When I started out as a junior consultant at a PR agency my first assignment was to compile a media evaluation. It was a huge task and it wasn’t until the end I found out it was one of the biggest campaigns ever created by the agency. The campaign went on to win numerous trade awards. However, even as a very green and inexperienced beginner I had a hard time accepting the use of AVEs as a measuring standard. What does it really tell us? Advertising Value Equivalency is the most common way to measure the success or failure of a public relations campaign, but to be frank it really has nothing to do with PR. Sure AVE measures output, how much attention the campaign got, but what about outcome? Using AVE as a measurement you still know nothing about how the receiver interpreted the information communicated, or even if they received it.
The biggest current issue plaguing the PR industry is measurement, or the lack thereof. Constantly competing with marketing about the communications budget, public relations has a disadvantage in the fact that its function it so much harder to budget. The answer to that has so far been AVEs. It is sad since what it does is to reduce PR to a media management function, when really it could and should be so much more. At its best, PR can be a money saving function through effective issues and crisis management for example. However, how do you measure money that you never spent?
Continuing to measure PR in AVEs will inevitably keep PR tied down as a media relations function, when to be effective it has to reach management level. PR professionals need to become aware of the situation if they do not want to lose their jobs to the marketing department. PR efforts has to start being measured through for example SMART-objectives, which instantaneously will have PR lifted to management level. Paul Noble (http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/evaluating-public-relations) has written extensively on the subject of PR and evaluation techniques. Objectives has to be clear, measurable, include outputs as well as outcomes and align with the overall corporate strategy. If PR practitioners start thinking SMART, AVEs will soon be a thing of the past and the profession will gain its well earned place in management where it belongs.