We keep seeking the Holy Grail of measurement in PR
Should we be creating an industry –wide standard for the measurement of PR campaigns?
According to a recent study published by PR Week 35% of PR agencies do not measure the results of their campaigns. Seriously? And who may I ask are the clients buying those campaigns? Can’t quite believe it.
Of those of us agencies who do go to the trouble of measuring our campaigns we continue to face the challenge of finding a supplement for or an alternative to the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE). Obviously AVE has its uses as a “quick and dirty” indicator, but I don’t think it´s controversial to say that we need a more rigorous method.
AVE does not measure the real value of public relations campaigns, but clients love it because it means they can attach a numeric value to what we do. And they can’t be blamed for wanting to be shown a return on their investment. Who wouldn’t? However, as pointed out in an article by Richard Bagnall, a member of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), as prevalent as it is AVE does not provide the value of PR.
The AVE is a quantitative, not qualitative indicator, and in public relations, quality matters as much or more than the quantity. Furhermore, the advertising value is equally computed even if nobody reads the article. Another aspect to consider is that it is not valid neither for the Internet nor for social networks (with modern segmentation systems, ads are never repeated on the same site or in the same format). This method favors “placing” publications without any criteria. In addition, many sites add content from other pages. How is the value of this measured? How is the value of this measured? Finally, Advertising rates tend to “be inflated”: Normally, advertisers achieve significant discounts on the price rates.
Five years after The Barcelona Declaration we still do not have a solution
The Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles concluded in 2010 that the AVE is not a valid PR metric. Alternatively, the AMEC drew up the so-called Barcelona Principles, which include the following recommendations:
Measuring results is essential for PR and it is vital to set prior objectives to measure the results. The measurement should be global, not focused on one aspect of the result. In addition, quantitative measurement (AVE, clippings, impressions, etc.) is not enough so it should be complemented with the qualitative measurement that includes, among other aspects: Tone (positive, negative, critical); Credibility of the media; Relevance of the media, Exclusivity of the coverage, etc.
What about an industry-wide standard for measurement?
Supposing we all agree to raise the bar from 65% of PR campaigns being measured to 100%. We still have the dilemma of what to measure. Should each agency develop its own system of measurement? Or should we go beyond the Barcelona Principles and create a standard for the entire industry?
In Canela PR we believe in the latter. We think that agencies must come to an agreement to create a system for measuring PR valid for the entire industry although clearly each case would need to be customized according to client’s requirements but at least here’s a baseline.
This measurement system should be based on the following four steps:
- Identify a fixed number of media that we want to reach at the beginning of the campaign and apply our measurement system to those media only.
- Set both the quantitative and qualitative goals we want to achieve. E.g:Tonality, Share of Voice, Message penetration amongst target audience.
- Audit the results obtained at the end of the campaign.
- Report back to the client on the results in relation to the objectives.
- For longer term campaigns build in regular KPI reviews to check that the campaign is on track.
Last but not least, an essential requirement for improving the status of measurement in PR campaigns is to encourage and educate clients about the necessity to invest at least 5% of the budget in towards measurement. Something that is not easy because when we negotiate a budget, the first thing the customers question is always investing in measurement, often considered “unnecessary”. It has always surprised me that there are clients eager to invest in measuring their advertising campaigns, but not in their communication campaigns. This means that we still have much work to do.
Do you think we need an industry-wide measurement system for PR campaigns?