Setting the foundation for your PR ROI measurement

By Joy Muruku

For the past several decades, press clippings, newspaper readership and circulation amongst other measures were an adequate demonstration of the value of Public Relations.

The recent years however, have seen economies crumble and recuperate with which came businesses that were focused on data than ever before. Public Relations did not escape this, as managers increasingly demanded ‘hard evidence’ of the value-addition created by Public Relations. As one manager is said to have curtly put it, “give me something I can take to the bank!”

At first, the PR industry was thrown into a tumult. For an industry that is in the relationship business, which is in itself intangible, provision of hard data was initially hard nut to crack. Realizing they would be forced to close shop unless they responded to the evolving market demands, industry experts came together and developed several models for the measurement of Public Relations.

The result is what we know today as Share of Voice (SOV), Advertising Value Equivalence (AVE), and citation volume amongst others. These however continue face criticism causing the measurement of the PR function to be one that is constantly undergoing review and updates.


In the struggle to validate the value of their work, little known amongst most Public Relations practitioners are the recently updated Barcelona Principles.  Developed by top industry bodies namely: the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO), Global Alliance and the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC); the principles provide an overall measurement framework thereby ensuring alignment amongst practitioners and also provide the basis measuring PR activities.

In view of this, the principles as summarized below, provide a roadmap for any practitioner looking to enhance their reporting on the PR Return on Investment (ROI):

Principle 1: Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication

  • Define the goals of all your communication activities; ensure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART).

Principle 2: Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs

  • While outputs such as press briefings and media coverage provide a means of verification of accomplished communication activities, identifying the impact of these outputs is also important. Impact is determined by outcomes, which are best measured against set communication objectives.

Principle 3: The effect on organizational performance can and should be measured

  • Measure the impact of communication not only on business results but also overall organizational performance.

Figure 1: Impact of communication on business versus organizational performance

Principle 4: Measurement evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods

  • Qualitative and quantitative data are complementary; qualitative data explains hard data. Always consider both.

Principle 5: Advertising Value Equivalence (AVE) is not the value of communication

  • AVE DOES NOT demonstrate the true value of public relations

Principle 6: Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels

  • Social media measurement is made easier by defining (SMART) goals and outcomes.
  • Social media is also subject to qualitative and quantitative analysis
  • Do not rely on one tool to evaluate social media; several instruments exist

Principle 7: Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid

  • Uphold ethics in measurement by ensuring that data is reliable and trustworthy.



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About the Author: Joy Muruku is a Communications & Marketing expert at Impact Africa Limited. To contact Joy, email: