PR and ROI

What do we measure to determine the success of a public relations campaign? How do we know the campaign is working? The answers to these questions are complex, as PR sets out to achieve numerous goals or responses within one campaign. But ultimately, one of the largest and most defining factors of success is the ROI – or “return on investment”. ROI is a highly appropriate method of analyzing the benefits brought on by a campaign or action in various fields. For example, using ROI in as a measurement of success “is … a promising tool to provide convincing data about the contribution of specific human resources programs and processes”. (Phillips, Stone, Phillips x) You’ll find it used when measuring the outcomes of public resource campaigns, business, advertising; the applications are openhanded.

The world of PR handles success a little bit differently than other job fields. With business, ROI is the ultimate measure of success because the first and foremost goal of any business is to make money back on investments. With PR, however, ROI is only one measure of success. Public relations often looks for certain social opinion or behavioral change to measure the success of a campaign in addition to the monetary ROI, when applicable. A theoretical ROI could be more Google searches of a company after a PR campaign is launched, or seeing an increase in Facebook posts or Twitter messages with a hashtag crafted by a PR team. For example, it could be said that the study conducted on the success of PR in Germany’s 2000 and 2002 debates on immigration policy sought ROI in the form of press releases and media coverage. However, since this theory of ROI is devoid of numbers or percentages, the result is admittedly almost impossible to quantify. (Froehlich & Rüdiger 18-25) That is the difficulty of figuring out just how successful PR campaigns are: The job of handling public relations matters and analyzing the response is fluid, and changes depending on the client, the campaign, and the setting. While a big corporation can determine their exact sales ROI down to the last cent, non-monetary situations must take a step back and examine the big picture to come up with an overall answer to its success.

Another indication of just how open-ended this type of success can be is found in the introduction to Yi-Ning Katherine Chen’s article about PR success in Taiwan: “Social capital includes two dimensions: social trust and social network. Human capital includes education, rank, career tenure, and motivation.” Subjective standards like those are what sets PR apart from other departments, and may draw in unsystematic or creative thinkers to jobs within the world of public relations.

Phillips, J., Stone, R., & Phillips, P. (2012). Human Resources Scorecard. Taylor and Francis.

Froehlich, R., & Rüdiger, B. (2006). Framing political public relations: Measuring success of political communication strategies in Germany. Public Relations Review,31(1), 18-25.

Chen, Y. (2011). Social capital, human capital, and career success in public relations in Taiwan. Chinese Journal of Communication, 4(4), 430-449.

Social Media & PR

In today’s fast paced world of breaking news and counting views, the merging of social media with the business of public relations is a wayward influence on the world as we know it. It has unlocked the power to respond to concerned customer minutes after a complaint is made, voice a personal opinion on controversial news to a massive audience, and bridge the gap between the famous and the fans, if only for a brief online moment. But one of the most monumental changes social media has brought forth is strengthening public relations for charities and campaigns.

Take, for instance, a study conducted by professors at the University of Southampton sought to chart the effects of social media platforms on interactions between charities and their respective audiences. For six months they followed the activity of seven different charities on Facebook and Twitter, monitoring conversations between the charity (or rather those who publicly represented the charity through use of their profiles) and their audiences. After analyzing qualitative data, it was discovered that Twitter was preferred by more interactive supporters (based on the number of interactions made by each individual person) than Facebook. However, Facebook posts generated more comments per post than the Twitter findings. (Harris, Phethean, and Tiropanis 272) Ultimately, the research proved that using social media as a public relations platform is a reliable way to build successful communication between charities and their supporters, or potential supporters.

