By: Rachael Randal
Within the toolbox of PR research and measurement, there is a no more contentious utensil than the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE). Its use has long been condemned by the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and countless PR societies worldwide. By definition, it places media space or time purchased as advertising in parity with that earned through PR, but even if the cost and quantity of the space or time is equivalent, control over content and placement, as well as credibility and influence, are most certainly not.
Despite its significant flaws, the AVE still gets a substantial amount of air time within serious conversation on PR measurement, disproportionate to its value. According to a UK PR Consultants Association survey in May this year, over a third of respondents admitted to continuing to use this evaluation model. It is relatively inexpensive and simple to calculate, and many argue that there is no accessible alternative.
But now, we are decidedly moving along the path toward another option – a new validated metrics matrix that is the result of a five-month review by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). This new approach, which was previewed recently at a conference in London, is not just another industry fad that over simplifies the contribution of PR by implying instant results. It takes into account not only OUTPUTS – how the messages are distributed through a third party in a way that could impact the target audiences – but also OUTTAKES and OUTCOMES – how the messages are consumed by the target audiences and the impact they have on awareness, understanding, interest, support and action. A complex web of parameters can be used depending on the type and objective of PR activity being evaluated– from number, frequency and prominence of media articles, to key message alignment and accuracy of fact, to expressed opinions online, to Likes/retweets and Linkbacks to progress against initial outcome targets. The key underlying principles for best practice in evaluation remain the same as always: plan fro
m the outset what measurements you will do and conduct baseline research so you have clear benchmark data against which you can assess change.
This is an important milestone in the evolution of communications and so
mething agencies and in-house PR teams have been aiming towards for a long time. The new set of metrics provides the reassurance we all need to continue our commitment to demonstrating the true value of PR for achieving business results.
The PR industry needs to move away from measurement as a media analysis tool to something more, as business decision support. - Report International’s director Mike Daniels argued at the AMEC conference