The Evolution of Metrics

A long time ago in a flackdom not too far away lived a gaggle of PR professionals that were under the impression the only way they could quantify what they did for a living was through an obscure metric known as Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). Since 1949, AVE has been heavily debated — albeit, it’s been used by agencies across the nation — but griped about nonetheless.

Then, some highfalutin flack questioned the ethics of it all because ad numbers tend to be, shall we say, mercurial. That was 2010, and pretty much the end of AVE. However, I am in the minority when I say it will never be completely eradicated. Why? Try telling a small business owner about his exposure and influence among paid, earned and shared media and he or she will point your narrow behind to the door. Show him or her numbers (no matter how obscure they are to define) and you will find a happy client.

Because measurement — to a client, not to an agency — has to be seen, experienced and measured in order to be real. What do you say then? How do you validate your effectiveness then? Let’s discuss ethics and possible solution about this quantifiable evolution after the jump…

If you have a client that refuses to let go of column inches and estimated impressions, you need to begin working in these other metrics among reporting to help ween said client from the teet of yesteryear. However, and here’s a freebie as long as you reference PRNewser or yours truly, think south of the border: PESO. It’s an acronym in this case, not commerce. It stands for the types of media of which we should educate our clients:

  • Paid
  • Earned
  • Shared 
  • Owned

How do you broach the subject? Next time your annual objectives come up in discussion, share the fact that new media has demanded the creation of a new model for measurement. And that while a stretched version of the truth in terms of what you think would happen in Cision had accurate numbers and the sales guy at the local TV station would call you back is crucial, it’s not everything.

  • PAID: The type of content that you will find on third-party channels, such as banner ads, displays online, PPC (pay-per-click) programs, advertorials or even a sponsorship of a local youth event.
  • EARNED: This is your traditional media, the stuff we know and they know. It’s also found on blogs, forums, reviews and other modes that live online for blogger relations to take precedence.
  • SHARED: Think about it. This is the social universe where networks are controlled by UGM (user-generated media) and WOM (word-of-mouth). The awareness of whatever you are shilling depends largely on how well your product or service is shared.
  • OWNED: Simply put, what promotional properties does your client own? A website or a blog? A Facebook fan page or a verified Twitter handle? Whether you got it for free, if you use it frequently for promotion and outreach, it’s owned by you.

Ah, buck up little campers. That acronym is there to help you relate measurement to your clients. Back 15 years or so ago, when metrics was based solely on a human level, AVE served its purpose and we were able to pass along a nice greeting to fascinating numbers and a sweet ROI. Today, things are weird because the metrics are based on a fluid, digital environment we can’t control or use guesstimation for ROI.

Items like reach, engagement, conversion, acquisition  click rates and activity are going to be the measurement of tomorrow, but perhaps we can use a little acronym of today to help bring about the future instead of going back to it and getting run over by a DeLorean? Roads? Where measurement is going we don’t need roads, but you will still get run over if you keep your prehistoric behind in the road.

Just sayin.