The times when the ROI of PR was difficult to measure are long gone; big brands have been doing so for some time now.
Though many still consider ROI in financial terms (the amount of money totaled from public relations campaigns after subtracting the costs), many other things can be considered when calculating return on PR investment.
In the past, the main measurement criteria were the quantity of coverage, channel of delivery, and media type. Other factors included type of mention (feature or exclusive), whether competitors were also mentioned, and the credibility/popularity of the source.
Some factors could apply online as well. For example, for a tech startup, features on sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, or ReadWriteWeb have long represented the holy grail of a PR campaign. Today, tracking public relations ROI involves measuring social media ROI; measuring outcomes is the most important aspect of this equation.
What business owners must consider first when calculating PR and social media ROI is that they represent earned media, which requires ongoing management, time, and flexibility. It is not enough to conduct a campaign today with no follow-up tomorrow, unless the results desired are “flash sales.”