According to David Ogilvy, the renowned Advertising Guru, news stories are six times more effective than Advertising but his claim was never proven statistically.  It is not that straight-forward: measurement of PR effectiveness cannot be simplified in this generalised manner.

The challenge with measuring the effectiveness of media coverage is that the coverage itself is not the end result – it is only a means of reaching your target audience. Nonetheless, we cannot determine how many of the target audience may have read, heard or seen the coverage of each news story unless we engage in detailed and expensive market research.

The desired outcome – as a result of the media coverage – is the changed behaviour of individuals. However, it is complicated to separate the media coverage as a cause for changed behaviour because any PR activity does not happen in isolation. A PR activity is usually part of an overall communication campaign that also involves other methods of communication such as Advertising, social media, on-line marketing or promotion. The audience response has to be measured in other ways – through other social research methods such as audience surveys, communication audits and through quantitative means such as sales and event attendance.

In their quest to validate PR spending some practitioners have applied multipliers to the size of news coverage ranging from 1.5 to 6 (to represent the number of people purportedly reading the publication),  taking into account the assumption that news or PR messages are more credible than Advertising messages and are therefore more persuasive. This is referred to as the ‘PR value’. This multiplier concept is flawed even further because the allocation of a multiplier to the use or value of each news item is quite subjective. The same multiplier cannot be used for every news item as each media channel has a different audience reach.

Experienced PR practitioners know that major news stories are written in distinctly different ways to address the diverse audience reach and needs. We call this being strategic. Even if numerous articles may be written about an organisation or a product, each article will be different – with distinct length, content, emphasis, timing and context, according to target audience reach and needs. As such, it is impracticable that the value of a diverse range of messages delivered by news coverage about an organisation or product can be compared with that of Advertising.

Media measurement is a strategic tool to assess PR activity – what worked best in obtaining media coverage, whether to utilise a news release, one-on-one interview, media briefing, media conference or pitching the news to editors through e-mail. It can also indicate where the most extensive coverage was obtained, geographically and how favourable the coverage was in each media channel of each area. The measurement can also point to how prominent the news was displayed – lead story or buried at the end, and how your planned messages compared with those that actually appeared in the news story.

At Samanea PR, we have our own methodology to measure media and PR effectiveness that works for us and our clients. For us, AVE is not the way to go.

For more information on AVEs, please visit http://www.instituteforpr.com.

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