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Written by Chris Scully, Senior Media Intelligence Analyst, LexisNexisWhen the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) announced the launch of a global campaign to “eradicate” the use of Advertising Equivalency Value (AVE) as an acceptable metric in the PR industry, they blasted open a global debate that has been taking place for decades: How do we credibly measure the results of PR efforts?
The need to quantify the value of PR initiatives is a challenge with which communications professionals have been wrestling for years. AVEs were conceived in an attempt to provide a quantifiable metric that could be presented to executives who oversee communications budgets, but in time they have proven to be practically flawed and overly simplistic. Most notably, they equate paid advertisements and earned editorial content, they fail to account for crucial PR functions such as mitigating negative media coverage, and they are unable to distinguish between high-value feature coverage that moves the needle versus mentions that do little to change opinions or actions.
At the same time, AVEs continue to find their way into presentations and year-end reviews, in part because of the absence of any simple alternatives. However, the emergence of new measurement tools — some of which have been made possible by technological breakthroughs in recent years — may well lead us down a path that finally gives us those elusive answers for how to measure ROI in PR.
Here is one possible five-step roadmap to measuring the results of PR activities as a more meaningful substitute to AVEs:
1. Establish Objectives
Determine your organization’s overall strategic objectives and specific communications goals that you would like your PR activities to support.
2. Determine Tactics
Design your PR strategies and tactics around supporting those organizational objectives and communications goals.
3. Benchmark Results
Monitor the results of your PR efforts and use measurable benchmarks to track results, such as: How many stories did the initiative produce? How wide of an audience did we reach? What messages were communicated in this coverage? What level of audience engagement did the efforts generate?
4. Measure Progress
Based on the benchmarked results, measure how your organization is progressing toward its overall goals and communications objectives, from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective.
5. Assess Business Impact
Evaluate the possible linkage between the rise and fall of your PR efforts and the impact on your organization’s business results. For example, after spikes in media coverage, did you observe an improvement in business? Or, if you were the subject of negative attention, did that coincide with a decline in business? The most scientific assessment would be to see if a strong statistical correlation exists between changes over time in those two sets of metrics.
In my view, the Holy Grail of PR measurement could be the emerging approach of marketing mix modeling. This approach can reveal the unique contribution of PR/Communications to improvements in the organization’s overall results — and thus a hard dollar figure on the ROI. This is an expensive and somewhat complex process, but it has the potential to establish the real bottom-line value of an organization’s media attention.
If you're looking to undertake an initiative to construct your own PR measurement approach, an excellent resource to check out is AMEC’s Definitive Guide to Measurement that was published last fall. You may also want to gather some insights from a LexisNexis eBook on Measuring ROI in PR that explores some of these topics and themes.
Of course, if you're struggling to measure your PR ROI and you want to move away from AVEs, you can always work with measurement experts like the Media Intelligence Research and Analytics team here at LexisNexis. This is a great way to dig in deeper to the impact of your work if you don’t have the expertise or time internally. We have the experience and tools to help you develop and implement a media measurement program that tracks your performance in traditional and social media and links back that performance to your organizational results.