Last year the PR and Experiential industry—and many from outside it—got into a rather heated debate about the merits of campaign measurement and, specifically, the controversial role of AVE (advertising value equivalents) in PR measurement. Now, after running a local survey, studying global trends and listening to a range of opinions, the CAANZ Marcomms Leadership Group has developed a guideline that sets out some clear parameters for measurement and offers a list of metrics for consideration, including our old friend AVE.
Despite the fact PR is estimated to be a $7 billion worldwide industry, it has been hindered by—and criticised for—its inability to quantify the value the discipline brings to clients/businesses (and for its at-times parasitic reliance on 'free' media to get messages out). One of the ways that value has been assigned to PR campaigns is through AVE, which is calculated by multiplying the advertising rate card value of the media coverage achieved by a number (usually between three and seven) that is chosen to reflect the view that editorial coverage has more resonance with consumers than paid for advertising space.
This formula has been used globally for more than 40 years, but it has been rejected in many overseas markets as outdated and insufficient and the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) was not involved in the 2010 CAANZ Marcomms survey survey because of its less than favourable attitude to AVE as a measurement tool.
But new chair of the MLG Megan Clark of Copper Brand Experiences says the best practice guide isn't about proposing a one-size fits all solution. It's about making clear what the approach to measurement should be and the group's main conclusion is that each and every campaign is unique and therefore PR and experiential metrics can, and should be, ‘made to measure’.
"We’ve pulled together a number of different methods for consideration that are most widely used and recognised worldwide, including, controversially, AVE and its offshoot PRV. What’s important is that the measurement choices selected are clearly linked back to evidencing how campaign objectives are met."
The CAANZ survey showed measurement was increasingly important to clients, who were being offered experiential PR campaigns without clear ROI. And, according to one online media owner we've spoken to, they're often being overcharged when this measurement tool is used (he gives the example of a PR company valuing a story posted online that had been viewed 50 times at $3000 and he says many are now asking whether stories have been Tweeted or posted on Facebook so they can charge more).
Clark says AVE and PRV are still valid options, but should never be used in isolation of other measures and the group "strongly encourages everyone to move away from measuring output to measuring outcomes such as behaviour change or sales". This is what the Made to Measure Guide aims to show and proposed metrics for consideration include attitudinal research and consultative audits through to measuring numbers such as unique visitors to websites, social media buzz rates and share of editorial voice (vs. competitors). It also recommends a number of useful websites on the topic.
“It’s important for agency and client to agree on robust key performance indicators and corresponding measurement metrics upfront—before work kicks off—so everyone can see the success, or otherwise, of the activity,” Clark says.
The Made to Measure Guide is available to CAANZ members on the website.