, Kimberly leads the agency’s account teams and is responsible for guiding them to deliver targeted, creative PR campaigns that impact the client’s entire business. Prior to joining BLASTmedia, Kimberly led corporate communication for the Indiana Division of Colliers International. She graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a Bachelor of Science in Communication.