With the advent of various advancements and developments in the PR world, it seems that there are still debates around Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE).
The ugly truth is that AVEs simply haven’t gone away, no matter how much some of us don’t truly see the use for them. This is because marketing managers can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that PR isn’t free publicity and can’t be measured by the column inch in a digital age. The good news is that the marketing and PR climate is changing, and in this new environment it will be impossible for AVEs to continue to matter. Here’s why:
- Big data is demonstrating the real return of PR programs. Data scientists and marketing analysts are being brought into the PR measurement conversation to show its true impact on business. Today, some organisations are defining exactly where PR fits into the path to showing accurate and meaningful returns on the bottom line. We are seeing AVEs being replaced with a custom media quality index that assesses media coverage based on the extent to which it contained elements that research showed would generate a certain outcome or meet a set objective.
- Big numbers trigger bigger suspicions: Unfortunately some PR agencies out there sometimes report outrageous AVE numbers and marketing managers are becoming increasingly skeptical of the large impression and AVE numbers routinely reported by organisations. These days, data scientists are taking their place at the table and making data-driven decisions on the overall marketing mix. Inflated numbers are being questioned and are getting tossed in the garbage
- Correlating PR activity to conversions is an easy way to demonstrate PR’s contribution to potential revenue. The best you can do with AVEs is show how much you would have had to spend to get the exposure, disregarding that the actual values are widely assumed to be sometimes inflated. Given a choice, most businesspeople would prefer tracking revenue generation and cost effectiveness over hypotheticals.
- Forward-thinking companies are aligning PR metrics with business goals. Yes, unfortunately in this part of the world our clients do tell us that their business goal is to get lots of column inches—which is all that AVE is measuring—especially in a digital era when space is essentially unlimited, but most organizations define business goals for PR along the lines of “increased awareness, consideration or preference” or “generating qualified leads” or “improving our reputation.”
With the arrival of less-expensive (or even free) tools for survey research, like Survey Monkey, it’s much easier to set up A/B and Pre/Post -tests of PR’s influence on messaging and perceptions.
Conversions make it easier to track leads and make an impact, and CRM systems make it possible to follow those leads that PR generates all the way through to a sale. So today, when management insists PR put dollar figures into its metrics, you can focus on cost efficiency instead of AVE.
Numerous PR organisations are demonstrating that their programs have a lower cost-per-message-communicated (CPMC) than other promotional efforts.
We’re probably stuck with AVEs for a while longer, but as an increasing amount of those in the know are starting to rely on good data, the fans of AVE economics will soon be forced to adapt to change.