Although fewer public relations pros use advertising value equivalencies, AVEs persists in some quarters, despite the industry’s efforts to eradicate the PR metric.
AVEs value media relations placements by comparing them to the cost of equivalent advertising space. PR measurement experts dismiss the metric as inaccurate and misleading. Earned media mentions are simply not equivalent to advertising.
“The AVE formula is flawed because it doesn’t take into consideration the article’s content, sentiment/tone, varying ad rates as well as the audience’s perception to news versus advertising, cost versus value and other factors,” writes Katie Boyles at Axia Public Relations. “It’s a simple formula for a big empty number that doesn’t provide executives with any communication insight whatsoever of your earned media coverage.”
According to the PR and Communications Census from the UK-based PRCA (Professional Associations Research Network), 12% of PR and communications practitioners still used AVEs last year, down from 16 per cent in 2016. About a quarter (24%) favored the Barcelona Principles 2.0 as an evaluation method. Twenty percent cited “other” evaluation methods, such as Google Analytics, coverage books, reputation tracking, social media analytics and a combination of methods.
“Though fewer and fewer every year, too many people still fail to embrace rigorous evaluation methods,” said Francis Ingham, PRCA director general. “Until we prove the value of what we do, we will never receive the respect – or earn the money- that we should. And until we do that, we will struggle to recruit and retain the very brightest of talent.”
A Hard Stance Against AVEs
Communications associations now take a hard stance against AVEs. AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, initiated a Say No to AVEs campaign. It urges PR practitioners to adopt a “Say No to AVEs” campaign button and pledge to eradicate the metric and their derivatives from PR measurement. “Now is the time to kill it off completely once and for all,” said AMEC Chairman Richard Bagnall.
The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations announced a ban against members using AVEs in 2017. It gave members a year to transition to valid metrics. Members found to be using AVEs after that period could be liable to disciplinary action. “This goes beyond banning AVEs from awards. Our members know that AVEs are a fantasy metric so it’s time to put an end to their use for good,” stated Jason MacKenzie, CIPR president.
Many alternatives to AVEs are available. Most media monitoring and measurement services offer superior alternative metrics. Some measurement vendors can also create customized metrics for clients. Glean.info, formerly CyberAlert, is among the media monitoring and measurement services that do not presently include AVEs in their reports to clients. As a signer of the Barcelona Principles, we believe clients should heed the guidance of the PR measurement experts and adopt alternative metrics.
PR can benefit from tools like the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework, a meaningful and easy-to-use evaluation planning tool. When you use a planning tool such as this, you see clearly how to think about and approach measurement for your clients and your agency.
Why do AVEs still persist among a minority of communications professionals? AVEs are easy to report and easy for clients to understand. They have a financial return figure associated with them. In the past, some PR professionals have said they report AVEs because clients request them. Communications pros can try to educate clients about PR measurement, but clients ultimately hold power over measurement practices.
Convincing Clients to Drop AVEs
“If the person to whom you report, who administers your budget and who evaluates PR performance insists on ad values, you’d be foolish not to provide them,” wrote Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME, a research-based consulting firm. “Better to augment AVEs with measures your manager, your peers and you yourself consider to be more meaningful to ease the transition forward.”
David Geddes, principal of Geddes Analytics LLC, says PR measurement experts cannot persuade AVE adherents to drop the metric.
Although PR must strive to educate clients about PR measurement best practices, arguments against AVEs sometimes fall on deaf ears, Geddes writes in the Measurement Standard. Continual arguments harden their entrenched positions. Only market forces can eventually drive AVEs out of existence. In meantime, PR measurement experts should move on.
“We have better things to do than argue with closed minds,” Geddes says.
Bottom Line: Fewer PR pros report advertising value equivalencies (AVEs), but PR leaders still strive to eliminate the metric from PR measurement. PR measurement gurus continue to denounce the advertising-based metric.
This article was first published on Feb. 22, 2017, and updated on Jan. 15, 2019.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.