Until he popped up on cable news this week, suggesting that Haiti's recent disaster was all their fault for "making a pact with the devil," I had assumed that tele-evangelist Pat Robertson was sufficiently irrelevant (and crazy) that he had passed quietly from our lives. But there he was, generating publicity for a suggestion that was so heinous that even conservative talk show hosts repudiated it.
That's kind of how I feel about AVEs. Back in November, I wrote with unbridled exuberance about the fact that IPR's measurement had essentially killed off the AVE, by voting overwhelmingly to reject the theory, concept and practice of calculating PR based on what the equivalent ad space would cost. And now, just when I thought we were safe from this insidious notion, its back, this time disguised as "Weighted Media Costs," and the very IPR that rejected the notion last fall, is now promoting it.
And while media cost weightings may not be as heinous as Pat Robertson, there are at least half a dozen things wrong with this notion.
- Renaming a bad idea seldom make it better. Whether you call it AVEs or WMC, it is still valuing PR for its outputs (i.e. clips and publicity) rather than for the relationships it builds, education or reputation it builds or cost savings it generates.
- It is a metric promoted by and only available from VMS, a commercial supplier of clippings. Our neighbors to the north at CPRS ran into a similar controversy when they launched their MRP system several years ago, but they at least put out an industry-wide RFP for solutions before they crowned News Canada's system as "the standard."
- The paper uses correlations to sales as a way to compare three different ways to "evaluate" PR. Specifically, it factored in the tonality of each article. It then looked at actual story counts, impressions and WMC - refined Story Counts. But for the WMC calculation the researchers determined how much of each story was "owned" by the brand under study. This introduces another factor to the analysis, so I'm not clear as to whether the better results are due to this "owned" factor or to the actual WMC. If I did a similar analysis using what we call dominance/prominence – in other words was the story exclusively about the brand, or was the brand mentioned in passing, or in an equal way with other brands -- as well as where in the story the brand was mentioned – the headline, top 20% of the story or bottom 80% -- wouldn't I get the same results?
- Because a great deal of influence in today's society is generated via Twitter and other on-line media properties not covered by SQUAD, Nielsen or VMS, it gives greater to weight to mediums that are in decline and insufficient weight to media that is on the rise.
- This takes PR in the wrong direction. PRSA recently published a great document entitled 'The Business Case for PR" that shows people how to measure their contribution to the bottom line, Increasingly, smart communicators who want to be accountable are measuring greater efficiency, cost avoidance and actual sales revenue or leads from their efforts. This is essentially says to PR people – hey, keep measuring your activity, that's what people really care about.
- It's a distraction. Do we really need a better way to measure our activity? Shouldn't we be focusing our time effort and attention on better ways of measuring outcomes?