PR can’t be measured? You need a new agency

How do you judge the effectiveness of your company’s public relations effort? In terms of column inches, headlines grabbed, or social sentiment? The way in which this area of marketing works has changed and finally, like we’ve been saying should happen for years, so too are the methods of measuring success therein.

Not to blow our own Smoking Gun, mind. But still, the team mantra has always been that traditional methods of gauging PR worth are meaningless. AVE, advertising value equivalent, being the all-too-complicated gauge that looks at the physical size of an article, compared with the same sized ad. The price is matched, then multiplied by a variable figure, designed to represent the influence editorial mentions have compared with commercials. The final number ‘informs’ businesses whether they are receiving their money’s worth.

Simple? Well, obviously not. And what does an AVE figure actually mean in terms of business outcomes or reputation? It’s safe to assume plenty of clients will have been short changed in the past then, or blinded with irrelevant figures. With this in mind, I was understandably delighted to hear that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has decided to ban entries using AVE as a measurement for success from its 2013 awards.

And that’s not just because it falls in line with my personal beliefs about the non-pertinence of this analytical tool. In 2012 there was no reason to assess the impact of a PR campaign in this way, so clearly next year it will be even more out of touch. Not least when there are so many alternatives that provide far more proficient, statistical evidence to prove a project worked, or fell on deaf ears. Facebook, for example, can feed back a multitude of facts and stats about who engages with your brand, and that’s just for starters.

Google recently changed its own Analytics platform to also offer users a truly comprehensive method of assessing public interest. The all new Measurement Protocol is rather revelatory for anyone interested in this side of business, as it allows company data from anywhere to be added to the Analytics account, giving firms a huge insight into every aspect of their brand that interacts with the public. In short, it’s one big step forward when it comes to evidence based results, a notion that lies at the heart of what we do here everyday.

At Smoking Gun our vision is to be the most effective PR agency in the UK, meaning relevant and proficient measurement is crucial to both our success and that of our clients. Feel free to give me a call to pick up some tips on effective methods of measurement for your communications campaigns.