AVE – Does Anyone Actually Still Use This?

I was surprised to read recently that the CIPR is planning to take disciplinary action against members who use the advertising equivalent value (AVE) metric to measure their performance to clients.  Forgive me, but does anyone actually still use this outdated form of measurement to demonstrate the worth of their PR services?!

I cannot remember when we stopped using AVE, it just became less and less relevant.  The digitization of our industry has provided PR with a whole new array of tools, including qualitative and quantitative monitoring and analysis tools.  We adopted the PESO model to reflect the trend for user-generated content and the growing importance of digital media platforms and channels.

PR measurement: PESO model

The PESO model takes the four media types—paid, earned, shared, and owned—and merges them together.

  • Paid Media. Paid media for a PR programme is social media advertising, sponsored content, and email marketing.
  • Earned Media. Earned media is what you know as either publicity or media relations. It’s getting your name in print. It’s having a newspaper or trade publication write about you. It’s appearing on the news to talk about your product. It’s what the PR industry is typically known for, because it’s one of the few tangible things done.
  • Shared Media. Shared media is also known as social media. It’s evolving and continues to build beyond just marketing or customer service teams using it.
  • Owned Media. Owned media is otherwise known as content. It is something you own, and it lives on your website or blog. You control the messaging and tell the story in a way you want it told.
PESO Model by Spin Sucks, PR measurement
Source: Spin Sucks

For each media type, there are different metrics to track.

  • Paid Media. It depends on the tactics you use under this umbrella, but could include the following:
    • Social media marketing, such as Google AdWords.
    • Landing pages and how many people download your content and go into your email marketing database.
    • Increases in the qualified leads in your email marketing database.
    • New fans or followers who come from reading your sponsored content.
    • Leads and conversions.
  • Earned Media. Earned media got its name because you garner results from the relationships you earn—with influencers, journalists, and bloggers. To measure the effectiveness, consider the following metrics:
    • Influencer scoring: Does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 10 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only 1 percent.
    • How much Web traffic comes from a story about your organization? See if those news outlets and blogs are sending visitors to your site.
    • An increase in new audiences.
  • Shared Media. You have to track the number of fans and followers because sharp declines—or a trend of decreasing follower count—will tell you something is wrong. But an increase, week after week, does not get you results. The following will do:
    • Are you using brand ambassadors to help spread the word about your product or service? If you are, track their effectiveness.
    • Assign points to things such as likes, retweets, shares, and comments. This gives you numerical data to confirm whether something works.
    • Use unique URLs, coupons, discount codes, or even telephone numbers only in your social media efforts. This will tell you whether you’re getting results from these efforts.
  • Owned Media. The beauty of owned media is it completely integrates with the other three media types. Think about the following:
    • Pay attention to unique visitors, time spent on the site, and bounce rate. Those things, such as an increase (or decrease) in social media followers, can indicate success or failure.
    • If you have an organized owned media program, you’re likely distributing through email marketing. When you integrate your content with this paid media tactic, you can track things such as downloads and shares. Do people download the content? Do they read or watch or listen to it once it’s been downloaded? Is it so good they can’t help but share it with their communities?
    • Are people sharing your content? It is important to know this because it provides proof to a new reader that you know what you’re doing.
    • Track the effectiveness of a community (people who comment on and share your content) by whether they’re referring business to you.
    • Is it driving sales?

Owned media and paid media

Owned media and paid media can often merge. For instance, a brand ambassador who is being paid to share and promote brand-related content would fall under both categories. With all these different directions to take a PR campaign, it can be difficult to identify the most lucrative path. While there are exceptions where only one method is the best fit for a campaign, a skilled PR pro knows how to identify enough angles. The success comes from being skilled enough to use all PESO methods in a single campaign, as this indicates industry authority.

In the PESO model, each channel delivers unique importance.  In the earned media realm, public relations practitioners create the opportunity to have your story told by credible, objective, third-party influencers such as journalists, bloggers, trade analysts, and industry leaders.  In the social, content marketing and blogosphere, however, its power comes from the polar opposite source:  the power of many. The conversation is picked up, shared, and commented on by the social community as your message makes its way from its blog, Tweet, or paid marketing message.

Championed by marketing and public relations thought leader, Gini Dietrich, the PESO model highlights the evolution of the public relations discipline to reflect the ever-changing world of communication.  The benefit of the model is that it stops PR teams considering themselves only as brand-enhancers and shows the ability of PR campaigns as business-drivers.  The PESO model seems to have closed a gap between PR and marketing, providing a structured framework for creating intelligent, integrated campaigns.

We have to accept that the AVE model is no longer good enough.  It is now about getting the right content to the right audience and, when needed, pushing it along further via paid.  Successful PR practitioners have and continue to adapt by applying the traditional principles of influencing opinion, story-telling, and building relationships while using new communication tools, practices and channels.