I was asked to respond to this query from the PRMindshare Group Yahoo group. Never mind that this is a perfect illustration of why social networking is such a great way to exchange information.. it was such a sad comment on our industry, I had to post about it
Here was the question in its entirety:
As I've discussed before when the topic of ad equivalency has been brought up, I have to track ad equivalency. My adminstration understands dollars therefore any attempts to do away with ad equivalency in the past four years have been met with a resounding NO.
I'm fortunate that in my job I rarely have to deal with negative coverage, but for the second time in the past four years I'm now forced to deal with it. We've had a situation occur that has brought negative attention to the organization. The situation has been covered by some newspapers. I feel that ethically I must include the coverage, even if it is negative in my quarterly report. I also feel that I must assign it the ad equivalency because every other clip is assigned the ad equivalency.
What I'm faced with is knowing that when my associate v.p. is handedthe report he will demand that I erase this coverage from my report.I know I will be asked to do this because he asked me to do it in myfirst six months on the job when a negative story came out. When I refused that first time I was told I may leave the clips in the report but must subtract out the dollar amounts. For example, if my total for the quarter was $200,000 in ad equivalency and this one particular negative story was worth $2,000 in ad equivalency, my report had to reflect $198,000 in ad equivalency. Is subtracting out the dollar amount of the negative coverage really the answer? Your guidance in this matter is appreciated.
SO many issues here it's hard to know where to begin. First of all, if the CFO of your organization went into the Director or the Board or the Executive Director or anyone else in charge, with an accounting system based on bad data or worse bad theory, they'd be fired in five minutes. So how does your VP get away with with presenting fraudulent data? Yours is a government organization, and as such, paid for by voters and subject to sunshine laws. I'm not sure about the laws of Arkansas, but in most places knowingly presenting falsified data is illegal.
Finally, even if you could somehow prove, and no one ever has, that an editorial and an ad have identical impact on a readers opinion, how in anyone's mind could a negative story be worth $2000. Would you PAY to place a negative story in a paper? This makes no sense.
If you must compare advertising and PR, look at the cost per message communicated. Look at your coverage and determine what, if any of the coverage contains your key messages. Then add up the circulation figures of ONLY THOSE ARTICLES that contain your key messages and leave the reader more likely to support your position or do business with the company. Divide your PR budget by the total number of opportunities to see your key message and you get a Cost per Opportunity to see a Key Message. You can then take your ad budget, look at how many opportunities to see that you've paid for. Comparing the two numbers gets you to the relative value of PR.
Then, print out those results and take them with you on your next job interview, which I strongly recommend you schedule tomorrow. Working for someone that unethical is not doing your career any good.