Breaking free from AVE: embracing better measurement approaches

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Advertising value equivalency (AVE) measures the success of earned media efforts based on the cost of the media space for a piece of coverage. It was first seen in the 1940s, and its effectiveness has been debated for decades.

AVE is inaccurate and ineffective

According to the Barcelona Principles, first released in 2010, AVE is no longer a measurement best practice. While it assigns value to media time or space, it doesn’t consider the quality of the coverage. This means that it doesn’t reflect the sentiment of your coverage, the message delivered, or how prominently your brand was featured.

AVE also fails to acknowledge that the impact of earned media on an audience is different from advertising. Earned media provides greater credibility and third-party validation, so it’s inaccurate to equate the value of PR to that of an advertisement.

The industry continues to use AVE

Despite its limitations, AVE is still in use today. In 2022, 21% of PR professionals reported using AVE to measure earned media efforts.

At RPG, we often receive requests for AVE when PR leaders are trying to prove the value of earned media to their executive team. And as one “hot take” on Reddit proudly declares, “The best metric is whatever the client wants.” Right?

Let’s rethink that.

AVE is holding us back

The public relations industry often discusses the reasons why AVE is inaccurate. But it must go a step further to acknowledge that poor measurement practices can lead to lower-quality programs over time. The Barcelona Principles promote measurement practices that “not only demonstrate proof of performance, but how to foster continuous improvement.”

A feedback loop is critical to success. If you don’t have a full picture of performance, you cannot improve your program. You need actionable insights that inform future decisions and drive toward program goals.

A better approach to PR measurement

Whenever possible, look for metrics that better reflect the value of earned media and align with program goals.

Here are some ideas:

  • If your goal is to increase awareness in the market compared to competitors, you can showcase share of voice. For example, when our clients attend a key industry event, such as CES, we show how their media coverage compares to other brands at the show.
  • If you’re working to deliver a specific message, you can measure message pull through.
  • If you have a niche target audience, share a list of the target publications in which your coverage appeared.

These metrics allow you to track program success, and better yet, they yield actionable insights that can inform future efforts.

And if you must provide AVE, explain the metric and its limitations, and provide additional reporting to further shape your story of success.

Putting it into action

To find alternatives to AVE, set your measurement strategy and KPIs based on your goals. Then use measurement tools to track these KPIs over time.

Tools could include Muck Rack for media monitoring, Meltwater for social and online media conversation analysis, and Netbase Quid to analyze longer-term trends in conversations.

At RPG, we develop customized, cross-platform measurement dashboards to track progress. We use both quantitative and qualitative metrics to provide a well-rounded, comprehensive view of program performance.


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