“How will you measure the success of our program?”

Many PR pros shudder at that question from clients or prospects and it’s understandable. How do you determine the right metrics to measure earned media, a platform that – while near and dear to my heart – offers little control of message, difficult monitoring challenges, and significant subjectivity regarding qualitative analysis. These reasons, among many others, are the basis for the reality that finding a universal measurement approach is the Holy Grail of PR.

Fortunately, Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE), a metric I’ve long-disdained, appears to have finally been kicked to the curb by the PR industry. A few days back, the PR Week Awards, among the most prestigious awards in the business, announced that AVE would no longer be accepted as a measurement of campaign effectiveness. This follows last year’s pronouncement that AVEs should not be viewed as an effective value of PR, as included in the Barcelona Principles. The Barcelona Principles are a series of measurement and evaluation practices to guide the industry developed by the Institute of Public Relations.

AVEs simply measure the cost of media space. For example, if you appear on a local lifestyle program for five minutes and the cost of a 30-second spot on the same show costs $5,000, the AVE is calculated as $5,000 x 10 = an AVE of $50,000. I always thought that was nonsense. Glad to know my peers agree.

I don’t have the answer to the right measurement approach to PR, and as an agency we prefer to collaborate with our clients to determine the mix of metrics that work best for them. However, I do believe wholeheartedly that the mix should include both quantitative and qualitative measures, with a bias toward real shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behavior related to purchase, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation, employee engagement, etc.

Much more on this topic to come, but for now, bravo to the death of AVE.

Posted on March 24, 2011, in Howard Schacter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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