Simple metrics better than none

In my opinion, there is a segment of the PR profession that is out of touch with the reality of how PR is, can, and should be measured... in fact, I belong to it.

In my opinion, there is a segment of the PR profession that is out of touch with the reality of how PR is, can, and should be measured... in fact, I belong to it.

As a case in point, I wonder about the general and vehement denouncement of ad values (AVE) by measurement experts. Before criticizing any form of PR measurement, we should begin to recognize the distinctions among how PR people actually measure, how they ought to measure, and what forms of research and evaluation the measurement elite find interesting simply because we few combine to form an advanced level of curiosity.

Yes, I'm saying measurement snobbery exists (as much with me as with anyone). Sure, we've shown how PR can drive sales and stock price, and how PR can be refined through Six Sigma, but to stay relevant to the vast majority of PR pros, measurement experts must acknowledge the threat of elitism so that we can fight it and engage with more PR people about the benefits of proper measurement.

It is in this context that I ask the question, "So what's so bad about ad values?" If it works for some people, who's to say that they're unequivocally wrong or unprofessional, even if we believe that better methods exist? In my opinion, simple measurement should be encouraged at the same time that we're encouraging better forms of measurement. People who start by using simpler forms will evolve over time to higher forms.

While I counsel clients that ad values are not a stand-alone measure, I'm not an anti-ad-value zealot as some are because I've seen the measurement compare favorably with more meaningful outcomes. I think if we probe beyond what measurement experts say, you'll find that almost every agency and provider of media analysis offers ad values to clients. Even those who say they don't have created "media value" measures, which are awfully similar to ad values.

Like it or not, ad values are much more common than many may want to believe. It's what the PR marketplace demands. What's more, I would assert that ad values shed some light on media relations performance because they tie directly to other, more sophisticated forms of evaluation beyond just reach and frequency to include "prominence," "extent of mention," and "article placement."

The heat intensifies when the debate turns to how AVEs limit perceptions of PR's role to one confined to marketing support or, even worse, ad support. In my opinion, PR is not limited to marketing applications, but I'd bet that marketing support is where most PR funding is derived.

The question of "proving PR's value" has long been a difficult one to answer. Today, when everyone is being asked to deliver meaningful business outcomes, it becomes more important than ever for communications pros to ensure - not just measure - PR's ROI.

While the foundation for ensuring a positive ROI is measurement, measurement comes in many forms: from simple to sophisticated, from inexpensive to expensive. In my opinion, it's preferable to be approximately right than totally in the dark, which is to say that even simple, inexpensive, and even arguably incomplete PR measurement can be better than no measurement at all.

Mark Weiner is president of Delahaye.

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