Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 at 10:18am
Those of us under the age of 25 (ahem) may often hear PR veterans harking back to a time when PR gold was securing a double page feature in a glossy national. In simpler times, the measurement of success was limited yet clear. We suddenly became best friends with the previously shunned advertising department as we scurried around trying to determine advertising costs to calculate the AVE (advertising value equivalent) of our campaign. This all fitted very neatly into an ROI equation, which would take into consideration the client’s investment along with the AVE to produce a ROI percentage – all very straight forward. However, a number of factors has meant that this calculation is no longer sufficient, or arguably relevant, in determining a campaign's success and ultimately the value of PR.
It’s an exciting time in the PR world, as it continues to evolve and grow in the increasingly digital landscape. The success of PR campaigns is now more than just about securing stacks of shiny print coverage, it’s about getting the right people blogging/tweeting/posting/hash tagging about you, targeting websites with high domain authorities, maintaining social platforms, considering search engine optimisation, backlinks… you get the idea. It’s bigger, wider reaching and requires more than just AVE to appraise.
To gain this kind of traction across the mediums, it requires more specialist skills and investment from businesses. With bigger investments comes bigger expectations, and clients want to know more when receiving reports on a campaign’s success, including, but certainly not limited to; overall sentiment, what impact it has had on their business objectives, business opportunities and positioning in the market sector, what is their share of voice, inclusion of key messages in communication, and an increase in organic website traffic and social media audience.
So, how do PRs measure all of that?
The needs of the client come first, so our primary task is to determine what it is they want to achieve and what they think is important. The golden question is, ‘what is it you want to gain through a PR campaign’. Once you have determined the answer to this question and set your KPI’s, you can start to build your analysis and measurement strategy. It may be one goal, it may be several, but by referring back to the answer, you have a definitive ‘flag in the sand’.
Measurement metrics have been a bone of contention over the years. PR’s have constantly struggled to find an exact method of proving their worth, which is where the handy AVE comes into play, whilst businesses fail to receive quantifiable return on their investment for board members or financial directors.
However, new online advances have opened up so many measurement tools, we are desperately trying to keep up with the best and most relevant. Once you have the web developer on board and get your head around it, Google Analytics for example is a very powerful tool, which can help you drill down into the finer detail, including the direct link from coverage gained to website visits.
If PR professionals can harness that kind of insight, they will gain a far more accurate view of what is working and what is not.
I’m sure the AVE debate will continue for many years, and however much new-world PR professionals will tell you to ditch the out dated method, the truth is that for many it still serves the purpose of providing a ROI figure for the FD. Perhaps the way forward is a balance between old and new.
One thing is for sure, the PR industry needs to develop a conclusive method on how best to measure the success of campaigns, and one which will serve the client’s needs and showcase our value to its fullest.