THE BIG PITCH: Is Ad Value Equivalency a credible measurement forPR's effectiveness?

PATRICIA THORP, President and founder,

Thorp & Company

AVE can be credible if used by intelligent people who understand both

the strengths and the weaknesses of the system. CEOs and CFOs will see a

significant amount of money in the budget for PR, and they'll want to

see something in black and white to see PR results. For those types of

people, the bean counters, it's good to have a number. You can show them

that they've spent a lesser amount than they would have for advertising

for coverage in a more credible medium. The fallacies in the system are,

for example, one insurance client found a trade journal article that

only reached 2,000 people was the single most effective piece of the

whole year. The answer is the circulation may only be 2,000 readers, but

every single one of those readers had the right title and

decision-making power to purchase the insurance product. That's why the

sheer numbers of AVE are also its weakness.

BRENDA NASHAWATY, Co-founder and principal, Chen PR

Determining how much editorial coverage generated by PR work would cost

in paid advertising is an interesting measurement. But since buying an

ad is an event and PR is a process, it's more relevant to measure how

the PR program works in terms of reaching a client's audiences. The

question is: Do potential customers, investors, and employees have a

more favorable opinion of a client's company than they did before the

beginning of a PR program? My co-founders and I also believe that

editorial coverage generated by PR efforts can be more successful than

ads in influencing opinions because editorial content is written by

objective third-parties, and can have more credibility than a

client-sponsored ad.

JACK BERGEN, President, Council of PR Firms

I think AVE is totally inadequate measure for what we do. It's

inappropriate for the unique credibility building power of PR over

advertising. I think, ultimately, we need to build a capability to

measure business outcomes stemming from PR programs. We don't have such

a measure now. In the interim, we need to measure the outputs in PR

terms rather than in advertising terms. That means, how much of my key

audience have I reached in a highly credible message? I can measure that

credibility whether the messages came from third party endorsements,

where those messages were placed in the article, and ultimately by which

reporter writes the article, whether it's a credible journalist and

publication, or whether it's an easy hit, which to me is not going to be

credible. The last thing I want to do is measure myself against a medium

whose power is not credibility, but rather frequency and reach.

DAVID MICHAELSON, Managing director, head of research, Ogilvy Public

Relations Worldwide

To claim that advertising equivalency can be determined for PR

activities is one of the greatest urban legends of our industry. The ad

equivalency concept fails on a number of different fronts. The most

important failure is the presumption that advertising and PR activities

are designed to achieve the same goal. While PR often supports

advertising, it has a distinct role that cannot simply be reduced to

advertising equivalents. As part of the communications mix, PR needs to

be measured on its own merits and not the standards of another

discipline. A better and more credible measure is one that determines

the impact of PR on the target audience, rather than how much the

activity might be worth.

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