Monday, March 19, 2007

Let's talk about evaluation

“How to Measure PR’s Contribution to Corporate Objectives,” Presented by Donna Coletti, Texas Instruments

How do you determine the best measurement techniques for your specific campaign or objectives?

Coletti gives a few tips for how to determine which measurement technique is best. The first of these is matching the proposed measurement technique to the available resources (i.e., how much money you have to spend, how many people you can devote, etc.). This step, I believe, needs to be done before implementation of strategies and tactics. Evaluation should be figured into the budget, or else you might find yourself without the needed money to adequately conduct evaluation.

Second, measurement and evaluation does not necessarily have to be expensive. For example, small surveys or quantitative tracking of messages can be done for little or no money and with limited staff.

Finally, when trying to determine the best measurement techniques, you need to find something that will be important to management. You can have amazing success in evaluation, but if your evaluation doesn’t highlight something important to management, then your efforts are lost. The quote Coletti gives in this presentation sums this all up: “Providing Value Add to management will help build a case for a measurement and evaluation budget.”

“Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE),” Jeffries-Fox, Bruce. Institute for Public Relations, 2003

Is Advertising Value Equivalency really a viable way to measure media relations efforts?

Simply stated, Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is a measurement effort to compare the effect of media relations efforts to the dollars spent on traditional advertising. This is done by “measuring the column inches (in the case of print), or seconds (in the case of broadcast media) and multiplying these figures by the respective medium’s advertising rates (per inch or per second). The resulting number is what it would have cost to place an advertisement of that size in the medium” (2).

I tend to view AVEs as being an unreliable way to measure media relations efforts. It just seems too quantifiable for me liking. My personal views aside, the author of this paper does cite some substantial problems in regards to AVEs.

First, there is no factual basis for assuming that a particular news story has the same (or greater) effect on an audience than an advertisement would. Like advertising, we cannot guarantee that people will see a media placement, much less act the way we desire them to simply because of the placement.

A second problem is that AVEs “only value what actually appears in the media” (3). As the author points out, there are many times when an organization would not want publicity. In cases such as these, AVEs do not provide an accurate measurement.

Third, an advertiser can run the same ad a number of times to persuade its audiences. News doesn’t work this way. The same story is not repeated verbatim. It may be told again with a slightly different take, but it is still different. Therefore, AVEs cannot be used here to effectively measure the effect of media hits.

There are other problems with AVEs, but these I’ve listed are enough for me to do some serious thinking before I employ AVEs in my measurement techniques.

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