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Why ave bashing is the wrong direction for the measurement debate

11th February 2016


The public relations sector again seems to be tying itself in knots and encouraging insecurities about its measurement proposition. Recently, Meltwater published a poor and not often-read white paper on measurement.

Frankly, nobody had noticed this white paper until PRCA and AMEC responded to it in pretty inflammatory terms.

I guess PRCA and AMEC probably have no choice but to put out a statement, although in doing so it has meant that the measurement of PR debate is again swept back into the false context of AVEs.

This is unfortunate because the measurement debate needs to move on urgently without getting side-tracked into a negative and increasing pointless “AVEs are bad” chat.

PR is becoming paranoid about measurement.

For me, the PR measurement debate is actually a simple one. Ideally, public relations should be measured from the perspective of its outputs and its outcomes.

 But there are two buts:

1.     Integration means that it is increasingly difficult, in a cost-effective manner, to isolate the impact of PR, versus advertising, versus direct mail, etc.

2.     Make no mistake about it, most outcome measurement is difficult. And it can be expensive. So when planning your campaigns think about outcome measurement, and if it can be done, great. However, you may find that output key performance indicators (KPIs) are easier/more cost effective than outcome KPIs.

I don't find the Barcelona Principles or the Barcelona Principles 2.0 particularly helpful; for me they are a baby step which we should probably all be beyond by now. But AMEC has created some excellent framework documents that depending on the type of objectives for your public relations, outline the relevant KPIs that you should think about using.

AMEC's PR measurement framework documents

If you are going to print out one document to stick on your office wall that will help you with your PR measurement then this is a great PDF showing you the KPIs for various types of public relations work. You can use this as a tool to work out the measurement KPIs that are most relevant to you.

And here is the microsite for AMEC's social media measurement best practice guide, this include a video that explains how the two frameworks work.

These framework documents are chronically underused within the PR sector right now.

The SilverBullet

Make no mistake about it, and this is where I get frustrated, every PR campaign will have different objectives, so therefore a silver-bullet, one-measurement criteria will not happen. It is a theoretical impossibility. So we need to stop looking for this magic alternative to the AVE, it does not exist, and as a profession we look naive if we continue to look for it.


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