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Viewpoints: Ready. Set. NO to AVE’s

While we know instinctively that PR is one of the most cost effective marketing channels, many of us feel that we have lacked the tools to prove it. Quoting PR’s typical 300-800% ROI proven in market mix modelling studies by Procter & Gamble, SAB Miller and others can get your foot in the door at budget time, but isn’t granular enough to defend PR investment when it comes to the first round of budget cuts. As a result, there is now a much greater interest from communications professionals to prove that PR is a low cost revenue generation centre, not simply a cost centre. This has lead to many more requests in the past 12 months to guide our clients to smarter measurement frameworks and business metrics.

In my view, most marketers have a better business impact story to sell than they ever dreamed. The majority just don’t know how to prove it. Yet proving the impact of earned media on business results is their smartest path to secure essential funding. I would estimate a mere 25% of marketers understand this, so there is a clear role for AMEC (the International Association of Measurement & Evaluation of Communication), the only global communications measurement education body, in advancing the AMEC integrated measurement framework, a free online measurement tool found here.

We need more CMOs with confidence in earned media and that requires a simple way of summarising business goals, strategies, earned media touchpoints across the PESO model and capturing their business impact.

Earned media plays a much more critical conversion role than most CMOs realise. Earned media builds confidence and trust through peer-to-peer recommendation and positive impressions. Despite the rush of consumer brands to earn “free” media coverage to extend awareness of their integrated campaigns, it’s even more powerful in B2B where confidence and trust matter more than awareness. Yet, when it comes to measurement, they are slapping coverage with a cost instead of a value. Advertising value equivalents (AVE) are misnamed and confuse ‘cost’ with ‘value’, which are very different things and often bear no relation to each other. Have you ever placed an advert somewhere which cost money but received no response? Where was the value in that?

I recently heard the term earned media value (EMV), pretending to be a modern version of AVE. Frankly, I don’t see this as any more credible or useful than AVE. EMV is attempting to calculate the same thing as AVE now applied to social media cost per thousand (CPM) measures. The bigger problem is that EMV is still counting a cost and distracting marketers from getting any closer to an ROI.

Overall, we need to stop obsessing about coverage volume, cost per click, AVE, EMV or any other vanity metric that makes us feel famous for a week. We must be more focused on setting business objectives and goals upfront, and designing communications work that can be measured in a simple framework against those goals.

Marion McDonald is chief strategy officer, Asia Pacific for Ogilvy Public Relations, a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong.

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