A high profile slot on the Money Programme featuring Echo chief
executive Sandra MacLeod may well have raised a few eyebrows in the
world of PR and research and evaluation this week. Here we have the
former chair of the Association of Media Evaluation Companies quoting
the dreaded advertising value equivalent, with reference to the
disastrous publicity surrounding the Millennium Dome.
Undoubtedly the Dome will go down as one of the PR fiascos of the 21st
century. And it is hardly surprising that the media should attempt to
put a figure on the reams of poor press it has generated. And, judging
by the persistence of clients’ attachments to AVEs it should come as no
surprise that Echo was only one of a number of leading evaluation
companies and PR agencies approached by the BBC with this commission,
all of whom suggested advertising value equivalents.
Unfortunately, behind the headlining-grabbing calculation of pounds 2
million of negative coverage for the Dome, there was a sophisticated
piece of research into the main themes and impact on sponsors which,
inevitably, there was not time to air on Sunday’s programme.
This is the danger with AVEs. They create an easily accessible equation
which, when included in research, is bound to grab attention, often to
the exclusion of more detailed and revealing analysis. Nowhere is this
more true than in the sponsorship arena.
However, despite a continuing client adherence to AVEs, the industry
must continue to resist their use. The comparison they make is erroneous
and superficial and does not provide the kind of information required
for an organisation to formulate a proactive communications
Admittedly, the Money Programme is one of the first to have ever turned
media evaluation into headline news, but the coverage is unlikely to aid
the continuing drive to encourage PR practitioners to make proper use of
research and evaluation.
There has always been a lurking fear among those in the PR industry
that, while proof of a campaign’s success could justify budgets,
tangible proof of its failure could lead to the loss of clients and
jobs. Jennie Page’s departure from the Dome, which coincided with the
release of research into the impact of negative publicity, will do
little to reverse this misconception.
The Proof Campaign and the development of the Research and Evaluation
Toolkit, in which Echo played no small part, was designed to ram home
the message that research and evaluation is intended as a planning tool
designed to increase PR’s effectiveness and credibility, not to create a
rod for the backs of PROs.