COI calls for changes in PR metrics

The Central Office of Information (COI) has recommended sweeping changes to the way in which Government PR is evaluated. In particular, the body has recommended that advertising value equivalent (AVE) be removed from the core set of mandatory metrics.

COI: calls for removing AVEs
COI: calls for removing AVEs

The suggestion, if accepted by government departments, will mean that no agency work carried out for the COI will be evaluated using AVEs.

The COI states: 'Given the feedback received from the industry and the concerns surrounding AVE and its accuracy and relevance, we would recommend removing AVE from the core set of mandatory metrics... AVE cannot be used to measure PR value - it is measuring a different product.'

The statement added that AVE could sometimes provide a 'simple comparative metric across campaigns rather than a proof point of evaluation for a specific campaign'.

COI PR and client director Oliver Hickson explained: 'The general feeling from the PR industry was that it should not be in there. It has been talked about for a long time. It doesn't give the true worth.'

Blue Rubicon MD Gordon Tempest-Hay supported the move. 'The vast majority of COI campaigns are rooted in either raising awareness on an issue or encouraging a change in behaviour, such as responsible drinking or giving up tobacco,' he said. 'In those cases, an AVE measure is irrelevant.'

The COI also recommends inclusion of a 'cost per impact' metric as a key ROI tool. This is defined as the amount spent on PR divided by 'impact', which is calculated by multiplying reach by opportunity to see.

This metric equates more to those used in other marketing disciplines, allowing PR to be compared in effectiveness with advertising and direct marketing campaigns.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills director of comms Russell Grossman said: 'AVEs have long been disputed as a reliable metric for evaluating PR and I would very much welcome a move to something like cost per impact. It would also give a better understanding of the value created through bringing about a behavioural change.'

The proposals have been sent to the 89 PR agencies on the COI's roster, all directors of comms and heads of news in government departments, the media evaluation industry, digital agencies, and the CIPR, PRCA and AMEC.

As this is the second round of approval, the COI does not anticipate the final version to alter a great deal. It is expected that the final guidelines will be in place before Christmas.

HOW I SEE IT - Simon Francis, Head of public sector, Band & Brown

I welcome the COI's review of evaluation and attempts to find a core set of measures to showcase the importance and impact of public relations.

AVEs are an outdated, inaccurate measure for PR that are not based on any sound methodology and no longer reflect the true breadth of the agency work. We have been advising clients for some years that evaluation should move away from AVEs and focus more on tracking research and other measures.

The proposed 'cost per impact' approach is an interesting model that better reflects the media climate in which we currently operate.

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