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.
I believe you should measure everything you can possibly measure and test everything you can possibly test. However, at the end of the day, there wil be things that are near impossible to measure the full impact of your actions. I have found that oftens companies will not engage in something that can’t be measured and I think this is going too far. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.
I agree with ‘test everything you can possibly test’ but why measure something so vague and doesn’t drive action such as AEV. It fails to drive action and improvement?
AEV is a value based on coverage based on cost of advertising space. So what? Are PR professionals measuring competitors AEV in the same publications? Probably not. Well then why not?
If you compare your AEV with a competitors AEV (coverage both received in same publication) then you suddenly have insight on performance. Right?
I’ve been fighting the AEV battle for 23 years and there are so many times when I want to just throw up my hands and say “whatever” – – but then a post like this comes along. THANK YOU
I agree AVEs (or AEVs) are a terrible measure of success and that emphasis needs to be on outcomes.
However, I don’t buy in to the camp that it’s completely worthless. You need to measure outputs as well as outcomes to justify the efficiency of your team and budget, do you not? It’s not a perfectly accurate metric, but metrics seldom are. We work with what we have.
The key word is ‘value’ and the point of AVEs is to compare the value of PR activities to another marketing medium (particularly when it comes to budget allocation for PR vs advertising). If you choose to use it, it should only be a small piece of the measurement equation and definitely not at a sacrifice of real outcomes, but it can be helpful.
The controvery (and problem) is like you explain that people are using it as a sole measure of success, which makes no sense.
I completely agree! AEV might make sense to a comapny because it is realtively cheaper, but they also need to realize that it is the least productive (in most cases not at all). Hope more PR pros share the same outlook. Thanks for writing this great post 🙂
Thanks for your comments Pramita.
I can’t believe that PR pro’s still use this metric to measure success and I can’t believe this topic is still so hot in the PR world. Is anyone doing anything different? Challenging Tradition?
Marketing is changing, PR is changing, the web is changing and marketers must change too.
You are completely correct. Measuring the impact of your PR on the desired outcome of the campaign makes so much more sense. It hasn’t always been easy, particularly with new metrics appearing almost every week. But yesterdat, David Michaelson presented a very interesting webinar describing a framework for structuring and better interpreting your measurement. The webinar recording will be available to all in a few days but your can find my writeup here in the mean time: http://blog.augure.com/2010/12/17/post-advertising-value-equivalent-new-pr-measurement-metrics/