In public relations (PR), there’s one thing I come across again and again, among my students and fellow PR professionals – they don’t understand how to demonstrate the value of their work.
It’s bonkers. In Agencyland, clients are being charged all the £Ks, yet the actual results get blown out of proportion and lost in account management BS, smoke and mirrors.
AVE is a swear word, as far as I’m concerned. Advertising Value Equivalent is the act of taking a piece of media coverage and estimating what it would have cost to place that as an advert in said publication.
There are many flaws. There’s no way of applying AVE to, say, BBC coverage. Those who practice it are left scrabbling around for rate cards and fudging together figures to create some ludicrously over-inflated £figure with multiple 00s.
And in an age where media relations is no longer the main activity of a PR professional, we have to do MORE.
Here are 6 ways to evaluate PR like a boss:
1. Be SMART
Start at the beginning. It’s actually pretty hard to evaluate PR activity by backfilling. Set campaign or communications objectives at the outset – and make them SMART.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
2. Get aligned
Align your objectives with what the business, brand or organisation wants to achieve. For example – one of my clients needs to complete 200 business assists over the next two years. The start of that process is to fill out an online Expression of Interest. So our communications objective is to get 500 businesses heading to the EOI page and filling one out. Simples. I’m now gearing all the activity around this simple goal.
3. Focus on outcomes
Focus on outcomes, not just outputs. Media coverage is great, but what does it achieve? You can evaluate the reach of coverage – e.g. how many people might have seen it, but what has that done? Does it drive sales? Does it fill hotel beds? Does it lead someone towards a positive vote? Does it get the audience engaged towards positive action?
4. Evaluate effectively
That said, evaluating your media coverage as it appears is still helpful. But think qualitative and quantitative. Measuring column inches is one thing, but does the coverage represent the brand positively? You could use content analysis to check if the coverage hits the key messages you need to convey.
5. Use the PESO model
Get integrated. Gone are the days when brands have all their niche specialists sat around a table. PR professionals deserve a piece of the social pie, with a hefty side portion of content marketing. I am obsessed with the PESO model – Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (I know I’m not alone).
6. Honesty is the best policy
Be honest – did your activity meet the objectives? Not all campaigns do.
For example, a charity client may need to commission a campaign with the main goal of attracting 25 new volunteers. The campaign may have only attracted five, but it may have been successful in other ways and can pave the way for recommendations on future activity.
But honesty is always key when evaluating your PR and when communicating with your clients.
Still not sure how to evaluate your PR? Give me a shout and we can thrash it out over coffee.