Saying Numbers Out Loud Isn’t PR Measurement

An article about PR measurement and the use of AVES published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend contained quotes just a few PR pros, but shows the vast number of unreliable ways that publicists are calculating the value of PR work.

Max Markson, an Australian publicist representing the kissing couple from the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots (left) estimated the couple’s smooch pic to be worth about $10.5 million in publicity. He told the WSJ that he “pulled the figure out of thin air,” which is both hysterical and really not a good thing.

Front Row Marketing Services calculated $64 million in publicity for American Airlines when it tallied up the value of having the airline’s brand appear on camera repeatedly during the basketball playoffs. According to their calculations, each second the logo appeared was the same as a second of airtime, which doesn’t really make any sense. If you chop up a commercial into one-second bits, each bit means nothing. The value of the ad is the sum of its parts. (Much like a PR campaign, many would argue.)

Last week, Foursquare and Amex made a splash when their partnership (the largest so far for Foursquare) to provide cardholders with discounts for checking in to certain shops and restaurants.

Fast Company also makes the point that the partnership is ready-made for social media monitoring. “Tapping into the Foursquare API through a platform American Express has engineered means that there is now a capability for measuring tangible ROI. No more fuzzy math,” the article says.

That sort of direct connection, even through targeting a small number of influencers, is otherwise hard to measure. At the recent AMEC Measurement Summit in Portugal, PR measurement experts identified four areas of importance for the next nine years or so, with measuring ROI at the top of the list. But the Summit attendees, and many in the comments on that WSJ article, show that many are now already going on record in opposition to AVEs (some have done so for some time). The Barcelona Principles say explicitly, “AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations.”

So even if we have to wait for the details to be hammered out, we know that saying x amount of PR equals y amount of advertising is no longer seen as a best practice. And just picking numbers that sound was never endorsed by anyone.