is ave really dead in pr measurement?

Measurement and evaluation. Fundamental to any effective piece of communications activity, project or campaign. Of course, there are lots of ways in which to do it these days. But should the much derided AVEs be consigned to the bin in the corner forever, or do they have a small part to play after all?

By Nicky Speed

Put your hand in the bucket those who know that the CIPR will disqualify you if you enter one of their awards and include ad value equivalency (AVE) as a measure of success? No, not something I was acutely aware of either - until I attended an event on managing major events and some of the key speakers used the dreaded AVE word!

Now I’m not saying for one minute that we hurtle back to the days when this was pretty much the only performance indicator we used for PR. But should we discount it completely when sometimes it’s the only language that some of our boards, trustees or stakeholders understand?

PR measurement has become a bone of contention in the communications sector. For many industries, services can be measured and return on investment can be easily quantified. This is not the case in our world and I know that many of us are struggling to get to grips with evaluating our work and showing our worth.

We know we need to get better at shouting about the great things that we do and how we add value to the organisation we work for.  This is why I believe that we shouldn’t completely dismiss using a metric that actually might mean something to the people we’re trying to communicate with.

As I’ve learned over the years when dealing with certain bosses, they understand pound signs. They like it when we are able to quantify our work in their terms. That’s why I would argue that when it’s relevant, we still need to be able to put a figure on the outcome of our work. It certainly does no harm to let them know that they’re paying a team and getting more than double their money’s worth if they had to pay for advertising.

Obviously it isn't and shouldn’t be the only way to measure success. I live by the Barcelona principles of evaluation - taking into account goals and outcomes, social media, user engagement and feedback, tone, perceptions. After all, media relations are only a small part of the equation in the communications mix. But I would still argue that AVE is a useful metric for PR - as long as it’s not the only measurement!

I guess the most important aspect to remember about measuring PR is that there is no one-size-fits-all. You must find that mix that works best for your own projects, campaigns, business and board members.

Ultimately, in communications we’re always working to ensure that we tailor our messages to suit our target audiences. Why should it be any different when we think about who we’re communicating our successes to? Surely it’s all about speaking to your audience in a language that they will understand?

Nicky Speed is senior comms officer at Merseytravel (soon to be comms manager at Plus Dane Housing)

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