Why AVEs are not relevant in today’s world
If your client had a negative piece of coverage, would you ascribe an advertising value equivalent to it?
Or, if your client had a brief two-word mention in a full-page spread, would you try to calculate the AVE based on a percentage of words in the article?
Even if you have a positive article that is all about your client – would you assign an AVE even if your messages were/were not included in the text or regardless of whether people read or reacted to the content?
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Worst of all, if you were absolutely determined to use an AVE, would you choose to multiply the value by one, two, five or ten? And what exactly is the (non) logic behind such an arbitrary formula?
I hope I have outlined some of the main reasons why AVE is simply not a metric that represents the value of PR. You can read about many more reasons by referring to the AMEC best practice guide on why AVE’s should be avoided: https://amecorg.com/2017/06/the-definitive-guide-why-aves-are-invalid/
Why do PRs use AVEs?
The reason is simple: it’s easy to calculate and easy to explain. A simple number which ‘at first’ seems to make sense – especially to the CFOs and accounting-types who rightly want to know about the value PR generates – but wrongly ended up inventing a metric that ended up having nothing to do with the value of PR at all.
AVEs are not the only bad metrics
It’s important to note here that AVEs are now joined by social vanity metrics in a growing universe of bad, misleading and in some cases downright unethical reporting metrics.
Just as no CEO will believe your press release generated many millions of dollars in coverage, they will also not believe it when you claim your social campaign generated billions of ‘views’ or ‘impressions’ – numbers that often are greater than the size of your target market and increasingly, the size of our entire population on earth!
Beware of any metric which simply doesn’t make sense and has an unsustained logic behind it.
A better way forward
The easiest way forward is to create new metrics which help you understand if you are doing the right thing.
The starting point is to remember that metrics are tools within the broader discipline of research – they cannot exist effectively on their own and they require a framework to give them meaning.
The first part of your framework should be to identify your objectives. Simple? Yes, but a shockingly small number of campaigns pinpoint sharp objectives such as “reducing sales with audience group A” or “reducing negativity with audience group B.”
Make sure your objectives are crystal clear and drive business value and not coverage volume.
Next, invest in Stakeholder Research: identify who you want to reach. In good PR there is no such thing as ‘the audience.’ Your stakeholders are a complex group of constituencies who think and feel in different ways and consume content on different platforms, at different times and in a diverse set of engagements.
Make sure you identify every main group relevant to you with quantitative metrics such as: how many people are in every group as well as qualitative metrics such as the quality and themes of their engagement.
Once you have a stakeholder map complete (and it could be as simple as a one-page document or graph) make sure you study their conversations and create messages which appeal to them.
By investing in clear objectives and stakeholder research you give yourself the best chance to create excellent messages and strategies which work.
Get your outputs, outtakes and outcome metrics lined up.
Now you can create simple quantitative and qualitative metrics which measure what activity you have (outputs), what people believed (outtakes) and how it impacted your business (outcomes).
Quantitative metrics include how much coverage you have, where it is appearing, how frequently and in what media and geographies. Qualitative metrics include sentiment and message resonance, and Outcome metrics include footfall, sales growth and improved reputation.
The bottom line
It is far better to go to a CEO and say our reputation index increased from 75 to 80 with our top stakeholder groups than to offer a hollow AVE or social vanity metric.
Similarly, it is superior to have a range of good quantitative and qualitative data tied together to create a story offering real insight: just like when driving a car – you look at an entire dashboard to understand different factors impacting your journey, you should do the same in PR. Choose the right metrics at the right time and your PR journey will be a credible and successful one. And it’s time PRs made a change – it might take time, but it is the only way forward if you want to successfully build a brand and make changes based on informative decisions to deliver what really matters.