When I first started working in PR, I distinctly remember being taught an equation that allowed me to work out the PR value of my campaigns. It comprised of working out the AVE (advertising value equivalent) and then multiplying it by three.
‘Why multiply it by three’, you ask? Because PR has more perceived value than paid-for advertising; thus it’s more valuable – three times in fact (and five times if you worked at some agencies). Looking back on this now I can see why AVE and more traditional approaches to measuring the impact of PR have fallen out of favour.
By judging the value of a campaign against how much it would cost to buy the media completely ignores why we do PR campaigns in the first place. Is the point not to educate, inform, influence, and now more than ever, start a conversation? What’s the point of appearing on theguardian.com if the coverage doesn’t say what you want it to?
It’s all too easy to sit in front of your chief executive or board with a whopping great AVE figure and think, ‘job done’. What we should be focusing on is the impact of our media coverage. Is it actually doing what we set out to achieve?
When I look at evaluating my PR campaigns, it’s all about going back to basics. The words of my excellent PR tutor Laurel Hetherington always ring through my head. Are the objectives SMART (Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timely)? By setting out your stall at the beginning you can accurately and effectively measure the impact of your campaigns. Is it not time we focused more on measurements that guide and advise future work? Tonality and share of voice are surely more beneficial than knowing how much an advert costs in The Times.
CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) – the professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK – banned the use of AVE figures in submissions for its annual PRide Awards. It’s just one example of how the sector is starting to move away from AVE and look to other measurement tools to evaluate PR.
Whilst there’s no ‘one size fits all’, efforts are being made to find an industry approved alternative. AMEC, the international association for the measurement and evaluation of communication, recently launched a new interactive measurement tool – the integrated communications measurement framework (ICMF). You can find out more by clicking here. In her article for the CIPR magazine, Influence, deputy editor Hannah Baker investigated the impact behavioural science is having on PR measurement. Read the full article.
Do we need AVE to prove how successful our PR campaigns are? I’d argue we don’t. We have other tools at our fingertips; ones that accurately and honestly reflect the value and importance of PR.