One thing us PR professionals find hard is getting across the true value of PR coverage gained for our clients.When I first started out in PR, there were still a few people who used to physically measure the space of the column inches gained in a newspaper or magazine and then refer to that publication’s media ratecard to see what the monetary value would be for that space. This would then give them a perceived value to pass on to their client.
This method of measurement is known as the Advertising Value Equivalent, or AVE rates, as the PR industry likes to refer to them. Things have – I am delighted to say – moved on from the days of measuring article space with a ruler and there are plenty of media monitoring services around that use software to track mentions of your and/or clients in the printed press and online and can provide you with daily alerts as and when coverage comes through, detailing the circulation numbers and AVE rate for each cutting.
Here at Ballyhoo PR we still use this way of measuring coverage for our clients as it is easy to understand, the numbers speak for themselves and – to put it bluntly – PR is a way of managing reputation and getting messages out there. We can tell you how, when and why a message was put out and to who but then it is hard to track EVERY SINGLE interaction with that message. We can measure (through AVE) mentions in the printed press. We can measure traffic to websites from purpose built links that have gone out on social media or in email marketing campaigns through Google Analytics. We can report on the levels of engagement a message has had on social media through Facebook insights, Hootsuite, Buffer and the like but we can’t track word of mouth conversations that have resulted out of the the above activity, or if someone reads an article in a magazine and then lends it to friend or, like I did last week, read it out as part of a presentation.
PR counterparts have been squabbling over the validity of using AVE rates to measure PR value for a few years now. Quite rightly it has been argued that AVE rates are a very black and white way of looking at the coverage earned. This data doesn’t take into account the relevance of the title to the client and its industry or the sentiment of article – a half page of negative press is deemed just as valuable a half page of positive press which is ludicrous!
Times are changing and, with the rise of digital marketing, PR agencies are expected to also provide immediate and sophisticated results for everything that demonstrate a return on investment.
But, until there is a a practical and real world alternative that can be understood, not just by the PR professionals providing the service but also the clients who aren’t always familiar with PR, marketing and media (that is why they employ us!), I think there is still a place for the traditional AVE measurement, as long as it is used in conjunction with the other information we have access to such as social media metrics and website analytics.
In all of the debate, I also think one measurement has not been considered – that of the client. At the beginning of every campaign, it is always worth seeing what the client wants from it and that is how we can measure whether or not is has been successful. They might have one particular newspaper or trade journal they want to be seen in or they might want to see a number of products sold or registrations as a result. You can provide all of the data in the world but if you have not achieved what the client deems success, then it doesn’t matter.