Vanity metrics should be put in the dustbin of bad PR practice

Mazen Nahawi, the CEO of CARMA, says it is time for measurement to no longer be cheap and dirty in the Middle East

Mazen Nahawi is group chief executive officer of CARMA
Mazen Nahawi is group chief executive officer of CARMA

It’s time for Middle East PR to step up on measurement. This November, the Middle East PR industry will celebrate its progress and best work at the MEPRA awards. It’s also Measurement Month, the AMEC-led global campaign to promote best practice in research and evaluation. 

There is no better time for PR pros in the region to remember that quality communications go hand in hand with excellent communications research. 

And, while tremendous strides have been made in the quality of MENA PR and the research which underpins it, much more work needs to be done. 

Say no to big bad AVEs 

Let’s start by bringing an end to the rampant use of AVEs as a primary metric in Middle East PR: too many agencies and client-side teams continue to use AVEs to demonstrate PR results. This is a terrible mistake because AVEs simply do not represent the value of PR. 

Does anyone believe an article in print is worth three times the paper it’s printed on? And what if the article is negative – would you still assign it a PR value because it mentions your brand name? and how about considering if your article is favourable, includes good messages and has reached the right stakeholder group? AVEs do not measure any of that; this is a bad metric which does not measure the value of what we do. On the contrary, it cheapens it and misrepresents it; let’s say goodbye to AVEs once and for all.

Say no to: social vanity metrics

You’ve probably seen clip books whose AVEs are worth many millions of Dollars. But the business represented in the PR coverage does not see a noticeable improvement in its fortunes; this is another example of AVEs being bad for PR.

But AVEs are not alone in misrepresenting and cheapening the work done by PR professionals: vanity metrics from social media, such as impressions, potential reach and automated view metrics are just as bad as AVEs. 

For starters, no social platform has been entirely honest in what something like a social video view means: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all measure ‘views’ in different ways.  

Some count it as a view if you have watched the clip for only 3 seconds, others count a view if you watched for 30 seconds. It doesn’t matter if these few seconds are not enough to represent a full clip, of say, two or 10 minutes….

Potential reach and impressions are even more dubious because they are based on fantastical possibilities of reaching millions of people, even if only a handful have engaged with that content. I

I have seen too many social media reports where content receives engagement which can be counted on ones two hands yet claims to have millions (and sometimes billions) or impressions. 

Let’s say no to such vanity metrics and put them along with AVEs: in the dustbin of bad PR practice. 

A new way forward

So, no AVEs? No impressions? Do not despair. There has always been a right way to do measurement properly: simple outline your objectives put a methodology with good metrics such as favorability and message resonance, brand attributes and competitor benchmarking, and apply them rigorously to constant reporting which ties your communications efforts to the business results of your client or company. 

Better still, integrate your traditional and social media coverage (your output metrics) with surveys and market research (outtake metrics) to understand the true impact of your campaign on business results (outcome metrics).

Measurement is fun, easy and affordable. Most of all, it is a prerequisite for excellent PR: you do not qualify as a guardian of your client’s reputation if you are unwilling to do the homework needed to prepare a good campaign, and you will never succeed if you cannot prove the value of your work. 

It’s time for measurement to no longer be cheap and dirty in the Middle East; it is becoming mainstream and our PR pros must help lead this positive change and not become victims of it. 

Mazen Nahawi is group chief executive officer of CARMA.

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