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earn media valueEarned media value (EMV) is touted by some marketing agencies as a valuable metric for measuring social media and influencer marketing campaigns. Proponents say it provides a simple, concrete and universal way to measure influencer marketing and other social media campaigns.

Social Chorus says EMVs offer a concrete way to measure the value of social word-of-mouth marketing programs. Bill Boulden at Clear View Social calls EMVs, or what it would have cost to have purchased the same amount of media reach through advertising, the accepted advertising industry standard for valuing social media campaigns.

However, many experts in PR and marketing measurement call EMVs nonsensical and meaningless.

The New Advertising Value Equivalency

Stephen Waddington, partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum, calls EMV a new version of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). PR measurement experts and industry associations dismiss AVEs, which measure the value of earned media by comparing it to advertising of similar size and placement, as an outdated and meaningless metric.

There is no widely accepted formula for determining EMVs. Different marketing and PR firms advocate different calculations. It’s calculated by multiplying the reach of earned or social media content by a multiplier based on impressions. Critics say multipliers used to calculate the metric are arbitrary. EMVs provide clients large numbers but offer no real insight as to whether or not the influencer marketing campaigns are working.

By providing a misleading proxy for ROI, the EMV metric compares influencer marketing to other forms of paid digital marketing. There are no studies that demonstrate such equivalency. In other words, EMV offers a simple answer to a complex issue, PR experts say.

“Defining a measurement framework for a campaign is hard. People use AVE and EMV because they’re easy. But they’re also wrong,” Waddington states.

“It is an idiotic response that brings ridicule to the public relations and marketing professions,” states Philip Sheldrake in his book The Business of Influence.

Vanity Metric Voodoo

“Earned media value (EMV) is one of those abstract marketing concepts that employs its own special form of vanity-metric voodoo,” says Jeff Ernst, CEO and president of Smync, in CMO. EMVs are based on impressions, or how many people were exposed to the content and theoretically viewed the message. Impressions are usually extremely inflated. People view 200 newspapers worth of impressions a day and ignore the vast majority.

Moreover, many of those “impressions” were search engines and other robots searching the sites, not people.

“Impressions don’t matter. If you care about them still, stop. If you’re using them to justify your job, within the next two years you’ll need a new one,” Ernst says.

PR and marketing experts recommend creating metrics that measure the campaign’s goals, which in turn are based on the organization’s ultimate objectives. Consider alternatives to EMVs and AVEs and seek metrics that link to business objectives such as lead generation, and sales and revenue.

AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework is a good starting point. “There can be no excuses. The framework is available to download for free,” Waddington notes.

Bottom Line: Many digital marketing agencies promote earned media value as a way to judge the effectiveness of influencer marketing and other forms of social media marketing. It provides a simple number to compare earned media and social media to paid advertising, they say. Yet many PR and marketing measurement experts lambast the metric as nonsensical and useless.