Interview: Jenseits von ROI - Alternative Kennzahlen für PR

By: Maren Eitel / 04.04.12

Zu den Hauptzielen von Kommunikationsmanagement zählt es, Standards für die Messung von Wertschöpfung durch Public Relations zu entwickeln und anzuwenden. Um die Effektivität von Unternehmenskommunikation beurteilen zu können und verschiedene Aktivitäten vergleichbar zu machen, müssen die Kennzahlen dieser Messungen auch in anderen Bereichen bekannt sein und verstanden werden.

Fraser Likely, der bekannte kanadische Management-Berater und PR-Forscher, schlägt vor, drei gängige Finanzkennzahlen im Bereich der Kommunikation zu verwenden. Bei der 15. International Public Relations Research Conference 2012 in Miami hat er “Principles for the Use of Return On Investment (ROI), Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (CEA) Financial Metrics in a Public Relations/Communication (PR/C) Department“ präsentiert. Likely erklärt in dem vorgelegten Paper die drei Kennzahlen und wie sie verwendet werden sollten. Er definiert darüber hinaus die Prinzipien, die bei der Anwendung jeder der Kennzahlen im Bereich von Public Relations beachtet werden sollten. Die Redaktion von hat mit ihm über seine Vorschläge gesprochen. Mr. Likely, when applying the principles for the use of the financial metrics that you define in the paper, can the intangible assets created by public relations practice be fully and correctly captured?

Fraser Likely: The first point I’d make is that the application of financial metrics comes at the end of a long and complex measurement process. Can intangible assets, such as the reach of any communication channel, audience OTS, audience attending to a message, and audience awareness, attitudinal and behavioural changes, be fully and correctly captured? My answer is yes. But, to do so requires measuring channel, message and audience at different points on a continuum: outputs; outtakes and outcomes. That is, to capture intangible assets fully and correctly, one must undertake all measurements along this continuum. At the end of the continuum is the application of financial metrics. I argue in my paper that one can’t measure the financial value of PR’s intangible assets alone, in isolation. They must be measured in connection with the intangible assets produced by other functions (such as advertising or point of purchase for a marketing communication campaign or human resources or operations for an employee communication campaign). It is not possible – in a full and correct way – to capture or tease out the exact financial value of the PR intangible assets in themselves. You argue that the financial metrics BCR and CEA are generally more applicable for PR/C departments than the more widespread metric ROI. How come ROI has received much more attention in the past and the two other metrics are being underused, as you put it?

Fraser Likely: Let’s start with ROI. PR practitioners and consultants misuse the term the vast majority of the time. One doesn’t have to look at too many articles, blogs or agency web sites to see that the term has become a general catch all for any idea or opinion about measuring financial value. Certainly, the term is not used the way financiers and accountants would use it. Therefore, in my paper, I offer the appropriate definition and the proper application. ROI is a metric that measures net return – at the level of the organization. Thus, it is not applicable to the measurement of a communication channel (such as a blog) or a function (such as the communication department) or even a communication campaign (such as a marketing communication campaign or employee engagement campaign).

On the other hand, CEA and BCR can provide useful information. Cost Effectiveness Analysis compares the relative costs and outcomes of two or more courses of action. This could be the reach of a number of communication channels or the communication effects (awareness; attitude or behavioural outcomes) of a number of campaigns. CEA compares costs against communication results. It does not compare financial returns from the communication results. It does give the Chief Communication Officer a method to compare the costs of achieving different degrees of communication effectiveness.

Benefit Cost Ratio is a similar measure to ROI, but BCR is used to predict results. BCR is a consistent procedure for evaluating decisions, for evaluating different proposals – such as a number of proposals for different marketing communication campaigns. It compares total expected costs against total expected financial benefits. It is used to build a business case. 

ROI has received the bulk of the attention simply because that’s the common term that has been applied to all financial metrics by PR practitioners and consultants. In the practitioner literature, authors use the term ROI when they actually should be using BCR or CEA. ROI and BCR are sometimes being confounded in practice. Why is that so and what is the main difference between the two?

Fraser Likely: The difference in the use of the BCR metric and the ROI metric is that the former is used to predict benefits or returns while the latter applies actual benefits or returns. In your paper you present a framework that indicates three general categories of investments or costs in PR/C departments: operational, program and function costs. Why is this distinction important for the identification of the appropriate measurement parameter?

Fraser Likely: I state clearly in my paper that much of the conversation about the application of financial measures in PR concerns financial returns. Little has been said about financial investments. Since my paper was about the use of three financial metrics (ROI; BCR; and CEA) I wanted to explore where financial investments where financial investments are made in a PR department and thus which of these financial metrics would be best used with each type of financial investment.

The other point I would make is that PR agency consultants author much of the literature on ROI. They are interested in demonstrating how communication brought financial returns or what the ROI was from the campaign they ran. Chief Communication Officers (CCO) are interested in financial returns as well. But, they are more interested in financial investments. Where is the funding coming from to run their department and their programs and campaigns? You also argue which metric is best utilized in which of the categories mentioned above. The CEA is applicable for every investment type while the other two are restricted to some types only. Would you say CEA is simply the most useful metric for PR/C?

Fraser Likely: I think it is. It is important to a Chief Communication Officer. It is a measure of efficiency and, ultimately, productivity. It allows the CCO to demonstrate that she or he is getting the best bang for the money invested in hid department. Thank you for the interview!

Über Fraser Likely

Fraser Likely führt die unabhängige Beratungs- und Trainingsfirma für Kommunikationsmanagement “Likely Communication Strategies Ltd.”. Er hat mehr als 25 Jahre Erfahrung in der Management-Beratung und der Verbesserung von strategischem Management, Organisation, Performance und Kompetenz in PR und Kommunikationsabteilungen hunderter Organisationen. Er ist Mitglied des Ausschusses für Messung und Evaluation des Institute for Public Relations und der Canadian Public Relations Societey (CPRS).

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