Measuring Public Relations

by Roger Pynn
It comes up all the time, but since I’ve been asked three times in the last two weeks “what metrics can be used to measure PR,” it seems worth writing about here on “Taking Aim” where we talk about targeted communications.
Both times the questions came from prospective clients who understandably wanted to know how to measure the effectiveness of what we do … and all three of them wanted, among other things, to have their name in the news.
Many in our business continue to be tempted to calculate what has been called Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) … a calculation of what it would cost to buy the same amount of space or time generated in media through publicity efforts.
And so I said, the whole concept of seeking coverage in the news media is that you can’t buy that space or time. A cynic once said “news is what fills the space between the ads,” but in reality it started out the other way around. When newspapers were first printed, ads were what filled the space when they ran out of things to write about.
We’re not a publicity firm, per se, although we generate a lot of publicity for our clients. We go after coverage that can’t be bought. Everything else is an ad … whether it is labeled an advertorial, special advertising section or some other euphemism that indicates that someone paid the publisher to convey their message.
It can’t be bought. That’s why you covet it. Combine that with collateral distribution of the messages through direct mail, e-mail, social media and a variety of other usually far more effective strategies and the value of public relations speaks for itself.

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