So what is this share of voice (SoV) thing anyway and why do marketing and leadership teams value it so much?

According to Conversational Intelligence Platform, Talkwalker, SoV is “usually defined as the share of conversations generated around a brand, product or service on different channels (news sites, blogs, forums, social media, even offline channels) in comparison to direct competitors.” For people who find PR elusive, it’s a metric that can provide a concrete measure of progress not only against competitors, but also for a company to measure its own performance quarter over quarter and year over year.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

  • What measuring SoV can do for you
  • Why 7 is your lucky number
  • How to measure SoV in 5 steps

What measuring SoV can do for you

Taking healthcare as an example, SoV is the measure of how many times a pharmaceutical company’s news is seen, read or heard by their target audience, versus direct competitors, e.g. its ‘slice of the pie.’ And this matters because it tells us how visible a company and their news is to the audiences they are trying to reach, influence or engage, whether they are patients, healthcare professionals, members of the public, payers or regulators.

But that’s not all. Understanding SoV can also tell us which topics are of interest to our audiences, where they get their news from, who is talking about it and how the news trends are changing over time. This type of analysis also tracks the topics our competitors are reporting, how they’re being received and if their news is reaching more people than ours. Ultimately, if we have a solid SoV analysis, we can build a strong media strategy, benchmark a company’s news flow, and inform future communications plans. While we’re on the topic, check out this post about the three levels of common-sense metrics for PR measurement.

Before we discuss the methodology for SoV analysis, let’s just consider one more thing.

7 is the lucky number

The foundational psychology paper, ‘The magical number seven’, tells us that someone needs to hear a message seven times (+ or – two), before they will consider taking action. If a company’s news is seen or heard multiple times by their target audiences, they are more likely to become receptive, and familiarity and trust may be built. However, in my experience, a high SoV doesn’t always equal a favourable outcome. Whilst a company may have a 50% bigger slice of the ‘metaphorical pie’ than competitors, what if the only topic being talked about is how a clinical trial didn’t meet its endpoint or why a drug wasn’t granted reimbursement because it was significantly more expensive than a comparable product? Therefore, we need to understand not only how big our slice of the pie is, but also the context and tone of the discussion being had.

How to set-up a methodology to measure SoV in 5 steps: what, when, where, how and who


Decide what therapy areas you will include in your analysis

Target PR measurement for healthcare communications

Keep this list small and targeted. If you’re looking to analyse a company’s SoV in blood cancer for example, be specific as to the type of blood cancer (there are three main types, and many more subtypes), otherwise you may end up with reams of articles or posts talking about blood cancers that aren’t relevant. Also, remember that some competitors have treatments in different therapy areas, if you’re not specific about the exact therapy area you’re analysing you might end up with a number of articles that discuss entirely different diseases, just because the competitor’s company name was mentioned. This will seriously skew your results!

Decide what competitors to compare against

Compare apples to apples for accurate SoV PR measurement

Again, keep this list short, otherwise the analysis will be unwieldy. To get a comparable gauge of SoV, consider competitors with products at a similar lifecycle stage to the company being analysed or those that you know will be launched at a similar time – try where possible to compare apples with apples. If you’re analysing SoV of a blood cancer treatment that has been on the market for ten years and with one in phase II clinical trials, your audiences are likely to be different and the news narrative will be dissimilar.

Decide what search strings will yield accurate results

Search strings for PR measurement

Search strings should be short, punchy, specific sentences or phrases that you expect to appear in the media coverage you’re searching for. Don’t make your search strings verbose or too long as this will result in one of two things happening; either, you won’t find any relevant news articles because the exact sentence wasn’t matched in your results or you’ll find hundreds of irrelevant articles because the analysis found articles that mentioned all of the words in your search string.

Here’s an example – say you’re looking to analyse articles that mentions a drug approval. Search string one below includes clear, concise, and specific search words, that cannot be misconstrued for anything else. They will be found alongside the company name and have a high likelihood of returning the results you are looking for. The second search string contains long, verbose sentences that could be misinterpreted or may not be specific enough.

Search string 1: (company name) AND (“acute myeloid leukaemia” OR “AML” OR “leukaemia” OR “drug name” OR “positive reimbursement” OR “NICE approval” OR “launched in UK” OR “announced in UK”)

Search string 2: (company name) AND (“blood cancer” OR “NICE approval of treatment name in the UK” OR “treatment name and generic name” OR “Positive HTA reimbursement” OR “Prolonged overall survival in patients with X serious blood disorder” OR “providing long term care for patients with life threatening conditions” OR “committed to care and treatment in blood cancer” OR “Now launched in England, Wales and Northern Ireland”)

Find out what languages coverage will appear in

Use Google Translate to create local language search queries for PR measurement

If you’re expecting to source media coverage in local languages, don’t forget to translate your search strings. If your search strings are only in English, you’ll likely miss most of the local language pieces. Google Translate is a pretty accurate source, or if working with a healthcare communications agency in other countries, share your English search strings and ask them to translate them directly for you. Remember that if your search words are technical or medical, there may not be a direct translation in other languages.


