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Winter is here for Advertising Value Equivalent - almost

By Mike Davies

But the PRCA’s 2019 Census shows PR industry still struggling on measurement


Advertising Value Equivalent.

Three words which have haunted the PR industry ever since someone, somewhere, decided that the best way to measure the success of PR was measuring – literally measuring – the column inches gained from activity and then estimating what the comparable amount of space would cost if budgeted for advertising.

Add into the mix some kind of industry agreed “multiplier” to take into account the integrity of free news coverage over paid for advertising and you have what has largely been the standard measuring stick by which PR has been measured.

And you also have the main reason why, for decades, the PR industry has so greatly struggled to define and demonstrate how it is actually adding value to a business.

Thankfully the industry may have finally “crossed the chasm” and finally realised the nonsense of AVE, with the PRCA’s latest PR and Communications Census showing that just 7% of agencies now rely on AVE for measurement – making it the joint least popular method of measuring success.

So how do you measure PR success?

Essentially you measure PR success based on the impact you have on your client’s most valued business tool – their website.

With 68% of B2B customers preferring to research independently for a solution online before contacting a business – according to research by Forrester – being able to be found online and rank highly for relevant searches is more important than ever.

And, while some of us still remember the bad old days of cutting physical articles out of newspapers and trade magazines to stick into coverage books, digital and analytics tools now provide PRs with everything they need to directly show how their campaigns are impacting a business’ website.


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What should PR be measuring?

While there a broad range of metrics that can be measured on a client’s website there are a few things which every PR campaign should be focussed on above anything else.

· Inbound links – Sometimes referred to as “link building” all online PR activity should be carried out with the goal of generating legitimate, high domain authority linksback to the client’s website. While there are a number of algorithms which Google uses to asses where to place a website within its ranking, links are still considered to be the biggest factor in determining whether you’ll get close to top spot.

· Referrals and organic traffic – Increasing organic traffic is essentially job one when it comes to a digital strategy as this is the number of people naturally finding your client’s website while carrying out a search. The more authoritative the website the more organic traffic it will generate. And if your PR activity is generating a healthy amount of links as well then you would expect to see traffic from those links (referrals) increasing as well

· Short and long tail keyword performance – Every client should have an SEO strategy in place which PR activity can feed into, or even drive. If the PR activity is successful and is coupled with an effectively SEO focussed website and regular keyword focussed content, you should be measuring the performance of keywords and how your client ranks for branded and non-branded search terms. If they plateau or fail to rank for keywords it could be that they’re targeting words their customers aren’t using and changes are needed.

· Coverage – While terms like “impressions” and “circulation” remain meaningless vanity metrics within modern “Inbound PR”, you should still be measuring how much coverage you are delivering for clients and in what kind of media you are getting that coverage. At the end of the day gaining a media profile remains a key motivator for clients and it is your job to deliver it.

PR measurement is still not perfect

While Advertising Value Equivalent appears to be on its way out as a “measurement” of PR, the industry still has a long way to go.

Part of the problem is that the industry has never been able to agree on a standard of measurement by which PR is measured by everyone.

Whether it’s the Barcelona Principles, an Integrated Evaluation Framework or the PESO model, most agencies measure their campaigns in a slightly different, if ever more digital way.

The PRCA’s census did however kick up one extremely worrying statistic and that is that more than a quarter of the industry (26%) admitted to not using any PR evaluation metric at all.

Measuring success and business impact is essential if PR is to become the boardroom priority it should be and it is the responsibility of the industry to understand this importance and for clients to completely understand how an agency will measure success before signing on the bottom line.

If you want more information on PR measurement, watch our on-demand webinar on Inbound PR for advice on creating, executing and measuring a successful Inbound PR campaign here.

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