With AVEs Out of the Picture, These Are the PR Metrics That Count

Ah, the advertising equivalency debate. This will age me, but I remember when PRSA, the governing body for the industry in the U.S., unveiled media impressions and advertising equivalencies as a way for us to measure our work and prove we are as significant as our advertising brethren.

I was happy to get my ruler out and measure every single article we placed. I was happy to show our clients that, had they paid for the same kind of advertising, it would have cost 200 times more. I was happy to throw out the hundreds of millions of dollars in return-on-investment. It made me and my team feel good.

Of course, it meant nothing, but we finally had something to attach the dollar sign to.

And, while clients knew it didn’t mean much, those gigantic numbers sure did look good in annual reports and board presentations.

That was in the late 90s. It’s now 2017, and we have a gigantic pool of data from which to actually prove our effectiveness. We don’t have to use made-up numbers anymore.

Buh-bye AVEs!

Not only do we no longer have to use those “metrics,” they’re about to be banned and professionals who use them could be fined.

Earlier this summer, AMEC announced they are going to invest “significant time and resource to finally kill off this derided metric.”

In direct response, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations took it a step further and said any member using AVEs “may be liable to disciplinary action.”

This is very good news for the PR industry. Though I’m in the United States and the PRSA has yet to chime into the conversation, it’s good for all of us. This means the industry is finally taking a stance on bunk metrics—and on its way to finding a universal way to measure the effectiveness of the work we do.

PR Can—and Should—Help Achieve Business Objectives

While the industry, overall, has not found effective PR measurement tools, it’s important to start the conversation and see if we can come to a middle ground.

For instance, I believe we can—and should—measure our efforts back to business objectives.

  • If you work for a company that makes widgets, your PR efforts absolutely should sell more widgets.
  • If you work for a services company, your PR efforts should generate more qualified leads, reduce the sales cycle, and convert more clients.
  • If you work for a non-profit, your PR efforts should garner more donations.

The way we can each get there might be different—and the tools we use can vary—but, overall, we should have the goal of helping to achieve business objectives.

For some, that might be an increase in online conversations. Others could be an increase in website traffic, so marketing can talk to those people. And others can have a completely integrated program that generates, nurtures, and converts leads.

What to Measure in a PESO Model Program

I’m preferential to an integrated program, which can be implemented through the PESO model. It was introduced to the PR industry when Spin Sucks (the book) was published.

PESO Model by Spin Sucks, PR measurement
Source: Spin Sucks

With an integrated program, public relations “owns” the tactics that we inherently know how to do. We are relationship builders. We are writers. We are consensus builders. We can stay calm in the face of a crisis. We know how to work with influencers and journalists.

The PESO model absolutely should belong to us. That’s not to say we should do advertising or media buying or product development or demand generation or technical SEO or search engine marketing. We can leave those things to the other disciplines—to the experts.

But our expertise—and the metrics that come with it—lends well to the PESO model:

  • Paid media: We can execute social media marketing, email marketing, and brand ambassadors or influencer marketing.Metrics could include how many people click on your Facebook ad, how many convert to your offer, how many people you have in your database, how many are active, and how many respond to your calls-to-action.
  • Earned media: It makes me nuts when I see search experts sending pitch emails to generate links to their websites. They are not media relations experts, yet they’re coming into our world by the droves because it’s effective.Metrics might include media, blogger, and influencer scoring, web performance, new audiences, and most certainly the number of people who visit your website after a story runs.
  • Shared media: Let’s do away with the digital department and integrate social media across the entire organization.When PR is responsible for a part of social media, metrics might include conversions on social media ads, qualified leads from influencers and brand ambassadors, rating system, discount codes, unique URLs, or coupons.
  • Owned media: There is no better discipline to own owned media (content marketing) than communications. We are writers. We are natural storytellers. And most of us have a passion toward this tactic.Metrics might include website visitors, time spent on site, page views, and bounce rate, click-through rates on emails, clicks on calls-to-action, social media shares, size and engagement of the community, and sales.

Questions to Ask Yourself While Building Your Model

When the PESO model is implemented, the tools you use to build the program will allow you to track effectiveness all the way to sales.

Start with how many people visit the website after you run a campaign and watch to see what those people do.

  • Do they visit multiple pages?
  • Do they contact you or download a larger piece of content?
  • Do they follow your marketing funnel and add themselves to your email list?
  • Once you have their email address, are they engaged with you?
  • Do they click through and access more content? Do they share it?
  • Do they ask for and watch a demo?
  • Do they take a free trial?
  • From there, do they become customers?

PR Measurement with a Communications Stack

You need a communications software stack to manage this kind of PR measurement. That stack should include:

You can certainly manage PR measurement through free tools, but you may spend more in your time manually inputting everything than it would cost to buy software to do it automatically. Do the cost/benefit analysis, and you’ll likely find it’s far more cost-efficient to buy the software.

Start today with a benchmark and then track every 30 days. I’m willing to bet you have something significant to show your boss or client by year’s end. Create a goal for yourself to get them to agree that media impressions and advertising equivalencies are antiquated. If you show some of the results discussed above, you’ll reach that goal. And the PR industry will begin to move toward a universal way of proving our effectiveness.

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