COMMENT PLATFORM: Measuring the precise value of public relations - PR practitioners should concentrate on measuring audience reach of target audiences, not column inches , says Claire Spencer

In the best tradition of Blue Peter, use liberal quantities of sticky back plastic to tack together the cuttings, measure them with a ruler, cost them as equivalent advertising and multiply them by a magical figure to produce an AVE (advertising value equivalent).

In the best tradition of Blue Peter, use liberal quantities of

sticky back plastic to tack together the cuttings, measure them with a

ruler, cost them as equivalent advertising and multiply them by a

magical figure to produce an AVE (advertising value equivalent).



And, hey presto, the PR campaign that was so under-funded is transformed

into a miracle success.



A new Metrica survey revealed that half of PR professionals support AVEs

and a quarter of companies use them (PR Week 16 October).



At the PR Week Proof forum a number of the participants reported that

client companies were still requesting AVE analysis. Companies claim

that AVEs provide a useful weapon for leveraging PR budgets internally.

The AVE is also hailed as being a good way of showing the

cost-effectiveness of PR versus advertising. However, the consensus

around the table on 2 November was that the AVE should not form part of

the armoury of tools to measure Proof.



The AVE is methodologically and conceptually flawed. Despite efforts by

research companies to determine the relative value of PR versus

advertising, it is just not possible to quantify. Furthermore, the AVE

relies on a central premise that PR coverage is free. It is not. To say

that it is, is to greatly devalue our skills as PR practitioners.



In terms of media-led campaigns, we should be measuring the overall

audience reach and frequency levels we are achieving. Instead of crudely

totting up our coverage to produce figures that defy demographics, we

should be looking at how effective our media campaign was in delivering

overall reach of the identified target audience.



It is possible to evaluate media reach not just within a media category,

such as women’s magazines, but across a range of media categories such

as TV, radio, national press and consumer magazines. In terms of

sourcing this type of analysis, the raw data sets come from the National

Readership Survey, BARB and JICRAR. The raw data can be bought directly

from its owners or can be accessed via companies such as Mediatel.



A more cost-effective route is to go to a media buying independent or

agency. There is a further advantage to this in that they will also run

the analysis across the different media categories.



Coupled with message analysis, this type of media measurement can help

to properly evaluate what percentage of the target audience has been

reached with key messages and how many times they were exposed to those

messages.



The final part of the Proof equation is measuring the impact that the PR

activity, in this case media coverage, has had in creating awareness,

changing attitudes and influencing behaviour.



However, if clients are still insisting on being able to provide

comparisons between advertising and PR effectiveness, then I suggest the

use of the media measurement method outlined above to achieve this.



Armed with reach and frequency information, it is possible to provide

cost per ’000 analysis (which takes into account that the client has

actually paid for the service provided) and coverage and OTS

(opportunities to see) comparisons. And, if the client wants to go even

further you can estimate what it would cost to buy the equivalent cover

and frequency through an advertising campaign. Just think of the savings

in sticky back plastic.



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