In public relations, there’s one thing I come across again and again, amongst my students and fellow PR professionals – they don’t understand how to demonstrate the value of their work.
It’s bonkers. In Agencyland, clients are being charged all the £Ks, yet the actual results get blown out of proportion and lost in account management BS, smoke and mirrors.
AVE is a swear word, as far as I’m concerned. Advertising Value Equivalent is the act of taking a piece of media coverage and estimating what it would have cost to place that as an advert in said publication.
There are many flaws. There’s no way of applying AVE to, say, BBC coverage. Those who practice it are left scrabbling around for rate cards and fudging together figures to create some ludicrously over inflated £figure with multiple 00s.
And in an age where media relations is no longer the main activity of a PR professional, we have to do MORE.
One of my favourite bits of content I’ve seen recently about the fight against AVE is this animation from the glorious Smoking Gun PR. Further proof that in Manchester, the streets are paved with gin and creative genii.
Here’s my step by step guide to how to evaluate PR like a boss:
1.Start at the beginning. It’s actually pretty hard to evaluate PR activity by back-filling. Set campaign or communications objectives at the outset – and make them SMART.
2. Align your objectives with what the business, brand or organisation wants to achieve. For example – one of my clients needs to complete 200 business assists over the next two years. The start of that process is to fill out an online Expression of Interest. So our communications objective is to get 500 businesses heading to the EOI page and filling one out. Simples. I’m now gearing all the activity around this simple goal.
3. Focus on Outcomes, not just Outputs. Media coverage is great, but what does it achieve? You can evaluate reach of coverage – e.g. how many people might have seen it, but what has that done? Does it drive sales? Does it fill hotel beds? Does it lead someone towards a positive vote? Does it get the audience engaged towards a positive action.
4. That said, evaluating your media coverage as it appears is still helpful. But think qualitative and quantitative. Measuring column inches is one thing, but does the coverage represent the brand positively? You could use content analysis to check if the coverage hits the key messages you need to convey.
5. Get integrated. Gone are the days where brands have all their niche specialists sat around a table. PR professionals deserve a piece of the social pie, with a hefty side portion of content marketing. I am obsessed with the PESO model – Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (I know I’m not alone). Check out the glorious new AMEC framework for integrated comms.
6. Be honest – did your activity meet the objectives? Not all my campaigns do. For example, a charity client needed my activity to generate about 25 new volunteers. I’ll be lucky if it attracted five. But it paves the way for recommendations on future activity.
Still baffled? Give me a shout and we can thrash it out over coffee (or wine, if I’ve survived Sober October).
Do you think I’ve missed a step? Let me know!