8th August 2012

The great measurement debate

measurementEveryone knows that measuring return on investment in any area of business is important. And PR is no exception. Key Performance Indicators are central to the success of many PR projects, but debate still rumbles as to a single agreed and standardised form of measurement, So, how do we measure the success of what we do?

Advertising value equivalent (AVE), long seen as one of the key quantitative metrics in PR is becoming increasingly disregarded by the industry. AVEs worked for a long time because they provided a metric that was generally easy to calculate and provided a monetary figure that could be easily understood, and perhaps most importantly, spoke in a language that resonated with the Board.

But the fundamental problem, and the reason that AVE is no longer quite so popular, is that it doesn’t reflect the real value of PR efforts. Put simply, PR isn’t advertising, and therefore can’t be measured as such. Securing editorial in a magazine is completely different to paying to place an advertisement; PR is independent endorsement, whereas an ad is a direct message to the consumer about that brand from the company itself. Plus AVEs work on rate card rates, which as anyone who works in media buying will tell you, nobody pays.

In addition, AVE has no bearing on the sentiment, strength of feeling, key messages or tone of voice, all critical elements to the value of a piece of PR coverage. Furthermore, what an AVE could never hope to measure is the value of PR in crisis situations, or when a communication team prevents or reduces the impact of potentially negative coverage.

Plus, we’re now in a world where PR is increasingly about digital and social activity as well as ‘traditional’ media relations. Social media is more about conversation and engagement rather than broadcast – how can AVE measure the value or impact of likes, trending topics or blog mentions?

Post-AVE, we’re seeing a number of new measurement metrics that can help us to measure activity, outputs and outcomes. We’re using a variety of methods at CubanEight, depending on client needs and objectives. These include measuring the correlation of website traffic against press coverage, identifying tier ‘A’ media targets and influencers and agreeing with clients a percentage of coverage in this target group, share of voice, measuring reach and opportunities to see, and recording key messages and sentiment.

It’s a fascinating area, and really interesting to see what methods the industry is implementing at the moment, and also how measurement will evolve in the future. A great idea we heard about recently was a point scoring system for each piece of coverage incorporating a scoring system for criteria such as size, publication, sentiment, key messages and images.

What is critical however is that any methods for measurements are personalised and tailored to individual campaigns and clients. AVE didn’t work because it assumed all PR coverage was of the same value, so it’s vital that any new metrics are tailored to individual campaign objectives, whatever they may be.

3rd  September 2013