Gini Dietrich

The Death of AVEs is Imminent—It’s Time to Take Note

By: Gini Dietrich | July 11, 2017 | 
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The Death of AVEs is Imminent—It's Time to Take NoteA few weeks ago, a friend was going through intensive interviews at three agencies, looking for the next step in her career.

While she was mostly enthralled with all three, during the last interview with one (she wouldn’t tell me who—probably because she knew I’d blog about it), they asked her how she measures the work she did.

She went through her description of the PESO model and the metrics she’s used in previous jobs.

When she was finished, the vice president asked her, “But what about media impressions and AVEs?”

She said she sat there, tongue tied, because she wasn’t sure how to respond. She ended up saying, “I believe those are vanity metrics and we do our clients a great disservice by reporting on them.”

During a conversation right after the interview she told me she didn’t think she was going to get a job offer from them because of her response (she didn’t).

Of course, I attempted to talk her off a ledge because, really, who wants to work for an agency where they place importance on these two things as “metrics”?

The Death of AVEs is Imminent

As it turns out, if you live anywhere but the U.S., by this time next year, you will be in trouble for using AVEs as a metric.

Two months ago, AMEC announced they are going to invest “significant time and resource to finally kill off this derided metric.”

In a paper published on the topic, among the requirements of AMEC members includes:

  • All AMEC members to sign an undertaking that they will not provide AVEs by default to any client. Any client that requests AVE as a metric will receive standard educational material explaining why the metric is invalid and should not be used. They will be offered alternative metrics instead.
  • Working with PR Award organizers around the world to introduce a zero-scoring policy if awards entries include AVEs as a metric. AMEC members will not provide an AVE as a metric for any award competition entry.
  • Working closely with academics and PR practitioners to help them help AMEC kill off the demand for the metric which is sustaining it currently.

In direct response to AMEC, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations took it a step further and said any member using AVEs will be banned from the organization.

The new guidelines will be presented to the CIPR Council in September.

Members will have one year to complete a transition to valid metrics.

If, after that time communicators are still found to be using AVEs, they “may be liable to disciplinary action.”

What is Earned Media Value?

All while this is happening, industry vendors, software providers, and agencies have come up with a new metric: Earned media value.

Apparently earned media value is calculated by multiplying the reach of a piece of content by the cost per so-called impression.

Any time we use a flawed metric, such as impressions, we’re already in trouble.

But then a multiplier is added to the calculation, based on the likelihood of conversion.

The good news is we’re thinking about conversions.

The bad news is this is a mutation of AVEs—we’re using a multiplier of reach and impressions versus measuring column inches.

People.

This makes our entire industry look like a bunch of loons.

You know how communications is typically the first to be cut in a down economy?

THIS IS WHY!

All of our marketing brethren have figured out how to measure their efforts to real business results.

And we’re still trying to prove effectiveness by taking reach and impressions and multiplying it by the likelihood of conversion.

Not by actually generating qualified leads, nurturing them, and converting them.

By the likelihood.

The Problem is…

It’s too abstract—and it means nothing.

In a demo with a software vendor a few weeks ago, I asked if they could link to the client’s customer relationship management software.

The sales guy said, “No. We don’t do that because we don’t believe PR should be responsible for sales.”

……………..

……………..

(Still trying to figure out what to say.)

……………..

Because I was still filtering through every statement in my head before speaking, he took my silence as a cue to keep talking.

He said, “We believe in two things: 1) The new earned media value that provides a conversion likelihood; and 2) A metric on share of voice.”

Needless to say, I ended that demo fairly quickly and I won’t be recommending them to anyone.

But therein lies the problem.

If software vendors promise we can track metrics and show real results, and this is what they give us, the industry will not evolve.

PRSA Needs to Take a Stance on AVEs

Back to my friend who was rejected by the global firm because of her stance on AVEs, she was able to find her dream job.

She was able to stand behind her belief that PR can—and should—drive sales.

That media impressions and AVEs are metrics that should never be mentioned in 2017 and beyond.

But her feelings were hurt that she’d fallen in love with that agency, only to discover they’re stuck in 1990.

I’m proud of what CIPR and AMEC are doing to condemn those who are using AVEs.

I hope this agency has an international presence so they are liable to disciplinary action next year.

Now it’s time for PRSA to step up for those of us in the U.S. and require the same.

We cannot—and will not—be taken seriously if we continue to evolve media impressions and AVEs and not measure the things that really matter.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Frosty

    Well said. No more excuses. And while we are at it – the Barcelona principles need to RIP, too. They’re a bit like a MD’s Hippocratic oath. Of course do no harm. Of course PR professionals should measure their value. #PRTech

    • OMG. I also hate the Barcelona Principles, but question my sanity because so many smart people tout them. Thank you for saying that!

  • T60 Productions

    You just gave me a good blog post idea. Thanks! 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

  • Dawn Malloy Buzynski

    Unfortunately I do not think AVEs are going away anytime soon based on the exact situation your friend encountered. Until we get the industry to evolve, it doesn’t matter if we can convince businesses they don’t matter.

    • I would really love PRSA to follow the lead of CIPR and start fining its members if they use AVEs. Of course, probably the only way to moderate that is if someone includes it in an awards entry (and having just judged some entries, it still happens), but it’s a great start.

