ROI: the Holy Grail of online PR measurement

I never cease to be amazed by the lack of clarity, consistency or really anything robust when it comes to measuring all forms of online marketing efforts, especially PR.

Online measurement – being at least one step further than ‘monitoring’ – is a hot topic and one that will get increasing attention in the coming months and years. More consumers and businesses are moving online, online marketing budgets are increasing and will get greater scrutiny.

A great number of organisations purport to measure aspects of online activity, attempting to define “influence”, particularly across the various social media platforms, from Twitter to Facebook and beyond. But few have actually got as far as defining financial outcomes let alone ROI.

As I reported from the AMEC conference in Lisbon, the ROI workshop showed some big inconsistencies in approach to ROI, some of which involved it not even being a financial measure. However, at least the intent is there to progress towards a solution, evidenced by the topic “How to measure the ROI of PR” being the number one Lisbon Priority.

There are some commercial organisations who are championing the cause of measuring ROI. An example is Alinean whose “social media ROI calculator” is a mechanistically solid process. There are some PR industry leaders adopting the AMEC Barcelona Principles – most recently the Worldcom PR Group. And there are also some commentators who have also tackled the subject. One of the finest is Olivier Blanchard. Having recently finished reading “Social Media ROI”, his definition of ROI and methodology for recognising the “continum to get to ROI” from the initial investment through actions and reactions to deliver non-financial and then financial impacts is simple and logical (and my brain likes that!).

Olivier Blanchard book

The key challenge to cross the chasm and make measurement of ROI a reality lies not just in definition, but in implementation. In many cases application of the theory can take up a lot of resource, both human and financial. Yet there are opportunities to use simple automated methods to extract results. One obvious resource that appears to still be vastly underutilised is Google Analytics. Clever yet simple application of different elements of the GA toolbox can help to define end value. An existing exponent of this is Andrew Bruce Smith of Escherman as his blog on using Google Analytics data explains.

Forth Metrics aims to make a contribution to this journey towards understanding and measuring the value of online PR and digital marketing in general. I know one or two other disciples out there who are pursuing the cause. Let me know if you know any too.


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