At BizCom, we’re admittedly biased about the power and strength of PR to deliver results for our clients. A look back at some of the PR campaigns, the national and international publicity wins and the leads generated from these efforts reinforces why we do what we do to help our clients grow their businesses. Our clients love our results too. But once in a while there comes a time when someone will ask: “What’s the ad equivalency for that?”
Let’s pretend we didn’t hear that.
Why, you ask? Well, let’s back up and look at why this practice is not all it’s cracked up to be and has generally been dismissed by communications and marketing professionals worldwide as a way to measure PR results.
Good PR measurement is not the same as ad equivalency
First off, we’ll sound smarty-pants and tell you that the Commission for PR Measurement & Evaluation does not endorse Ad Value Equivalency (AVE). That’s a fancy way of saying (Sesame Street-style) these two things do not go together.
AVE is the misguided way of measuring the effectiveness of PR by taking the column inches of a print publication or the seconds of a broadcast and multiplying these numbers by the respective cost to advertise in these same outlets. And, while there are good intentions here, this idea of A-V-E is B-A-D.
Case and point: You may get a client on the cover of a magazine — a reputable medium that would never dream of allowing an advertiser to buy the cover. How do you measure that?
Tools such as ad equivalency can’t come close to measuring the true PR impact of an appearance on a program such as “Undercover Boss” on CBS.
Or, how about getting your client featured on an hour-long broadcast of the Emmy-award-winning CBS series “Undercover Boss”? Could that client even buy an hour of primetime television? I presume that would be an infomercial, which, last time we checked, CBS wasn’t selling during prime time. You see the problem with ad equivalencies?
Ad equivalencies fall short of measuring true impact
But, we could dig even deeper between the big divide of advertising and public relations. Specifically, it involves a third-party endorsement that eludes the advertising vehicle.
For example, when explaining the impact of PR vs. advertising we’ll often respond with a question — how do you determine which restaurant has the best steak in town?
The answer is the restaurant with the biggest advertising budget because they can spend their budget advertising that they have the best steaks in town, unless . . .
Unless, a respected food critic blogs that “Mary’s Mom and Pop Steakhouse has the best steaks in town.” Suddenly the playing field has been leveled and even tipped in Mary’s favor, thanks to the power of PR.
The so-called PR factor and the credibility of a news outlet granting coverage that is not paid for as an advertisement delivers a different value for your business than any ad that is often overlooked or at least recognized by the consumer as something you paid for and phrased yourself.
PR is about “earned influence” rather than “earned media”
There’s that similar tendency to compare PR with advertising as “earned media” versus “paid media.” However, even that is too limiting. Paul Holmes summed it up best in a recent article by saying: “Chris Graves, the Ogilvy Public Relations chairman who recently took over as chair of the PR Council – the group representing America’s public relations firms – believes he has the answer, or at least an answer. Rather than focusing on earned media, he says, the industry should be emphasizing its ability to deliver ‘earned influence.’” And he subscribes to the theory of the relationships that PR builds not necessarily found in advertising.
It’s not that we’re opposed to advertising. There is a brand-building greatness that the power of the almighty advertising dollar commands that cannot be overlooked. And if you run a billion-dollar company with deep pockets, go for it. But the rest of the world needs a comprehensive marketing program, PR included, that delivers good results at a price that make sense.
PR has the power to transcend traditional advertising
And, to be honest, we just happen to love the power of PR to exponentially transcend traditional advertising and, in a world of social media madness, deliver results that no advertising budget could touch.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the viral sensation it produced is a great example. Chances are, you or somebody you know became a willingly-participate in sharing this powerful message that raised more than $117 million for the ALS Association. Think of all those relationships that were built with this campaign. We’ll go out on a limb and say that the organization’s advertising budget has never in the history of its existence delivered those kinds of philanthropic results.
Yes, public relations has a worth that can be hard to measure by traditional “what’s the ad equivalency of that” standards. And while PR deserves to be measured, let’s keep in perspective how we judge that impact in true results versus ad dollars that may not even meet the same goal.
For a free analysis of how you can add more value to your public relations campaign, contact BizCom Associates at 214-458-5751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.