  • Meredith Blake Amoroso

    Curious – do you have other blog posts or comment on best practices in measuring ROI or proving sales impact from PR? I’m on the corporate side and I ask my agency to provide AVE’s, knowing full-well that it’s as ambiguous of a metric as impressions, so that I have SOME form of value to showcase to my leadership team. We focus a lot of thought leadership PR to begin with, and secondly in my experience its nearly impossible to force publications to use the trackable links we provide them. Moreover, it becomes difficult if not impossible with broadcast coverage. If you’re avidly against AVE’s, what are you pushing instead to showcase value? I think “fining” and “punishing” for AVE use is a bit extreme at this stage since there isn’t a decidedly universal means or process of measuring value. Once that exists, I’m all about organizations working to kill the old methods. But in the meantime, I rely on it to tell a story to my leadership, even if it’s nothing but a benchmark I can measure against over time. Would love to hear more about alternatives and best practices. I’ll scan the site but if you have favorites please share!

    • I’m glad you asked! TONS!

      https://goo.gl/aM6asm

      Also, if your agency isn’t getting links in their earned media, they aren’t trying hard enough. I just had this conversation with a friend the other day. We get links in 98 percent of all of our stories. That said, there are tools, such as AirPR, that can attribute earned media results without a link.

  • Lynn McConaughey

    I am interested what you think about AVE when it relates to clients who don’t sell things, i.e. I work for organizations where my goal is to influence conversations about them and affect biases. I look to AVE for that because it’s a decent measurement of how many “eyes on” they get to read/see their arguments and around how much they would cost.

    • Thanks for asking, Lynn! I think an AVE is not a good measurement for any of us, no matter the goal. It’s not a real number and it degrades the work we do.

      The problem is it’s not a real metric. If an ad were to run in that same spot as the editorial, at the same length, and we paid for it, would it have the same effect?

      Of course not. It doesn’t take into the credibility of the publication, the messages you delivered, or whether or not you truly influenced the bias change.

      And, like media impressions, we really have no idea how many people saw it, read it, and absorbed it. So we can say a full-page ad would have cost $40,000 and that’s the AVE, or we can show how the work we’re doing truly is influencing conversations and bias.

      You absolutely should measure how you’re influencing conversation. You can do that through an increase in online conversations around the topic. You can do that through a shift in mindset, which (if you benchmark now) you can track each month (or quarter).

      Do you have a monitoring service? If not (and you can’t afford one), you can use Google Alerts to hack together a mind shift analysis. Alternatively, you can use Talkwalker Alerts (which I prefer because they flow into Hootsuite and are easier to manage that way). It’s a little tedious, but you can manually track the conversations and figure out where things are shifting.

      Another great way to measure what you’re doing is to track who is visiting your website after a story runs. That’s far more effective and much better data than measuring a story and providing a dollar amount for the same-sized ad.

      • Lynn McConaughey

        Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful attention to this! At the moment, I do track and measure the conversations on key topics, and use Meltwater for the calculations and visualizations. For your info, they calculate AVE with the assumption “2.5% represents the amount of people that have at least seen your mention and that is worth $0.37 cents per view, multiplied by the circulation.” I personally do not love comparing money spent to changing attitudes (or even just informing) and am trying to get clients to understand that AVE is not a tangible metric. I am a proponent of tracking who picked up your message and what they did with it – did they co-opt it and disseminate it elsewhere? As you can probably tell, I’m more in “Strategic Communications” than PR, but I’m enjoying learning the business side of these equations because there are so many more messengers now than when we were doing ‘traditional’ PR.

        I especially like your outline of engaging more with the clients on visits to their websites. Currently, I’m a bit silo’ed in presenting organizations with analysis of their issues as portrayed in the information space, which they then fuse with their own metrics on outputs. I’m going to suggest to my colleagues that we take more data from clients to incorporate into a deeper report.
        I really appreciate this ongoing conversation about metrics!

        • This is one reason Meltwater drives me crazy. Our vendors should be advocates of better measurement, not feeding into the metrics that don’t matter to an organization.

          If you need help gaining the access you need to things like Google Analytics, let me know!

  • Great post, Gini. Thank you for continuing to advocate for better measurement. You’re definitely leading the charge in what the industry could and should be doing. As a software company trying to help automate much of that, we’re committed to helping the industry evolve as well. As an aside, adding features and integrations (like CRM) takes money and time, so it’s a process for sure. (No, it wasn’t us in the story… just an example).

    Truth be told, the market still lags behind. Agencies still tell us they want to measure vanity metrics like impressions and AVEs, because that’s what brands are asking for. We don’t do that, and we won’t do that, because like what influencers such as yourself and Katie Paine, and leading industry organizations like AMEC, Institute for Public Relations and Chartered Institute of Public Relations are striving for, we want to help evolve and improve the industry. Other vendors do not and continue to measure things like AVE – but that’s not a long tail plan.

    PR agencies should be educating brands on metrics that really matter, and elevating their own value by refusing to measure anything else. But alas, that is not often the case.

    Keep up the great work,
    Christine Perkett
    http://www.seedepth.com

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