For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the way we, as an industry, report on our PR activities. Why is it that when working with smaller businesses, the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) still tends to show up as a valid measurement? And if not by AVE’s, how can we accurately measure our activity in a way that reflects its impact in a better, more cohesive way?

To find out, I signed up to attend the PR Analytics Conference in Manchester. Upon arrival and receiving the agenda, I knew it would be an insightful day:

With a room full of PR professionals, I was curious to find out how they measure their PR efforts, and whether they could point me to a different direction and approach. And I was not disappointed!

The day was a mix of presentations and panel debates from a range of speakers: from in-house PR teams at The Met Office and Kellogg’s to massive agency CEO’s (Lewis, if you were wondering).

The first shock came from a couple statistics: one, that PR has changed more over the past ten years than the previous fifty (with the rise of social media, this was to be expected, but was still a shocking number!) and two, that only 20% of PR professionals still use AVE’s as valid measurement tools.

So, why has the remaining 80% steered away, and what are they using instead? As said by one of the speakers, advertisers don’t use PR equivalents to measure their results – so why should we use their equivalents? AVE’s simply don’t reflect the abundance of PR opportunities and reach available in today’s world of the omnipotence of media.

But there are tools we can use to leverage what we do and translate it to the client in an easy to understand and powerful way. One of such tools is the AMEC framework. By filling out boxes on the interactive tool, we can specify campaign objectives, inputs and activities, and then measure outputs, out-takes, outcomes and the organisational impact against them. I have already tried applying this tool for a new client, and must say it really streamlines the process!

Moreover, I will be reviewing the way we report to our existing clients as well. On the day, there was a lot of discussion on how to explain to the clients themselves that AVE’s are not the best reflection of what we do for them. I believe that by making better use of data, which was elaborated on in quite a lot of detail as well, we can get a lot more out of PR.

For example, when running a campaign and securing a piece of editorial in an online publication, instead of relying on AVE’s, it’s a good idea to dig into the data behind it – how many clicks through to the client’s website did the piece get? Were there more clicks than usual? More enquiries? It all lies in the data!

By utilising a new approach, and focusing on who, what, when, why and how we want to reach, we can pinpoint exactly what the expected results are – and therefore demonstrate our worth to the clients by showing them exactly how much they have benefited from working with us. As mentioned on the day, if you want to sit at the big boys’ table, you need to speak their language! So instead of saying “you will get this much in AVE’s”, let’s start saying “you’ll get 20 new leads a month” or “you will grow your brand awareness by 20%”.

In order to do so, I intend to start following the Lewis campaign planning wheel (which was designed to help you focus your efforts and streamline the planning process), combined with the AMEC measurement framework. Look out for a case study on how it went!

P.S. For those who want to learn more about why AVE’s aren’t the best way to measure PR activity, head over to AMEC’s 22 reasons to say no to AVEs.