AVEs, Megafonzies and other silliness

If a measurement is silly nonsense, it should at least be funny silly nonsense.

Consider the Megafonzie, the Beard Second (the distance that the average beard hair grows in one second), or my personal favourite, the Banana Equivalent Dose (did you know, to receive the amount of radiation Japan’s Fukushima disaster leaked, you’d have to eat 76 million bananas).

AVE sadly lacks any comedic merit. And yet it persists – the cockroach of the PR industry, which according to PRCA (Europe’s largest communications membership body) director general Francis Ingham “measure absolutely nothing other than the vanity of those reporting them”.

If you’re not familiar with AVE (Advertising Value Equivalency, or ASR, Advertising Space Rates), they are an attempt to calculate ‘the value of an article’ by measuring the column centimetres (print) or cost per thousand (broadcast and online) and multiplying these by the advertising rates of the media outlet it appeared in.

Ketchum Global Research & Analytics note in their excellent white paper:

…In 2010, PR practitioners from 33 countries gathered in Barcelona and agreed on seven principles of measurement, including the abolishment of the use of AVEs.

Yet, AVEs are still used in PR reporting; the educational process, for both agencies and clients, is a journey still being travelled. AVEs effectively ‘dumb down’ measurement and give an inaccurate value for PR that could be just as easily guessed.

Why are AVEs a bad measurement?
  • AVE takes no account of credibility differences between editorial and advertising.
  • AVE takes no account of the quality of coverage as in its tone or key message. Unfavourable PR coverage typically does not discount AVE, nor does neutral coverage get rated as zero AVE.
  • There is no rigorous proof that the space occupied x the ad rate of an article equates to any metric reflecting influence on a target audience.
  • Advertising is a controlled message. PR is not. In PR, the content of the article is critical to analysis of its value.
  • AVE cannot measure social media forms, such as blogs or tweets.

(Source: Precise Value)

So what should you do instead?

Metrics need to integrate into business strategy.

Start with what your organisation needs to achieve to succeed and then consider how media coverage can positively contribute to that success.

What makes sense for you to measure will likely be different than for other organisations. Then [shameless plug] look for tools that help you to measure the things that are truly important to your business [Here’s a little more about how Fuseworks helps organisations create bespoke measurement frameworks].

What sort of things might make sense to measure?
  • Volume of mentions – since brand awareness is strongly correlated with a number of common organisation objectives.
  • Tone/Quality – is the mention helpful/favourable to your organisation’s objectives?
  • Key message – how closely does this align with your organisation’s messaging?
  • Media importance – does the mention reach stakeholders you care about?
  • Mention importance – is what you’re tracking a passing mention, or the main focus of the story?

Want to dig in further? Check out the Barcelona Principles from the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication.

Ready for something lighter? Check out more strange units of measurement (did we mention The Sydharb?)