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 an 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 gains 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 are where most companies need to be focusing their energy. And PR people communicating across the board room may what to talk about Return on Brand instead of ROI.