End to public relations chicken and egg situation?

Tom Watson highlights the problem of promoting best practice examples of public relations by including measures of advertising value equivalent

[AVE, for the uninitiated involves calculating the worth of editorial coverage generated in PR campaigns against the cost to buy it as advertising – plus usually a factor multiplier to reflect editorial’s greater credibility.]

It is a ridiculous measure since the worth of advertising isn’t what you pay for it, but whether it delivers any enquiries, sales or other measurable outcome.  Surely then assessment of editorial coverage should also be outcome-related.

Tom’s point is directed at the  – but the national and those organised by  are similarly flawed in many cases. 

Having been a Pride judge previously, I believe there are some very good entrants who indicate clear objectives and include a wider range of evaluation measures than simply AVE.   I’m not sure if all judges are as critical of AVE measures as I was though.

Talking with practitioners whose employers or clients require AVE, reveals a classic chicken and egg situation (appropriately for Easter).  The PRs say they are asked for AVEs and have aggressively  as a way to satisfy corporate demands for proof of PR’s effectiveness.

My belief is that PR practitioners should simply explain why AVE is flawed and promote more strategic and relevant ways of evaluation.

Commenting on Tom’s post, David Philips highlights the irony that as the cost of advertising is falling, so is the supposed value of PR using AVE as a measure – just at the time when arguably, we can demonstrate its greater value.

I hope David’s logic is recognised as a trigger to the demise of AVE and re-evaluation away from “press agentry” as the primary focus of PR practitioners. 

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

7 thoughts on “End to public relations chicken and egg situation?”

  1. I think it is more like standing on ice and the whole is created around them. It isn’t a simple matter to credit business generated solely to any single advert or PR campaign, of course, but that in itself is a discussion that marketing/PR practitioners should have with their bosses. But at the same time, not being afraid to create campaigns that go beyond coverage to stimulating purchase behaviour.

  2. Yes, this latter point of yours is possibly the difference between success and failure, the difference between being a highly regarded agency and an also-ran.

    By the way, I’ve stolen your photo and used it in a different post [not yet up] but I did attribute.

  3. You kindly linked to our sight to highlight that research companies still offer AVE as an option. In our defence I should say that its position at the end of a list of services we offer ans this is a reflection of how we value/prioritise it. We continually try to point people away from AVE, however not to offer it is commercially naive – whilst we continue to hear PRO’s recognising that AVE is a blown concept they need it for those people outside of PR who need a metric that they can understand.

    Nothing would please us more if AVE disappeared forever, however, no matter how much we educate there is still a demand. A situation not helped when PRIDE winners still use AVE in there submissions.

  4. Howard – thanks. I didn’t mean to imply that AVE was all you offered and I do appreciate the chicken and egg scenario here.

    David Phillips observation that using AVEs when advertising rates are falling just highlights what a daft method it is. PRs are in effect saying our work is worth less today than last year.

    Also – I don’t think it is a metric that those outside PR can understand since it is meaningless – so the reason they accept it, is because has been sold to them by those who evaluate PR (inhouse and specialists).

    If we really were to help those outside PR, we’d use more standard management metrics.

    And, I couldn’t agree more about award entries and winners. The CIPR must get its house in order over AVEs.

  5. Heather – No offence taken on our part! All evaluation companies will offer it, and with heavy hearts we are responding to demand. I cannot remember the last time a PR professional said they thought AVE was a fair measure, but is always for ‘someone else’ within the organisation. I think it is a little unfair to hold evaluation companies responsible for the failure of PR people to communicate with their own colleagues

    I agree that even AVE is not understood by most of those who see it, but it is a simple single value.

    Please do not think that we actively sell it. It is a byproduct of our evaluation process, it is free to those who want it as part as an overall package. When it is delivered we make it patently clear that it is not something that we hold in high regard – and don’t get me started on the multipliers we then see PR agencies attaching to it.

  6. Howard, I do understand that credible evaluation companies view AVE as increasingly irrelevant and am glad to hear that you inform PRs that it is not a credible measure.

    Unfortunately, it seemed that for too many years the PR industry rejected the concept of evaluating its work and then latched onto a spurious, but money-related value that seemed to work in its favour.

    That makes it difficult, but not impossible, to move towards more robust and credible metrics. We need more awareness of other options – which the evaluation companies, educators and bodies such as CIPR need to keep communicating.

    We also need to help PR practitioners realise how to inform their colleagues and bosses that AVE is not a valid measure. But that is part of a bigger issue regarding why practitioners don’t do more generally to improve understanding of public relations within organisations to demonstrate clearly what it can achieve (with and beyond media coverage) and the value of better objectives and metrics.

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