Measuring PR Impact: Beyond the AVE

December 9th, 2013 by James

pr-measurementWhen Ad Value Equivalencies (AVEs) were first conceived, the practice of public relations was often pitted against advertising for the value of its impact on the market and in turn, the maximum share of budgets allocated to each medium. While the battle over marketing’s purse strings may never be fully resolved, PR and advertising have long since cemented their distinct roles within corporate marketing strategies. With PR clearly understood to deliver its own unique value to the marketing mix, the notion of measuring the impacts of earned media by equating its value with advertising – not to mention arbitrarily attributing some minimum multiplier to that value – has been left behind by the PR industry. While the death knell was sounding long before, the industry’s adoption of the Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles in 2010 seems to have helped seal the demise of AVEs among many practitioners.

From McBru’s perspective, for B2B technology marketers, the spirit of the Barcelona Principles boils down to this:

Measurements of PR success should be based on goals established for the impact of the program or campaign. Audience awareness, message penetration or desired behaviors, among many others, are types of impacts within which program goals can be defined and measured.

Measurements of PR should measure both quantity and quality. Volumetric PR measurements, or “outputs,” are worthy measures of PR’s results, but without an understanding of the quality of the results, such as tone, relative share of voice, or the prominence of a particular media outlet, the value of those outputs cannot be confirmed.

While measuring media results is good, measuring outcomes is best. The most meaningful way to measure the value of PR is to directly measure that which PR seeks to impact. Brand awareness, preference, comprehension, purchasing consideration – alone and in the context of competitors – are powerful measurements to understand the impact of PR programs on targeted audiences.  Beyond these audience beliefs, business outcomes – while challenging for many organizations to measure outside of focused PR or social media campaigns –offer the ultimate measure of PR’s impact.

AVEs don’t achieve any of the above.

At McBru, we strive to measure the success of our PR programs by measuring impact as holistically and in accordance with the principles outlined above as our clients’ objectives and budgets can support. While each program’s measurements of success are tailored to the program’s goals and scope, following is an overview of common measures of PR success for McBru clients:

Outputs – Quantitative and Qualitative

  • Coverage categorized and weighted by type (e.g. feature, customer success story, contributed, inclusion, mention)
  • Coverage weighted by outlet priority (e.g. first, second and third-tier outlets)
  • Coverage weighted by influencer priority (e.g., first, second and third-tier influencers with the byline)
  • News release penetration (valuing news pick-ups recast in an editorial voice or with added context while discounting value of straight “pick-ups” of announcements as issued)
  • Message penetration (tools-based measurement relying on message matrices or agreed-upon keywords)
  • “Buzz” (levels of online and/or media mentions as measured relative to industry competitors or benchmarks)
  • Share of voice
  • Tone of coverage
  • Inclusion of client spokesperson(s)Inclusion of customer spokesperson(s)

Actions and Outcomes

  • Click-through to campaign landing pages
  • Volume of forms submitted via destination pages
  • Registrations to campaign or program conversion points
  • As measured by repeated and consistent third-party surveys or focus groups:
    • Brand and/or product awareness
    • Brand and/or product preference
    • Brand and/or product consideration
    • Brand recommendation potential
    • High-level message penetration and/or comprehension
    • All of the above, measured relative to competitors

There’s no doubt that PR results measurement will continue to inspire innovation and debate for as long as PR is practiced. What do you value most from your PR programs, and how do you measure that?

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