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AVE alternativesThe overwhelming majority of PR measurement experts dismiss advertising value equivalencies (AVEs) as inaccurate and misleading. The AVE measurement reports what earned media coverage would cost if it were advertising.

Measurement experts agree that AVEs cannot measure PR’s effectiveness. Yet use of AVEs persists. The metric refuses to die because it’s easy to report and understand. Unlike more meaningful metrics, AVEs don’t require PR pros to determine exactly what they are measuring. When a CEO demands a quick and single, simple answer, AVEs fill the bill – but unfortunately don’t provide valid results or real insight into the impact of a media campaign.

PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, explains how to find alternatives in a recent in-depth article in The Measurement Advisor. Here’s a synopsis.

Define acceptable proxies. Find an acceptable proxy that your team and your senior leadership agree adequately measures the desired action. For instance, visits to the “Thank You for Your Donation” page, can serve as a proxy for a nonprofit.

Gamify your research. If your goal is to educate the public on an issue or to communicate a specific message, you need to determine if the messages have been received and believed in order to gauge the campaign’s success. That’s difficult without an expensive and time-consuming survey. An alternative is to quiz website visitors or attendees at an event. Offer people a prize for answering correctly. You can also create a “passport system” that allows access only after people answer certain questions and get their passports “stamped” to signify that they know one of your messages.

Compare cost effectiveness. If obtaining exposure for your key messages is PR’s goal, you can compare effectiveness of launch tactics, by taking the budget for each event and then dividing it by the number of messages communicated for that event. This metric is cost per message communicated. You can use it to compare programs or events or to track the effectiveness of a program over time.

Engagement. Engagement can indicate how well people respond to your outreach efforts. Be clear on your definition of engagement and set expectations correctly. The Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards defines engagement as the percent of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook who have taken some action you define as engagement.

Many alternatives to AVEs are available. It’s essential to remember that the best metrics vary among organizations and campaigns. “Just as no two organizations are the same, no two objectives can be the same, and no measurement frameworks for a campaign will be the same,” blogs Stephen Waddington, a partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum.

Measurement experts urge PR pros to first determine their goals and objectives and identify metrics that measure how effectively they are reaching those goals. The closer you can tie the value you deliver to deliver to the organization’s objectives, the more highly you’ll be valued.

Some of the established media monitoring and measurement services including Glean.info offer advantageous alternative metrics to AVEs and will customize metrics or develop new ones to meet the specific needs of their clients.

Bottom Line: AVEs remain in use because they are easy to report and understand. However, that doesn’t make them accurate or useful. Finding and tracking more meaningful metrics may be challenging, but it’s well worth the effort. Better-designed and more valid metrics can help PR more effectively measure reaction to and impact of media campaigns and demonstrate PR’s value to the overall organization.