I’ve always struggled with the concept of comparing editorial with advertising, the two simply don’t align.
I was therefore thrilled when AMEC took a stand to rid the PR industry of the dinosaur calculus known as Advertising Value Equivalent’s (AVEs) by encouraging the employment of an alternative means of PR measurement via Framework. #SayNotoAVEs
The debate over AVEs has of course been burning for years and in May ’17, The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) announced plans for a ban on the use of AVEs by CIPR members.
AVEs are essentially a crude measurement applied to determine the ‘value’ of the PR output. They draw a direct comparison between the cost of buying space to the editorial space, this is supposed to identify the Return on Investment (RoI) to the client.
By comparing the two disciplines in this way, I fear it not only creates unnecessary confusion between what defines PR from advertising but, in my opinion, also diminishes the value of PR in the marketing mix. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t find an advertising agency reporting their success or failure based upon PR equivalence!
For those that are still unable to fathom why AVEs are an inadequate way to quantify the success of a PR campaign, let me break it down for you…
The cost – Who decides the advertising rate/value? The advertising rate itself is not a science. Consider how the publisher arrived at those rates? It can often be a simple calculation between the cost of producing ‘x’ copies divided by ‘y’ pages according to the split between editorial and advertising. Finally, are the rates steadfast, for example, does the media outlet regularly discount their rate card?
The message – Advertising is a top-down message; one which is wholly controlled by the company / brand that creates them. In contrast, editorial is a third-party message conveyed by the writer (journalist/editor), and with it, a degree of editorial integrity applied i.e. not biased by advertising revenue.
Interpretation – The savvy consumer may well ignore a top-down message owing to the fact it’s recognisably controlled by the company / brand that created it. However, if that same message is conveyed by someone that isn’t directly connected with the company / brand; perhaps someone who’s trusted / respected by the audience, then the influence is likely to be greater, and so too, is the impact of that message.
The formula – Since there’s no standard formula applied to calculating the AVE, it is difficult to compare a client’s campaign results to industry benchmarks.
Tone / Relevance – AVEs do not take tone into account, i.e. was the article positive or negative OR the relevance of the publication to your target audience.
How should we measure PR?
It’s a question pondered by many a PR pro. How to demonstrate the importance of this discipline within the marketing mix?
The Barcelona Principles or Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles set-out to conquer this age-old conundrum with a set of seven voluntary guidelines established by the PR industry to measure the efficiency of PR campaigns:
- Goal Setting and Measurement are Fundamental to Communication and Public Relations
- Measuring Communication Outcomes is Recommended Versus Only Measuring Outputs
- The Effect on Organisational Performance Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible
- Measurement and Evaluation Require Both Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
- AVEs are not the Value of Communication
- Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels
- Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent and Valid
AMEC set to take this a step further by creating an identifiable ‘process’ for measuring your campaign from start to finish through Framework.
What does this newfound measurement process entail?
In short, you’ll need to engage in the process at the point when you’re brainstorming the concept of the campaign – the Who, What, Where, Why, When and How – establishing what the measurable elements of that campaign will be e.g. increased sales, increased traffic to a specific website, membership, etc.
You’ll also need some sophisticated tools to help you with your workflow, to help you monitor and report on your inputs and activities Vs outputs, outtakes and outcomes.
Finally, you’ll need to get up-to-speed with your analysis and be a pro in presentation to ensure this information is conveyed in a manner that your client will (a) understand, and (b) has sufficient context.
Sounds like a lot of effort? It is, but I’ve some good news; Ace Media has created a suite of tools to help with your workflow, manage your inputs and activities and assist with the campaign outputs with the help of our sophisticated reporting tool – Acebook.