Decide when you will conduct a SoV analysis

Decide when you will conduct PR measurement

Monthly, quarterly, yearly, when developing a new communications plan? It’s important to decide this upfront so that your analysis is consistent. If you need to analyse a company’s performance regularly, then set a date each month or quarter on which you will report the results, that way you’ll notice how trends are changing, if the company’s news was talked about more in one quarter than another, the topics that received the most interest, etc. This will allow you to conduct an accurate comparison, make assessments and adjust your media strategy if needed for the coming months, quarters or milestones. When developing a communications plan, a snapshot analysis may be all that’s required to understand the media landscape. In this instance, still consider a timeframe to analyse, and make sure you track SoV for the company and competitors across the same period.


Consider where you anticipate media coverage appearing

Apple News - Consider where you anticipate coverage appearing to measure

Depending on where your news might be published, ensure that you have tools in place to capture the results. The majority of online news articles can be sourced using a Google News search, however any articles published on paid-for websites (or those with a subscription) may not be accessible unless you pay a fee. Similarly, by searching Twitter or other similar social channels you will be able to source social posts that contain the company’s or competitors’ news.

However, any news appearing on broadcast channels (e.g. TV or radio) won’t be accessible from an online search, so you may need to pay a broadcast clipping service to source this content. Quick tip – if you’re using a  broadcast agency instead of a tool to clip coverage, some can only source news clips if they know they’re coming in advance, so remember to give the agency a heads-up on the channel / date / time that you’re expecting the piece to air, so they can easily source it for you.

What if the broadcast pieces are in another language? Having the clip available is great but you won’t be able to track the key messages that are mentioned. You may need to ask the broadcast agency for a transcript or ask the company’s affiliate or local healthcare communications agency to translate it for you or advise on key message pull-through (if you’re analysing this – more on this topic below).


Track how your key messages are being reported

Less is more for key messages for PR Measurement

One of the main rationales for measuring SoV is to understand how well key messages have resonated with the intended audience. Tracking key message pick-up tells us what topics stakeholders found interesting, which allows us to repeat them again in the future or change them if they’re not getting traction.

Tracking key messages can be time consuming as it requires the analyser to read all articles/posts or listen to all news clips to see which messages have been mentioned and then make a tally of each message pulled through. If you’ve got hundreds of articles or posts, this can take a long time.

A top tip here is to make sure your key messages are concise, specific, and short. This way it will be obvious if they have appeared in the piece and you may spot them quickly. Also consider this from a journalist’s perspective, if they have short, snappy key messages to include in their articles they’re less likely to amend or abbreviate them, which means the messages will appear exactly as they are intended it to.

When deciding on key messages, think about the topics you want to consider and the points most likely to be picked up by a journalist / social media user. Unless you are looking to find out if one specific key message was mentioned, a rule of thumb is to search for key messages under three topics:

  • Company messages: A company’s corporate positioning in X therapy area
  • Drug or product messages: Drug X is safe and efficacious, drug Y prolonged overall survival, etc.
  • Disease area messages: Unmet need in X therapy area, incidence of X disease, etc.

Try to limit key messages to 2-3 per topic, otherwise you will have too many to analyse and it will dilute the importance of them.


Measure who you are reaching

PR metrics help to understand reach and contextualise SoV

To truly understand SoV, you’ll want to know how many people have seen the news and who you are reaching. There are two ways of doing this, the first is volume (a tally of the number of articles / posts that have been published mentioning your company or competitor), and the second is an overall reach figure. To calculate the reach figure, you need to know the readership of the outlets or the number of people who read a post / article.

Most top-tier news outlets will publish their readership figures and social media users will declare a follower number. However, some smaller outlets won’t share their readership numbers, and in truth, this figure can change month by month, so getting an accurate read can be tricky. What the reach figure tells you is how many people may have seen the coverage, it goes beyond a simple calculation of the number of articles or posts that have been published – thereby in reality, being the more important figure, but unfortunately, the less straightforward one to obtain.

If reporting potential reach, it’s recommended to firstly ensure all of the reach figures collected are for the same time period e.g. monthly unique visitors or subscribers so you’re comparing apples to apples. Secondly, if a lot of reach figures are missing, it can skew the data so make sure to report the volume of coverage missing reach data. e.g. if a company is missing half of its original coverage reach figures, the analysis will be skewed in a competitor’s favour.

And lastly, to caveat if any outliers are found. e.g.  if a competitor gets a press release reprint on with a potential reach of millions, then it will skew the reach in their favour, even though the press release reprint was probably only actually read by you and a couple other competitors’ PR teams also measuring SoV.

Capture who is talking about your news

Doctor spokesperson

Do you have company or clinical spokespeople talking about your news? If so, you can track how many times they have been quoted and in which type of outlet or channel. Did they give an interview, post a video? if so remember to capture what was said and the language they used when talking about the company of interest or product – this can tell you a lot about what they consider to be important and the topics that might engage similar stakeholders.

Are there specific journalists, bloggers or online influencers covering the news more than others? If so, make a note of them so you can approach them directly next time with your news story.