From Barcelona to Cambridge: Measuring PR value

PR is about sharing messages, communicating ideas, and nurturing awareness as part of the larger marketing mix. However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many agencies and in-house departments still wrestle with how to quantify the value of that work to clients or C-level executives. How many still use the painfully antiquated advertising value equivalent (AVE) as a way to evaluate PR success, despite knowing that it’s a redundant metric?

It’s been four years since the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles were drafted as a framework for evaluating the success of PR activity.

This list of ideals includes the wholehearted rejection of AVE as a measurement of worth, with principle five, stating: “Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) do not measure the value of public relations and do not inform future activity; they measure the cost of media space and are rejected as a concept to value public relations.”

I think that says it all, really.

Looking through the principles, it’s clear that some are more easily attainable than others, and are low hanging fruit for PR professionals. For instance, principle six states that “Social media can and should be measured,” and there are any number of third party options that help with that such as Buffer, TweetDeck, and BrandWatch.

Others principles however are potentially more complex to address. For example, principle two suggests that, “Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.” It might not be so easy for PR to gauge its exact contribution in helping to achieve these outcomes, such as increased donations; a shift in awareness; or employee engagement, due to interference from other elements including search engine optimisation and digital marketing. However, such principles should not be disregarded – at the very least they highlight that PR activity had a role in achieving those outcomes as part of the wider marketing drive.

Even principle five, which focuses on dismissing the role of AVE when measuring PR success, offers sage advice: “Where a comparison has to be made between the cost of space from earned versus paid media, validated metrics should be used.”

So let’s finally say goodbye, and good riddance, to AVE.

In its place, the broader adoption of the Barcelona principles can – and should – be worked up by agencies and in-house departments alike as a means to deliver better results. It’s what PR is all about, after all.



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