AVE is a dying breed, but what’s the alternative?

The news that PR Week has decided to ban AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent, or how much the coverage would have cost if the space had been paid-for advertising) as a measurement method in its awards won’t have surprised many people working in public relations. It’s been a bone of contention for a long time and since the adoption of the Barcelona Principles in June 2010, its card has been well and truly marked.

We’re all aware of the inadequacies of AVE. It isn’t exactly a comprehensive reflection of the true value of what good PR can achieve. For a start, it can’t be used in the same way with social media  – a growing component in most communication planning these days – as it is with printed press. It doesn’t take into account any nuances about the quality of coverage, such as the number of key messages covered, the number of business objectives achieved or the tone of the article. It also focuses on output rather than outcome eg. the impact any activity has had.

To put it another way, for an industry concerned with influencing behaviours and attitudes, the traditional standard measurement method doesn’t take either of these things into consideration.

The Big Debate

The question is….what’s the alternative? After all, AVE has its benefits. It’s simple, cheap and quick to calculate. It’s also totally transparent; there’s no danger of figures being fudged as it’s so easy for a client to check. What’s more, many clients like to see a value attached. If they’re used to looking at sales figures or monitoring return on investment, it stands to reason that having a monetary figure attached to what they might perceive as less tangible work – such as PR – will make it easier for them to gauge the value of that work.

At the moment there isn’t a single industry-wide answer as to what the best alternative might be, and the worry remains that a truly thorough measurement tool that analyses what target audiences say or do after PR exposure could be prohibitively expensive to many.

Engaging and Evaluating

However, AVE isn’t the sole measurement method currently available and any PR company worth their salt will already have addressed its inadequacies by putting other evaluation measures in place. These will have been agreed with the client at the beginning of the campaign, and set in such a way that they align neatly with company objectives. Depending on budget, they might be sophisticated or they might be simple and straightforward. But one thing they will definitely have in common is a focus on ROE – ‘return on engagement’ – rather than just ROI.

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  • About the Author

    After more than 10 years working in PR and media planning, providing clients with great PR and delivering tangible results still brings a smile to my face! Before joining CLPR, I worked across a variety of sectors including lifestyle and finance, and my wider experience in marketing means I understand just how PR fits into the mix. Outside of work, I play with my children, read obsessively, talk myself out of going to the gym and cook huge quantities of food for friends.

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