Why do we call it ROI? Let’s call it what it is.
Public relations measurement is still an emerging field, particularly when focused on social media metrics. I say this because I graduated with a public relations degree from arguably one of the best undergraduate programs, and I took the first ever course on public relations research methods last fall.
As public relations continues to evolve and grow, I am eager to explore how measurement and metrics will follow. Every day there is something new in the social media space, and I can’t wait to see how each new tool will influence PR and its measurement.
ROI (return on investment) is a concept I first learned about in my business classes in college. It is meant to be the gain (or loss) relative to the amount of money invested in the first place. This idea makes itself available for many different kinds of business projects, even social media projects in theory.
More and more lately, there have been blog posts and articles about the so-called ROI of social media. These articles are trying to get at an easy was to measure how much is gained from social media campaigns, though not in a strictly monetary sense. The propose equations seem to try to get at the theoretical gain rather than fiscal gain.
I completely support the idea of find a way to measure and prove the worth of a social media or public relations campaign. I think it’s a necessity.
What I guess I don’t understand is why we must call it ROI when it just isn’t. More often than not the social media “ROI” articles aren’t comparing the amount of money spent versus that gained. When something claims to be ROI, it puts out the expectation that it will give the ROI in the business sense.
I feel that using ROI to describe any measurement that tries to explain the benefits of a social media or public relations campaign discredits the measurement presented. If the creator doesn’t even understand what ROI means, why should I trust their calculations?
And coming from a profession known for its creativity in communications, why can’t those of us seeking to explain PR measurements come up with a more descriptive and unique name than ROI?
Perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong aspect of measurement, but I think it does matter. I have seen very few uses of ROI in PR measurement that meets that standard definition of ROI. So why not call it what it is?