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The results of strategic public relations in any industry are something that can be felt across every department.
However, accurately measuring these results has proven challenging. This means that, typically, PR is first on the chopping block for potential budget cuts.
To measure results, PR relies on more than just media mentions. Today’s PR industry still leans on KPIs such as share of voice, engagement, reach and impressions to report results.
The problem is that communications and marketing department heads have trouble allocating adequate budgets to PR departments without comparable metrics. This often leaves PR with lesser budgets because C-suite executives look for big numbers and clear ROI to justify PR budgets.
The International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO) recently published its “Measuring and Reporting Effectiveness in Communications” World Report, an annual report outlining the trends that communications professionals need to know. It contains a number of different case studies that provide real-world examples of how businesses can measure the success of their public relations.
C-Suites expect $ ROI from PR
Information from the ICCO World PR Report shows that 52% of public relations professionals and agencies still use the Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). This figure is often calculated by measuring the size of the media placement and comparing it to the amount it would cost as paid advertising.
Paid advertising uses the metric cost per 1000 Impressions (CPM) as a formula to calculate the efficiency of a business’s ad spend. This can also be applied to owned content. While a valuable metric, the CPM leaves room for error with earned media. Traffic figures in PR reporting do not provide enough holistic insights into the coverage or comparable data to justify department budget allocations.
CPM also does not factor in the agency costs and fees for acquiring the coverage.
Still, well-known PR monitoring and measurement platforms including Cision and Meltwater continue to use automated AVE in PR reporting because clients continue to expect these metrics.
Better PR measurments
Despite the continued use of AVE in PR reporting, it is widely considered an “invalid metric.” According to ICCO, clients are increasingly requesting more varied measurement methods, such as engagement metrics and sentiment metrics.
Not all PR advocates are behind this traditional reporting model. Organizations such as the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) and reporting platform CoverageBook are pushing to eliminate the use of AVE in PR reporting in exchange for more realistic and comparative data.
“A shocking 52% of ICCO’s survey respondents state that they use AVE as a metric, despite all the education work that has been done in the industry … to eradicate its use,” said Richard Bagnall, CEO, Europe and the Americas at Carma and chairman of AMEC.
“Since 2010’s Barcelona Principles, AVE has been globally acknowledged as an ‘invalid metric’ that is not worth the paper it is written on. For a sector that knows how important ethical behavior is, its continued widespread use in PR agencies is simply not good enough,” Bagnall said.
Why Estimated Coverage Views is a better alternative
While AVE is still very much in use, alternatives to this reporting style are now available. The ICCO Report showed a 24% growth in social media and community management over the next five years, compared to its 16% industry growth in the last year. Influencer marketing is expected to be the second-largest growth area at 26% over the next five years.
These numbers show us new areas to leverage for PR efforts and reporting. Unfortunately, actual impressions and social post view data are only available to the account holder, while some platforms only provide insights to business accounts — making it difficult for PR practitioners to gain from influencers.
PR reporting tool CoverageBook understood the opportunity for leveraging Estimated Views through social and traditional media engagement metrics for PR reporting, an industry first.
Building on the work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research, CoverageBook created an algorithm that predicts the likely number of views a social media post will get in its lifetime. Estimated coverage views can be used as a proxy for impressions, a key metric in owned content and paid social reporting.
A new era of reporting PR results
The ICCO World Report shows a shift in the growth and impact of public relations and other areas of communications and marketing. This same shift may be the catalyst PR needs to access clearer data and metrics. The traditional ways of measuring PR results using the same formulas used in advertising and digital marketing no longer serve PR departments or agencies.
As PR continues to move towards more AMEC-approved forms of measurement and evaluation, accurate reporting based on figures that use Estimated Views allows PR to stand up to marketing and advertisements analysis – while justifying budgets and fees.
Most importantly, better PR reporting leads to better business health overall. Not only is the data extremely valuable to businesses, but the insights that come through that data can improve strategy across different verticals.
Sarah Evans, the founder of Sevans Strategy, is a digital strategist and brand correspondent, who works with companies worldwide to create and improve their social and digital strategies, advising on branding, marketing, advertising and PR. Additionally, Sarah is a digital correspondent for several companies including Paypal, Cox Communications, MGM International, Walmart, Shorty Awards and more. Previously, Sarah worked with a Las Vegas crisis center to raise more than $161,000 in three weeks exclusively via social media, and is honored to be a member of the Guinness-World-Record-holding #beatcancer team.