AVE – What is it actually measuring in PR?
Metrics, KPI’s, measurement tools, insights, data driven actions and reporting conversions has grown in popularity amongst all marketers who now have multiple tools and resources at hand to make it easier to measure success, report ROI’s and report tangible values against their worth to the members of the board. However, there is one metric which I am struggling to see any progression, movement or clarification. (I seem to be a ‘metric’ man)
Over last few days I have been researching into one metric which many businesses are still using to measure PR success and it’s the metric AEV (Advertising Equivalent Value). AEV is used to measure PR success and has been around for a very long time now. After ploughing through pages and pages on the internet I have come to the conclusion that I fail to see what AEV is actually telling me in business benefits sense.
AEV is worked out by taking the column size (inches) covered in a magazine and then working out the cost of the same amount of space in advertising value. And because many people assume that editorial content is far more authoritve than advertising they multiply the cost by a figure plucked from the heavens. There is no science nor any rationale behind this figure which is used a multiplier. In the end you have a final figure which is reported to the board members as an AEV value for the months or years press coverage. It looks and seems great as its a number with a pound sign at the front of it but what does it actually mean and how does this AEV figure get used within the business?
Ok, correct me if I am wrong, the AEV is telling me how much the PR coverage cost in advertising value right? Ok, lets cut that sentence down a little.
PR coverage cost in advertising value.
Here is my problem with AVE
Firstly, PR and advertising are two different forms of marketing methods. Advertising is targeted, is written by the business and is never innacurate, it stands alone and does not contain competitor names, includes a call to action, it can be placed strategically and can be fully controlled. While PR is about influencing, it may also contain criticism or include competitor coverage as journalists look for ‘editorial balance’, PR cannot be placed strategically, you have minimal control over errors and the big factor for me is that PR can be included in publications which are not relevant to your audience.
Secondly, it is the word ‘cost’. The AEV figure represents the cost of equivalent advertising. So what? Who cares what it costs in advertising space? What benefit does that add to the business? The board want to see leads or conversions or value generated. If we are comparing costs then can we not compare the number of leads generated from both PR and Advertising and use that as a measure? Which one generated more leads I wonder?
Thirdly, are these formulas taking into consideration the spiralling and falling costs of advertising space in print publications in every industry as online becomes a much more cost effective way of advertising or gaining exposure? If you compare this year on year have allowed for a reduction which then shows a lower figure than last year?
And here are my suggestions…
Would it not make more sense to measure the influence your PR has had in the market? Would it not make more sense to see if PR has had an impact on your sales? Would it not make more sense to measure the awareness or perception of your brand over a time period? Would it not make more business sense to measure outcomes such as leads generated of any standalone PR activity? Would it not make more sense to work on integrating your print PR with online mediums to measure success? Would it not make more sense to compare coverage amount against competitors? Any others?
An example maybe, a market survey taken at the beginning of the year to measure the awareness or perception of a particular product or brand of yours. Conduct PR through out the year with the goal of improving or influencing the market to choose that product or brand and then implement the same survey again every quarter or half yearly and measure the awareness or perception levels and whether it has increased or decreased. You can then take that data and correlate if the sales have also increased for that particular featured product or brand over a time period and then take that data and see if PR had any influence on web traffic for that particular product or brand. Measure, measure, measure and then integrate, integrate and integrate! You now have a more stronger set of data which the business can do something with.
AEV may suit you and your business you can carry on using it as a standalone metric but without trying different ways of measuring and integrating then you won’t know which metric or metrics are right for you. You won’t know how and if PR is impacting your business performance. You won’t know if your PR is influencing your market and if the perception of your brand is increasing. You only have to look now at the rise of social media and the ‘engagement’ levels which can be achieved, should print PR more about influence?
Ask yourself this question “Is what I am measuring aligned to what the business wants me to measure?”. Most of the time your measuring something that is completely irrelevant to the business needs. I think AEV is one of them.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on ways of measuring PR, it seems as though every marketing channel is moving forward and embracing the digital revolution to help with measuring and reporting success whilst print PR seems to be getting left behind along with this AEV metric attached to it churning out irrelevant numbers which, in my opinion, don’t mean anything in business sense nor has any indication on what impact it has had on the influencing the market.