The AVE Debate

AVE Debate: The Sequel

Well, my recent blog on AVE and the Meltwater report by Robert Wynne has certainly stirred up a debate.

Robert got in touch with me to clarify the point about the use of a 5x multiplier as a means of calculating the value of PR coverage.  This figure is based on a study carried out by the Los Angeles Times which, I have to admit, adds weight to his original argument, certainly in the context of consumer and corporate PR.

Separately, Paul Paarlberg, Editor of the Measurement Standard took issue with what I’d written.  He was somewhat more forthright in his views.  You can read his comments here and judge for yourself.

Clearly, I’ve strayed into contentious territory.  Yet this need not be the case.

As I stated in my original post, AVE is far from perfect.  Indeed, in sectors such as B2C, where it’s possible to apply more sophisticated methods of measuring the results of PR activities, AVE has arguably had its day.

However, in the specialised segment of the B2B sector in which 4CM and its clients operate, where it’s impossible to monitor factors such as sentiment and tone of voice, AVE continues to have a role to play.

The important point is that it should be understood for what it is: simply a measure of the approximate value of earned media coverage, based on the cost of the space had it been purchased as advertising.  You can then choose to apply a multiplier to the figures, depending on how you value the influence of earned verses paid media space; our view is that no multiplier is necessary, simply because the level and quality of coverage we regularly achieve for clients provides excellent value in its own right.

Just as importantly, AVE cannot be used on its own; it has to be applied intelligently alongside other forms of measurement, such as statistics from digital and online channels, leads generated, changes in customer behaviour and levels of awareness plus, of course, business generated.  Taking the resulting data collectively, in conjunction with empirical evidence (e.g. customer and sales team feedback) it is then possible to build a clear picture of the overall impact and worth of any PR activities, and to make better informed business decisions.

Ultimately, what we should be measuring is outcomes, as advocated by the Barcelona Principles. Robert Wynne has written an interesting column for Forbes about these principles, which I think is worth reading, as it makes the point that although the Barcelona Principles provide an excellent framework for a measurement methodology, and should be widely applied, there is no shame in including AVE as a tool alongside other techniques.

Which is where, I think, we came in!

To read more download our overview of PR analytics, from consultant Tim Williams.

Nick Brooks

Nick is the founder and Managing Director of 4CM Ltd with over 35 years experience in developing powerful and cost effective marketing, media and communications programmes.