30 alternative public relations metrics to AVE
Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) is a lousy form of public relations measurement. In this blog post I’ve set out a list of alternative metrics. Return on investment seeks to link the investment in public relations activity to the outcomes that it generates.
Defining a measurement framework for a campaign is hard. Practitioners use AVE because it’s easy. But it’s also wrong.
The objectives of a public relations campaign should be tied as closely as possible to organisational objectives.
Just as no two organisations are the same, no two objectives can be the same, and no measurement frameworks for a campaign will be the same.
When you’re planning a campaign you should be able to define the outputs of your activity and map these again intermediary and organisational outcomes.
There will be challenges in decoupling the contribution of public relations activity from other activities but it is achievable. My tip would be to focus on your publics and not on the media.
You need to understand the relationship between intermediary outcomes and organisational outcomes, and track both as part of your campaign.
The closer that you can tie the value you deliver to an organisation to the objectives of the organisation the more you'll be valued. The dividend will pay out in budget and salary.
- Article – volume of earned third party branded articles or posts. Link to outcomes, useful for benchmarking against previous campaign.
- Attendance – consumers or citizens attending an event such as a conference, roundtable, or public meetings.
- Branded search – increase in search activity around a brand as a result of public relations activity.
- Conversation – link to an organisational outcome otherwise it’s a vanity metric, like so much of the social media measurement business.
- Download – a form of lead that results from a call to action. Capture data for ongoing engagement or remarketing.
- Dwell time – time spent on a web page. Useful to distinguish between raw traffic and whether a visitor has read the content on the page.
- Email click through – used to determine whether an email recipient has received and acted upon a call to action.
- Followers – building an audience or public as part of a branded community. Rate of growth is also a useful indicator.
- Hits or views – an indicator of a visit to a web page but beware of fake or irrelevant traffic. Use in conjunction with dwell time as an indicator of actual engagement.
- In-bound links – quality and volume of inbound links to a predefined URL. Relate to traffic. Frequently used in search campaigns.
- Like - this is frequently a vanity metric of social media but useful as an indicator if there’s a correlation to another intermediary or an organisational outcome.
- Referral traffic – traffic from third-party websites, typically used downstream in conjunction with inbound links.
- Reviews – a form of third party validation that is finding its way from the hospitality and travel sectors into other industries.
- Sentiment – good or bad is usually all you need to know unless you working on shifting opinion on an issue over a period of time.
- Share of voice – volume of conversation in social or traditional media for an organisation vs competitive organisation.
- Sharing volume – rate of sharing on social media via different channels. Link channels to behaviour and outcomes.
- Unbranded search – uplift or contribution to search activity around a term as a result of public relations activity.
- Footfall – how many people have travelled or visited a location, frequently used in travel, tourism and hospitality.
- Attitudinal change – a variety of pre and post survey techniques are used to test for change in opinion. Popular in political polling.
- Awareness – engagement of a public that was otherwise unaware of an issue, product or service. Tested via a variety of survey techniques.
- Behavioural change – social economic improvements such as reductions in antisocial behaviour, tested via longitudinal tracking.
- Business process – improvement in productivity, typically due to internal communications, and training.
- Conversions – typically sales, but also applies in other organisational activities, that can be attributed to public relations activity.
- Financial performance – track the role of public relations in supporting a financial metric such as shareprice or valuation.
- Internal – a series of metrics including improved recruitment, retention and productivity, and reduced absence and sickness.
- Recommendation and referral – the basis of Net Promoter, which tests the likelihood of a third party recommendation or referral (see also satisfaction).
- Retention – applies to customers or staff where public relations is focused on relationship management.
- Satisfaction– related to recommendation, used to benchmark the strength of a relationship between a citizen or consumer and an organisation.
- Unique triggers – dedicated coupons, phone numbers, or URLs that test the relationship between activity and outcomes.
- Votes – the harsh reality of political campaigns where the ultimate test of the success of a campaign is in the voting booth.
I’d urge you to check out the following documents and web sites for further information.
- AMEC – the international organisation for media measurement is updating its frameworks for 2016. Watch this space.
- Dictionary of public relations research and measurement, third edition, 2013 – a glossary of measurement terms created by the Institute for Public Relations.
- GCS Measurement Evaluation User Guide - Government Communication Service Guidance including example frameworks.
I shared an early draft of this blog post with my network. Thanks to Caroline Black, Adam Cranfield, Ged Carroll, Katy Howell, Adam Parker, Emma Rodgers, Rafal Salak, Laura Sutherland and Kevin Taylor, who all made really useful contributions.