Failing to measure up…

This week salt’s Eli Turander looks at measurement within the PR industry. Measurement has long been the holy grail of the PR industry.  For many […]

This week salt’s Eli Turander looks at measurement within the PR industry.

Measurement has long been the holy grail of the PR industry.  For many years, PR practitioners measured the value of their PR through Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), which calculates what the cost of the equivalent column inches would have been if you had purchased the same advertising space.

AVE has never, and could never be, a measure of Return on Investment (ROI).  ROI measures two things: money generated or money saved. Furthermore, it’s spurious to measure the cost of something that you weren’t going to buy anyway (advertising), and it’s meaningless for clients whose media buying agencies negotiate huge discounts for ad space anyway.  So why has it persisted for so long?  The honest answer is that PR practitioners were at a loss to know what to replace it with; many clients continued to ask for it and there is something compelling in a single, impressive figure showing the success of a campaign.

In the meantime, ad agencies have been busy laying claim to uplifts in sales that are most likely to have come through multiple channels.  It’s true that ads are more traceable, but agencies conveniently ignore that as well as seeing the ad on TV, a consumer may well have been driven to purchase by a sterling review on a blog or an editorially-generated piece in the Metro.

Now that the core role of PR is to create and sustain conversations, analysing the impact and influence of these conversations is a more meaningful measure of performance – but it still’s hard to prove ROI.

At salt, we measure across a spectrum of engagement, from awareness, attitude and action right through to advocacy.  It demands a bespoke approach to every client and campaign, but in these tough financial times it’s a necessity.  But the real value isn’t just about justifying PR budget, it’s because when you factor in measurement up-front in a campaign at brainstorm stage, invariably the ideas are much more robust.  All creative ideas are sifted through a critical filter to see where they will really deliver results across that spectrum.  Perhaps the holy grail isn’t so far off after all.

 

Photo credit: Simon Cunningham