earned media value EMV PR & marketing metric

Some marketing agencies tout earned media value (EMV) as a valuable new metric for measuring PR and marketing campaigns. Proponents say it provides a simple, solid 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AVEs, which measure the value of earned media by comparing it to advertising of similar size and placement, as an outdated and meaningless metric.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 marketing and PR to paid forms of digital marketing. There are no studies that demonstrate such equivalency. In other words, EMV offers a simplistic and invalid 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 an online publication by Adobe. 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, the impressions data are based on the number of visitors to the entire website, not the individual article.  A very high percentage of those “impressions” are 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.

Some possible worthwhile marketing and PR metrics include website referrals, media mentions, message resonance, and share of voice. PR measurement pros sometimes develop article quality scores based on the quality of the media mention and publication. “Quality” includes the tone or sentiment of the article and the number and strength of the corporate messages the article contains.  Some established media monitoring and measurement services, including Glean.info, can create customized metrics to meet the specific needs of clients.

The Need for Comprehensive Media Monitoring & Measurement

Comprehensive and accurate media monitoring and measurement can determine the effectiveness of PR and marketing. Some key questions to ask when considering media monitoring and measurement vendors include:

  • Does the service monitor the media I need?
  • Does it provide timely alerts?
  • Does it include automated or manual sentiment analysis?
  • And does it integrate analytics from all media into a single report?

Avoid vendors that require long-term contracts and seek those who can customize the analytics dashboard to your needs. To make sure the vendor is the right choice, test its service in a free trial.

“Monitoring your brand’s coverage across all media channels is integral to evaluating the success of a PR campaign,” writes Kate O’Sullivan, owner of the PR agency ADPR in the UK. “In addition to conducting quantitative measurement, consider qualitative outcomes to analyze the content of the coverage.”

“Ultimately, measuring the effectiveness of PR activity depends on having solid PR objectives and KPIs agreed to by all stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign,” O’Sullivan adds.

Bottom Line: Many digital marketing agencies promote earned media value as a way to judge the effectiveness of PR, influencer marketing and other types 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.

Download the 2020 Ultimate Guide to Media Monitoring, Measurement & Analytics for PR & Marketing

This article was first published on July 5, 2017, and updated on Aug. 14, 2018.