What’s the principal purpose of measuring PR campaigns? Well, it’s not actually to prove to buyers (employers or clients) using honest measures that you’re doing a good job – though that a secondary reason for doing it. It is actually help people running PR campaigns to continually improve what they are doing.
If a PR practitioner – as a result of measurement – knows that nothing happened as a result of appearing in various titles, or running a Facebook campaign, he can move resources to those activities that are helping to influence the right people.
Depressingly, it seems, part of the PR industry has a third objective for measurement, which is to present clients with an entirely bogus measure of PR, in order to keep their jobs.
Tom Watson, professor of public relations at Bournemouth University, has surveyed students who went on a placement year in the PR industry. And it seems that 43.2% of placement organisations used the unethical measurement system known as Advertising Value Equivalency. It is unethical because its entire basis is inflated.
Of course, a failing head of PR can come across well by presenting the chief executive with a figure for Advertising Value Equivalency. It can make the PR department look like it is delivering excellent value for money, when in fact it’s squandering money on unfocussed and irrelevant activities.
Prof Watson is right to highlight that “AMEC members, who wrote and adopted the Barcelona Principles which barred use of AVE, are leading the way in its continued usage.”
Richard Bagnall, founder of Metrica, counters that: “The issue we have with the suppliers is that they all feel that there is still a market demand for AVEs and as they are commercial organisations they would therefore be crazy not to provide it. If one of the big suppliers stopped providing them and the others didn’t, then that company (they would argue) would be at a significant disadvantage.”
Actually, I think vendors of measurement software could learn something from CVS Pharmacy. It was always absurd that a company that was in the healthcare industry was selling cigarettes. Its announcement that it would, on its own, cease to sell cigarettes did their brand fantastic good. The publicity was significant and created a halo around the brand. A measurement company that took industry leadership and simply said that it is wrong to facilitate such ridiculous and unethical measures would, in my view, do very well.
After all, who’s going to say, “Oh, we’re retendering our measurement because X won’t let us fake our figures”?