ROI and Evaluation: The Public Relations Way

Public relations professionals put their campaigns into place with goals in mind. But, if these goals are not measurable, what is the point of making a campaign in the first place? Evaluation and measurement in public relations is extremely important in order to know 1) if the goals were met, 2) if more needs to be done, or 3) if the PR pros need to re-evaluate completely and start from scratch. Today, I plan to discuss the basics of why ROI and evaluation is so important, and then provide a real-world examples.

ROI is known as “return on investment” and is the way of evaluating whether or not a PR campaign has done its job. It begs the question: Did the campaign gain from what was put into it? ROI in public relations has lead to discussion on financial versus non-financial returns as well as how public relations outcomes impact on business goals and objectives (Michaelson & Stacks, 2011). To evaluate correctly, a PR organization needs to consider the correct metrics to use (Toso, 2016). For example, if the campaign tactic was to use advertisements on social media sites promoting content, the company may use the metrics: clicks and impressions (Toso, 2016). After the campaign metrics were set according to the tactics and strategies used, you may look into using a comparative strategy to define success. This could mean comparing the results of the metrics found to a previous campaign. If this is the first campaign, a goal may have to be set at the beginning and success can be dependent on whether that goal was reached (Toso, 2016). Just as deciding what types of metrics to use is important, it is just as important to then measure and evaluate these metrics. PR Pundit (2000) shares four ways of doing this:

  1. Awareness and Comprehension Measurements
  2. Recall and Retention Measurements
  3. Attitude and Preference Measurements
  4. Behavior Measurements.

Each of these measurements is important because they help interpret success and whether or not the campaign actually affected consumers, rather than just made them listen.

Now that we have the basics of evaluation and ROI down, we can look at an example of a successful campaign and how that campaign was measured. One example I’m sure you all have heard of is the #ICEBUCKETCHALLEGE. This campaign was set in place to raise awareness for ALS through an interactive challenge to be passed on through the medium of social media. Through his medium, the metrics to be used would be very specifically the number of hashtags used and the number of posts related to the topic. Then in order to measure these metrics, the company would have looked at the amount donated and decide whether the campaign actually got the audience they were trying to reach to donate money to the cause rather than only post a video. Gulberti (2015) stated that “in 2013 the ALS association’s campaign only raised about $2.8 million in donations, but this year (with this campaign) they received more than $100 million”. Therefore, the campaign was a HUGE success. Check out the video hyperlinked below for an example!

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 1.06.51 PM.png

Screenshot retrieved from 

Overall, the evaluation of a campaign process (other than initial research, of course) is arguably the most important aspect. Without it, we wouldn’t know if what we did worked or what would need to change. PR campaigns would be worthless. Next time a PR campaign becomes public, think about how what metrics they might have chosen to measure and then how they can evaluate those measurements according to their goals.



Gulberti, G. (2015). The 10 PR & Communication Campaigns You Will Love! Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Michaelson, D. & Stacks, D. W. (2011). Standardization in public relations measurement and evaluation. Public Relations Journal, 5, 1-22.

PR Pundit. (2000). Guidelines and standards for measuring and evaluating PR effectiveness. Retrieved from

Toso, M. (2016). How to prove your PR’s ROI with the right reporting. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from



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