PR industry must ‘consign AVE to the graveyard’

The mere mention of ad value equivalency (AVE) riled up readers on our sister site, PR Daily. Get up to speed on what the dust-up was all about.


On Monday, we ran a story about ad value equivalency (AVE). The comments to the article speak for themselves, as nearly all of them shredded the piece. In the wake of the article, Shonali Burke, a PR pro and expert in the field of measurement, agreed to write a rebuttal. She addresses and debunks three points from the article and explains why the public relations industry needs to quash (“cremate,” actually) the notion of AVE. – Michael Sebastian, PR Daily editor

I was extremely irritated by a recent piece published here on PR Daily, justifying ad value equivalency (AVE) as a valid public relations metric.

I mean, what the fried fish is PR Daily doing publishing a piece like this?!

I was so irritated that I tweeted publisher Mark Ragan about it … who, to his credit, invited me to write a point-by-point rebuttal post for PR Daily.

If you haven’t already seen it, Chuck Hemann has already done an excellent rebuttal post (so go and read it). And there are some outstanding comments on the original post, notably from Sean Williams and Mark Weiner.

So instead of repeating their arguments, here are a few additional points (quoting from the original post, with my reactions italicized):

1. “Editorial is third-party opinion, so the impact is considered three times that of a paid advertisement.”

How exactly? Because, as implied here, you’re basically counting how many times someone is removed from the “original” opinion, and coming up with an equation for it?

By that equation, my husband’s niece’s boyfriend’s opinion of anything I say is three times as impactful.

2. “Also, if your story appears on the top left side of a page, it is often valued higher, because statistically people tend to read the top left side first and spend more time looking left when paging through a magazine or newspaper.”

Maybe in countries that use left-to-right scripts, though I would love to learn the origin of these so-called statistics. Over and above that, with that statement you just ignored a significant part of the world that reads right-to-left. Oh, and that’s not in English.

3. “… if you’re promoting an evening of events, put more of your budget toward advertising, because the call to action needs to be instantaneous and short-lived.”

Oh dear. I must be doing something very wrong. Because last year, I put together a half-day event for a client that had—gasp!—absolutely no paid advertising. Instead, we promoted it through our blog community and social channels.

Wonder of wonders, it was SRO, and provided immense value to participants as gauged by attendee feedback and requests for future such events. My client was thrilled.

There’s a limit to how much even I can beat up on someone, but I will say this:

As an industry, we need to soundly spank AVE and consign it to the graveyard. Better yet, cremate it, so that its creaky old bones have no chance in Hell (sic) of scurrilously pushing through the daisies, looking for an unsuspecting soul to wriggle into, so that it can unleash its antiquated havoc on 21st century public relations.

In this day and age, it is inexcusable for any public relations practitioner to propound it, and for any publisher to expound it when, in fact, we should all be rebounding from it.

Because, otherwise, it’s just the blind leading the blind.

The real value of public relations—which discipline is much larger than just publicity (and you don’t have to take my word for it, take those of Beth Harte, to name just one titan in our field)—is not the dollar equivalent of the ink it can generate, much as if you were comparison shopping for TP and trying to decide between Cottonelle or Charmin.

The real value of public relations is when we successfully use the multifaceted communication channels available to us—from the media, to blogs, to social networks—to educate and evangelize our audiences and communities (internal as well as external) into taking those actions that have a positive impact on our organizations.

Increased thought leadership. More speaking inquiries. Increased sales. Lower costs. More donors. More volunteers. More newsletter subscribers. More new business leads. Yada yada yada.

All of these are examples of impact that can be measured; impact that can be quantified; impact that tells you you’re telling the right story, to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.

Think AVE can give you that?

Shonali Burke was named to PRWeek’s inaugural top “40 Under 40″ list of US-based PR professionals and is considered one of 25 women that rock social media. In addition to running a successful agency of one, she is the founder of the popular #measurePR Twitter chat and Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communication program. Talk to her on Waxing UnLyrical or Twitter.

Topics: PR

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