Measuring PR: What Comes After AVE?

Published: 31 May 2016

Will a new and interactive measurement tool finally kill off AVE? Or is chasing a single, catch-all solution a fool’s errand?

Do some social listening, because then you’re listening to actual conversations, and conduct interviews with people afterwards to try to gauge what’s happened.

For years the communications industry has debated the use of advertising value equivalency (AVE), which persists despite obvious deficiencies. But will a new and interactive measurement tool finally kill off AVE? Or is chasing a single, catch-all solution a fool’s errand? And what does the future hold for a sector set on proving its worth?

In 2011, US PR strategist Shonali Burke began working on a campaign for USA for UNHCR – a non-profit organisation helping people displaced by violence, conflict and persecution. The organisation wanted to increase awareness of the plight of tens of millions of refugees across the globe and raise funds by selling small blue keys to highlight that displaced people do not have a key to their own home.

Burke’s first steps were to work out the campaign’s measurable objectives, so she asked how many keys USA for UNHCR wanted to sell; the goal was 6,000 in 12 months. Burke then agreed on a strategy that involved recruiting and developing an online community of digital influencers, dubbed ‘blue key champions’, to promote the issue and write blog posts. She also organised a 12-hour ‘tweetathon’ in the lead-up to World Refugee Day, tracking how many tweets included #bluekey.

As a result, more than 6,000 keys were sold; 113 blue key champions were recruited; the initial ‘tweetathon’ increased traffic to the campaign microsite by 169% on just one day (there were more than 1,000 tweets); and the organisation was provided with a list of prospective donors. In short, the campaign was a success. There’s one thing Burke is quite clear about: at no point in evaluating her campaign did she use advertising value equivalency (AVE), which calculates what editorial coverage would cost if it were a piece of advertising.

“How would AVE have helped?” asks Burke. “The client didn’t ask for it, but even if they had, we wouldn’t have used it. Donald Trump is supported by a large number of Republicans saying that it’s okay to build walls around the USA – does that make that right? No. It’s the same with AVE.”

To read the full article, visit Influence here.

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