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PR Reporting

Public Relations Measurement – You’re (Probably) Doing it Wrong

July 28, 2014 10:31 AM
AJ Bruno: Founder, President

AJ Bruno: Founder, President

AJ co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s sales operations.


public relations measurementThe title of this blog isn’t meant to be an insult.  It’s more of a commiseration. We feel your pain.  Old best practices for public relations measurement were based on the tools and technologies available at the time.  Although available technologies have evolved, many PR professionals and agencies continue to use approaches that aren’t as effective at understanding the actual success of PR efforts and creating a PR ROI that can be proven. 

If you aren’t using a state-of-the-art public relations measurement solution, you are likely using one of two outmoded methods.

Advertising Value Equivalency

For years, public relations measurement relied on Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE).  AVE is simply the calculation of what your earned media coverage, or editorial coverage, would have cost if it were advertising.  The column inches of each clip are multiplied by the ad rate for that placement.  This approach is appealing because it is simple, it involves math and it equates PR to advertising, a channel that business leaders usually more easily understand.  The bummer is that it just doesn’t work. 

By equating earned media with advertising, the method makes the mistaken assumption that people respond to advertising messages and media mentions in the same way.  The fact is they don’t.  According to Neilson, “92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media … above all other forms of advertising.” That means that conflating earned media and advertising can significantly underestimate the impact of your PR.

On the other hand, if PR professionals calculate the cost of the space taken up by the whole article even if there was only a brief mention of the brand, which they often do, they can grossly overestimate the advertising value equivalency and further damage the opportunity for accurate public relations measurement.

There are additional factors that are simply not addressed by advertising value equivalency.  For example, negative mentions.  There’s really no such thing as a negative advertisement, so the possibility of negative media mentions is problematic.  Additionally, what is the value of a potentially negative story that the PR team manages to keep from publication?  Those efforts should not be ignored when attempting to measure PR impact.


Perhaps realizing that AVE is an ineffective method of measuring PR, some professionals and agencies have turned to measuring activity.  Monthly and quarterly status reports show:

  • Number Press releases
  • Number and reach of mentions
  • Number of Pitches
  • Analysts Briefings
  • Awards Received
  • Hours logged

The list goes on and on.  Apparently, we’re really good at counting.  But as they say, not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.

So what is a better approach to public relations measurement?


A far more reliable measurement of the impact and ROI of your public relations efforts on behalf of your company or clients is outcomes.  You do PR to achieve certain objectives.  Why not measure against those goals.  Outcomes include; SEO results for targeted key words, growth in the number of website visits, website conversions and conventional leads, social media and content engagement, improvement of the brand’s online reputation, and most importantly revenue.  

Once you can tie your efforts to these objective metrics, you’ll be able to achieve useful public relations measurement and demonstrate the value to the organization.

AJ Bruno: Founder, President

AJ Bruno: Founder, President

AJ co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s sales operations.