AVE is used remarkably frequently to measure PR campaign outcomes - yet is a discredited measure of ROI.
AVE was invented to put a pounds and pence value on the outputs of PR campaigns.
Obviously, this enabled clients to calculate the return on their investment.
The problem was that the data going into the calculation was often wildly inaccurate.
The AVE concept is simple: calculate how much it would cost to buy the same amount of advertising space as was gained in editorial through ‘earned’ media coverage (ie PR).
By measuring column inches, placement, or airtime in this way, comparison could be drawn with the equivalent price on the advertising rate card.
In some cases, a 'multiplier' was applied to factor in the perceived added value of editorial content over advertising.
This could then be presented to the client as the monetary value of their PR activity: 'This is how much you would have paid for this type of coverage’.'
Easy. Except it doesn’t measure up.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) takes a clear stance against use of AVE.
Its guidelines state: ‘AVEs do not measure the value of PR or communication, outcomes, or the business results achieved through them.
‘They don't take account of the quality of coverage, the credibility of editorial compared with advertising, or the negative as well as positive effects of PR.’
There’s a number of reasons why the CIPR took the position it did.
They range from the fact that readers engage with editorial content differently to ads, to the fact that advertisers rarely pay what’s listed on the rate card.
In 2017, the UK public relations industry body announced that it was outlawing the use of AVEs.
Today, for example, CIPR members are immediately disqualified if they include AVEs as a success measure in award nominations.
Yet monitoring software still offers AVE figures. And some practitioners still use them.
In fact, some clients still insist on them.
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The Barcelona Principles are seven voluntary guidelines established by the global PR industry to measure the effectiveness of campaigns.
The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) considers it to be the international standard for public relations and communications measurement.
Barcelona Principles 3.0 came from a committee convened by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).
It is a best-practice guide to measuring how well PR efforts are working, helping connect PR to real business outcomes, and moving away from outdated metrics like AVEs.
As two of only 58 Chartered PR Professionals in the Midlands region, we actively advise clients that AVEs are an unreliable measure.
And as former media professionals, we know exactly what the real reach and engagement level of media coverage looks like - and tell them about that too.
We plan KPIs and metrics into comms strategy at outset. Progress measures depend on the objective, but may include:
So, next time you see that a PR campaign was worth tens of thousands (or millions) of pounds, ask yourself: ‘’Yes - but where has that number come from?’