And Twitter’s intended use (following every move and thought of Hollywood’s finest) even crosses paths with the charities on this social network in increasing occasions. For example, singer-songwriter Alicia Keys initiated a movement called “Digital Life Sacrifice” with the goal of raising money for the Keep a Child Alive charity. The premise of this movement is that celebrities that were active and engaged on Twitter would cease tweeting or even deactivate their accounts until a certain amount of money was raised for the charity. (Newstex) By doing so, dedicated fans would want to donate with the intent of bringing back their favorite celebrity to Twitter. The stunt even attracted one of Twitter’s most popular users, Lady Gaga, to participate with the support of millions of her followers. This strategy acts as good PR for both the charity and the celebrity, using one another for exposure and support.

And the use of social media as a form of public relations isn’t limited to only big name charities and their famous sponsors. In 2009, the small charity Epic Change unlocked the key to PR networking success through the use of Twitter and brought in donations from 40 cities by utilizing the Twitter hashtag feature. (Preston) The mounting evidence has proven that using social media as a public relations tool is effective as ever, and has contributed to rapid growth of successful advertising that wouldn’t have been possible just a decade or two ago.

Phethean, C., Tiropanis, T., & Harris, L. (n.d.). Proceedings of the 2014 ACM Conference on Web Science (pp. 271-272). WebSci ’14. Retrieved 2015 from <>

Lady Gaga Silences her Twitter Account for Charity. (2010, November 28). Retrieved 2015 from <>

Preston, C. (2009, December 10). Tiny Charity’s Twitter Campaign Raises Big Sums for School. Chronicle of Philanthropy, 22(4). Retrieved from <>

Topic of Your Choice

Today I wanted to talk about something more specific than a strategy or a theme in the world of public relations; to acknowledge a specific person or organization that has created some impact on today’s world through networking and publicity.

Pre-PR Reflections

To be completely honest, the idea of public relations in an academic sense is brand new to me. When I was asked to define public relations off the top of my head, I responded that it was controlling what you say or do in order to present yourself a certain way to the public. When I hear someone mention “public relations”, I’ve always thought of a big corporation assigning the burden of cleaning up to a behind-the-scenes PR department: “We accidentally made ourselves look bad, now fix it!”

I associated public relations with damage control, or twisting the truth to make it sound better than it actually was. After our initial reading assignment and class discussion, I admit that my previous opinions of public relations as a subject were wildly incorrect and overly negative.

However, I was partly right about the purpose of public relations. PR does incorporate a sort of “filter” or sense of control over how an audience perceives a person, business, etc. in our world of communication. And while I had the notion that PR was entwined into other aspects of success, especially in the world of business and politics, I now fully recognized their relationship with advertising, marketing, public events, and so on. But what I was missing, however, is the importance of having good public relations at the core of anything you do. Whether it be starting up your own business and getting in touch with your customers’ demographic, or drawing attention to your thoughts and ideas you convey to the world around you, public relations is essential to building good professional relationships and constructing your image as you see fit. It is neutral in nature, and can be a force of honest good or a way to fake being respectable. It’s a powerful tool and vital to success.

Today’s discussion reinforced the idea of public relations creating strong leaders in history. It was never something I gave much thought about, but nearly everything we consume – from entertainment to charitable work to the presidential campaign – has been fed to us with some sort of public relations backing it up. The discussion brought up the subject of transparency, a concept I previously would never have assosciated with PR, and how it has become a leading role in the world of successful public relations. To see how we have come from “psuedo events” to honest values is incredible, and begs the question, “How much better can we get?” To dissect and analyze the methods of public relations used over time has given myself, and no doubt many others, inspiration to get involved in the world of PR.

Prior to starting this class, I was concerned that I would be stuck in a lesson about how to get consumers to buy our latest sensationalized claims over some sort of product or company. But after reading more on the fundamentals of PR and discussing it with my peers, I see now that we have the potential to do so much more with it.

About Me!

Hello Lakers and company! I’m Gabrielle Marquard, a Communications major at Grand Valley State University. This year is my Junior year here in the Valley, and I’m very excited to get involved in my first Advertising & Public Relations class. I’m from Royal Oak, a city about ten miles northwest of Detroit. I love animals, creating art, playing video games, and Marvel movies. 🙂

Find me in Twitter-land!