Thursday, July 08, 2010

PR measurement...why counting dollars is like playing poker with matchsticks

ASR - the Emperor's new clothes?

If you're a capable PR person short on a laugh, read this article on mumbrella. Media Monitors have just launched a new measure of PR effectiveness. It's based, to the horror of some, on advertising value.

Note it's NOT called AVE - advertising value equivalent. It's called ASR - advertising space rates.

After I stopped laughing at the spin I had to admire what they've done.

PR professionals may not like it but if I were betting I'd say it will be a winner. Here's why.

PR measurement is, to say the least, somewhat vexed as a subject.

The summary sometimes sounds like is this: to AVE (advertising value equivalent) or not? 

The longer version includes a whole bunch of conversations about support from stakeholders, building reputation and some other stuff.

To the CEO that can sound like "blah blah blah...really, PR matters...blah blah blah". Often what the C-suite will judge PR success or failure on is the credibility of the people doing it and whether or not their peers are mentioning their media coverage.

Of course that's an exaggeration but it does bring us to the ugly subject of how should we really measure public relations success - and how Media Monitors are proposing to.

Now I am well aware that the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) prohibits using AVE as a measure.

As the MD of a PR firm where excellence and integrity are core values, I've stuck by that code of ethics. We defend, and use, other forms of measurement.

BUT, and it's a big but, I do have some very positive experiences of working in a very large listed Australian entity and using AVE to superb effect.

How so? It's simple. A large number gets a large amount of attention. It focuses senior executives on the value of the reputation building work done by the media team, and it gives the team a benchmark.

Not a value - simply a benchmark.

So, like playing poker with matchsticks, the currency is somewhat meaningless.

What is meaningful is a single number that is:
- measured in a consistent manner
- objectively assessed and
- provides the C-suite (and the media team) with a simple way to measure PR effectiveness.

Of course until the PRIA allows some form of dollar measurement, we most likely won't use it.

We''ll keep measuring, for example, impressions. And hoping the debate moves on, towards a single, industry-wide agreed metric.


  1. I see where you're coming from. But what if the 'large number' is made up of negative stories, passing mentions etc. - it's still a large number, just completely irrelevant. Look at BP - they get so much overage right now. So every entity in crisis mode should have a wonderful AVE/ASR number. Relevant?

  2. LarsV you're absolutely right. They might have a wonderful AVE/ASR but it doesn't tell the full story. Perhaps there's a methodology that uses "tone" in an appropriate way to reflect negative mentions. The examples I was citing were those where 100% of coverage was positive to neutral. Presumably AVE methods deduct negative?


Thanks for reading. Constructive and relevant comments welcome!