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PR deserves a place in the boardroom, AVE does not

By Amanda Powell-Smith

11 February 2016

This week’s united condemnation of Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) as a measure of effectiveness for PR has been great to see. Perhaps this outdated, meaningless metric will finally disappear and we can refocus the debate on PR’s ability to drive real change.

It is extraordinary, in today’s era of integrated communications supported by increasingly accessible social data, that PR measurement continues to be stuck at audience reach. It is also dangerous and anyone who is relying on ‘opportunities to see’ to prove the value of their work is setting themselves up for a fall.

The ability to show the impact an organisation is making is critical for building trust.  This isn’t about the number of people who saw an article, it’s about the change that PR alongside other activity helped to create. It’s about learning what works and what doesn’t, about sharing information and scaling successes, about making a real and meaningful difference. Whether changing behaviour, driving sales or helping to improve individual lives, we need to understand the outcome in relation to the activity undertaken.

There is a seductive simplicity to AVE. It’s not easy and clients often don’t have budgets or timescales to track an activity through to impact, but it is important that we, as PR professionals, are accurate in the role that each of our tactics plays.  Media relations is often the starting point – raising awareness and stimulating a response.  Success must be judged on the engagement media coverage creates, and each subsequent stepping stone to taking action.

Organisational reputation is on every board’s agenda and now more than ever it should be supported by PR-led insights and recommendations.  Unless individuals move beyond the measurement of column inches, they will never get a place at the table.