I cringe when I hear the term ROI anywhere near a communications conversation. Marketing people rarely use the term correctly or have the financial expertise to make the term mean anything. I was thrilled this morning as I read Tim Marklein’s Money Matters: Rethinking ROI for Public Relations. Basically, – and I’m having fun with paraphrasing here – a PR person goes from hero to zero when they start bouncing around terms like ROI in a board room where everyone else understands finances better than they do. Marklein goes into detail about the Barcelona Principles and a ROI/Total Value schema – which I like.

Those new to PR via social media often use ROI to describe sets of numbers – such as new followers – but they forget that a return on investment means you have to show a gain on that investment. Adding new friends or followers does not automatically indicate that proceeds have been made.

Here is what I always want my clients to remember:

It’s your Return on Brand that matters.

Most companies are not operating with such skilled financial decision making that major measurement and reporting are even necessary. Unfortunately, even firms with the resources to do so, do not allocate much if any time, money, or staff to measurement. Instead of throwing out terms that do not apply or forcing a level of reporting that is not culturally accepted, try looking at value in terms of impacting the brand instead.

Simple measurements and reflections on what affected the brand positively is where most companies need to be focusing their energy. And PR people communicating across the board room may what to talk about about Return on Brand instead of ROI.

6 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to ROI! Hello Return on Brand!

  1. Great post Jules! I have to say that I really like the term Return On Brand!
    What I think though is that today we just don’t have the tools to measure brand (awareness in not enough since a long time ago, engagement – neither), but maybe one day we will have. Each post, article, twitt, blog, comment or a sentence in a TV interview can make the brand better or worse and influence the sales. There is a bigger problem though IMHO – the ROB and ROI depending on the type of business, the culture, the place – hundreds of criterias that might influence the measurement of those.
    Anyway – I’m buying the RETURN ON BRAND term from You :-)))


    1. Sold! For one million dollars. I take cash and checks.

      Really, thank you so much for your kind words. I agree that the criteria is vast and needs to be specific. I try to build measurements into all of my plans, but frankly, many clients do not want to pay you to measure results. It gets wrapped into admin hours, then slowly ebbs until someone asks about ROI and then everyone starts scrambling. It’s a weird area for PR still, I think. It’s like we don’t feel comfortable being numbers people or that we are concerned the numbers aren’t going to hold. I like to take the focus off of ROI and look that return on brand because a lot of times, I do not see an ROI that I can bottom line for clients. No one wants to hear that, but I think it’s often the case. But, if we talk about return on brand, then I am pretty sure I can make a case. And for those who are totally confused, I simply ask: What is the ROI for having a good marriage. You can’t tie investment dollars to relationships. Believe me, I’ve done the analysis and there is no ROI for my being a good mom, but it is still the most important work I do. That’s how I see PR.

      Anyway, I could probably talk about this for a long time. Thanks so much for being here! ~ Jules


      1. I can pay You 1 million in checks, but less in cash 🙂 We don’t use checks anymore here for a long time already so some unused and unvalid ones will be just fine I guess 😉

        I would go further saying that PR and social media PR can save the loss very often. How can You measure something that hasn’t happened, but would happen? How can You measure the sales drop of Your product due to some flame on Your Facebook fanpage when You avoid it (if You are good enough You can turn the flame into a sales increase as well, but still will You measure it by asking people in the shops to tell You that they bought Your product as a result of some acidently read posts which made Your head choose Your product instead of product X, Y or Z?

        Calculating ROI from a marriage or being a good mother is easy though! Just add up the price of a psychiatrist visit every week for each year You don’t need it and that will be Your return :-)))))


      2. Darn. I thought I was going to make an easy million!

        I am going to mull this one a bit: How can you measure something that has not happened, but would if you did not use specific tactics? I might need a few more cups of coffee, but, yes! how are we showing that preventative value?

        Later we can talk about RONGTT – Return on Not Going to Therapy 🙂

        Thanks for being here. ~ Jules


  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post and re-tweet, Jules. We’re glad you like the ROI and Total Value combo, which we believe will help agencies and clients distinguish from when we’re talking about financially demonstrable returns and the broader impact/value of PR. We also hope the language change will help more clients and agencies step up their investment in measurement and analytics. It’s not always possible or necessary to demonstrate ROI, but it’s certainly a lot more possible than most people think — and both the methods and the tools to demonstrate PR’s value are increasingly within reach if we just commit. Keep on advocating!


    1. I really like it that you stopped by. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Tim.

      Social media (and the internet in general) has created easier measurement capabilities, but I think we are still swimming in ambiguity with clients. So many people want a formula, but it just is not that simple. I wish it were; I like simple. We need to continue demonstrating PR’s broader value – and continue making sure that we are creating broader value. Social media tactics create a smoke and mirrors effect. Lots of tweeting does not always translate to anything other than lots of tweeting.

      I am committed!
      All the best,


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