Measuring public relations results has become my pet peeve. Not the act of measurement, but the conversation around it. It’s filled with confusion and debate that’s overshadowed by comments, sometimes approaching a vicious nature.
It seems every week I read a new article penned by a well-intended expert who says counting clips is sophomoric and who advocates an ethereal need for PR need to “tie results to business outcomes.”
So what’s the peeve with that?
Few pundits provide clear demonstration of what they mean by business outcomes. These posts are almost always long on why we’re all doing it wrong—with an ambiguous reference to that mysterious term ROI—and short on practical suggestions. It’s been a while, but I’ve been to business school. I can still discount cash flow, calculate IRR (or NPV if you’d prefer), and can argue at length about the PR industry’s misuse of the term ROI.
For the record, ROI is a financial term, used to compare the benefit of an investment against the cost of investment. Quite literally it’s the “return” on the “investment.” ROI is empirical and is measured in dollars and cents. My sense is that PR people use ROI interchangeably with the word “benefit.” We are witnessing the repositioning of ROI.