For years now, AVEs (advertising value equivalencies) have been a mainstay of measuring PR value. And why not? They lend a quantitative aura to public relations, a field that has always been difficult to measure as it espouses attributes like relationships, message penetration, image, and reputation – all infamously abstract elements.
It feels great to say to senior management, “This editorial coverage brought us the same value as if we had spent $50,000 on ads…and it’s way more credible!”
But the validity of this metric has been in question for some time now. While the editorial argument still holds, in today’s era of social and global engagement, it is impossible to measure AVEs in any standard way. Indeed, it seems no two companies or agencies apply the same calculation to it.
AVEs are on their way out because:
- There is no global scaling: When your organization earns coverage in multiple regions/countries, getting any credible data on ad rates in a cost-effective way becomes nearly impossible.
- It does not account for tone of coverage: AVEs don’t consider the quality of coverage, meaning it is not uncommon to count both positive and negative coverage toward AVEs, thus presenting a distorted output.
- The logic of AVEs can not be extended to social channels: And with the increasing importance of social in every PR strategy, this leaves a gaping hole.
But if not AVEs, then what?
AMEC (Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) – whose mission is to educate about measurement best practices – offers a plethora of arguments on the redundancy of using AVEs, and is forcing the industry to reconsider the metric’s worth. As part of its crusade, the organization offers a comprehensive, AVE-less framework to best measure your PR efforts.
As a first step toward moving away from AVEs, start with a focus on quality of coverage. This can be measured by:
- Assessing the sentiment: Is the coverage/mention/chatter positive or negative?
- Assessing the prominence: Essentially, was your brand or company the focus of the article, was there a quote, an image, etc?
- Determining if there were other visuals or a call to action
A qualitative assessment of your coverage, combined with other quantitative metrics such as volume of media items, likes, shares, retweets, will provide a much more realistic analysis of your media output. This structure will help overcome the regional disparity in how a piece of coverage is evaluated, and also measure consistently across all media types.
Do you love AVEs? Do you loathe them? Are you currently trying to dislodge your organization from their use? And if so, what pain points are you experiencing? Let us know in the comments section below.
You can also contribute to further discussion on moving away from AVEs by taking this joint survey launched by AMEC and PR Week into the industry’s use of AVEs. Or reach out to the media analytics experts at Agility PR Solutions; we can share best practices learned from our clients’ and our own struggles to quantify PR efforts.