Things AVE to change

The Middle East PR industry is lagging behind the global market in terms of implementing new forms of PR measurement and it’s time things change, says Nicola Gregson, Managing Director at Ketchum Raad.

Crisis management is time consuming and staff intensive, yet the AVE value that would be attributed to this effort would be zero

“PR is constantly evolving yet one of my main areas of concern for the Middle East PR industry is the slow uptake on new methods of PR measurement. The vast majority of the global PR community is unified in the belief that the old-fashioned Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs) are an outdated form of PR measurement and do not offer the true value of PR achieved. While a number of the large Middle Eastern agencies have already implemented new measurement initiatives, based on clear goals and objectives, there still remain many who haven’t.

During a PR summit held in Barcelona In 2010, more than 250 high-ranking PR professionals gathered to agree on a new modern approach to PR measurement. It was unanimously agreed that the old AVE method was no longer effective in today’s market. It was here that ‘The Barcelona Principles’ were born, offering new ways to identify, capture and measure the impact of a PR campaign.

Some may ask why AVEs are no longer viable and my response is this – PR does not just equate to writing press releases and securing media coverage… there is considerably more depth to a PR campaign than this. AVEs by far undervalue the true worth of PR, and do not fairly represent the volume of work or the strategy a PR team have implemented.

For example, how is crisis management measured with AVE figures? Built on the foundation that coverage equals worth, the AVE method does not account for coverage the agency has deliberately battled to keep out of the media. Crisis management is both time consuming and staff intensive, yet the AVE value that would be attributed to this effort would be zero.

Similarly, a PR agency could secure a front-page newspaper feature for its client, which offers a glowing report on the brand that leads to a huge increase in sales. Take the same publication and size of feature but imagine the coverage had been less persuasive and led to fewer or no sales at all. The AVE would remain the same, yet the true value offered by the PR agency would differ greatly.

With AVEs, how do you account for the quality of titles, the share of voice compared to competitors, the ratio of English language coverage to Arabic coverage? It should be considered it’s not always the size of the coverage book that matters, it’s the quality of the work achieved based on each company’s goals.

I’m not suggesting that PR agencies should rip up the rulebook completely. After all, AVE values have been used for many years and are still useful to present to the client, even if the figures don’t represent the full extent of an agencies work. The AVE value of a PR campaign should simply form a small part of the jigsaw, and should be submitted along with the list of achievements.

So what is the solution? I believe the answer is clear. You set clear, concise and measurable goals, which offer set objectives that are achievable. We need to adopt and contribute to international best practice, moving away from simplistic measurement tools like AVEs to look at real business performance metrics.”


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