Don’t Give Up: ROI in PR

“You Only Get What You Give” is a 1990’s pop rock classic that probably just sounds like a load of positive gibberish to most listeners, but I think the New Radicals were on to something. When it comes to most things in life, people tend to like to believe they get back what they put in. That’s why karma, motivational cat posters, and cliché sayings about work and reward exist. But, while this may just seem like a motivational tactic, the return given on anything-from a big project to buying a client lunch- is huge in any business, especially the public relations field. So, put on your headphones and let the New Radicals guide you into understanding the importance of return in investment.

Wake up kids. We’ve got the dreamer’s disease

First off, someone must understand how PR professionals use return on investment. But, this can be hard when sometimes professionals even have a hard time talking about it. The technical definition is “Return on investment (ROI) is a financial ratio intended to measure the benefit obtained from an investment. Time is usually of the essence in this measurement because it takes time for an investment to realize a benefit “(Retrun on Investment, 2007). It basically means that the bigger the dream is the more you should get back on it. For example, if you have a huge campaign in several states it should get more notice and reward than one that is only on a university campus. But this also includes the time and amount of people a firm spends on a project. It basically means the bigger a d But, it is hard to track in PR because so much of the field is turning to social media and more digital platforms.

We’re flat broke but hey we do it in style

Now, this may seem like ROI is more of a way of thought than an actual entity, but there is an actual calculation to find a company’s return rate, and it greatly influences the way in which they are able to do business. However, this measuring is different in PR. Often times budget money that could be going towards a working PR campaign doesn’t because company’s think a Tweet now does the same job that an entire campaign did a decade ago. But, social media has even expanded beyond this idea “As social media platforms have matured and their user bases have grown, the value they are placing on advertising through their platforms has increased as well. They have great products with large audiences, featuring key demographics. Their goals, no matter how altruistic on the surface, now include maximizing revenue ”(Coll, 2016). So, obviously social media is not free. This is hard because PR is often now thought of as an integrated media campaign or an event, which is hard to measure the success rate of because it does not follow an equation. In PR the goals and measurements must be set before the actual workings take place in order to be able to track them accurately. But, this usually doesn’t happen. Shonali Burke, the president and CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.  was interviewed about her thought in measurement and PR and said “that her biggest challenge in measuring the ROI on PR is that some companies sometimes think of measurement as an afterthought. Her advice is to bring it front and center. In fact, she doesn’t sign contracts until she and her client have agreed on the measurement goals they’re working towards” (Borchers,  2014).

No one with a brain is believing

Essentially, PR an ROI have a relationship that is still being written. Obviously companies and brands are going to want to work with professionals who they know can get their company back what they put into it. But, because public relations is a field that is constantly changing the way in which payback is measured also changes, and it is highly based on what an individual company wants. The New Radicals are in a way right saying you only get what you give, but you also usually only get what you aim for. While public relations is business, it is not like a traditional business in which it is easy to track and see outcomes. For this reason, the return on investment is not easily defined, even for those who have been in the business for a long time.




Borchers, M (2014, March 26) Measuring the ROI of public relations: Five experts weigh in. Huffpost Business. Retrieved from

Coll, J (2016, April 2) Algorithms and the end of ‘free’ social media. Hattiesburg American. Retrieved from

New Radicals (1998) You Get What You Give on Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too [CD] MCA Records

Return on Investment (ROI). (2007). In Encyclopedia of Small Business (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 964-965). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from