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From AVE to attribution – the PR measurement debate rattles on

Posted by Debby Penton on 9th June 2017

There is a lot of excitement in the PR media this week about the controversy around banning AVE as a form of PR measurement. However, all I can wonder is why we’re still having this discussion, and why do we have to ban it? I mean it’s not exactly fox hunting. And surely it will just die out in due course.

I’m lucky enough to have skipped the bit in my career that involved scalpels, rulers and spray mount, and AVE never seems to have been as prevalent in the tech PR industry as perhaps in consumer, so I don’t feel too harmed by it.

But surely it’s down to the individual PR agencies to take a stand on it, come up with a better solution and try and educate clients that there is a better way? I doubt any PR agency worth its salt would offer up AVE as a useful form of measurement these days – how does one measure column inches on the internet anyway?

The bottom line is that we’re still searching for the silver bullet when it comes to PR measurement. Most PR teams are now using a combination of coverage quantity and quality, message penetration, share of voice, web traffic, backlinks, engagement, and the like to measure what’s important for different clients. One size doesn’t fit all.

However, there are some more interesting solutions popping up that are worth looking at.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the dangers of viewing PR solely as a lead generation tool, especially when measuring its effectiveness. The key point was that:

“Just as online retailers are turning their backs on last click attribution, where the affiliate partner carrying the advert that finally drives a customer through to your site before purchase gets 100% of the reward for the sale, marketers must consider the influence of PR throughout the customer journey. This means that just because PR-driven activity might not result in click-throughs that result in sales, it does not necessarily mean PR is not working and not contributing to the sales funnel.”

All this came rushing back to me recently when I met the CEO of AirPR. AirPR is a US-based measurement and analytics company that claims to have cracked PR attribution. Using cookies on publishers’ sites to track whether a company’s website visitors have ever read an article about them online before their visit, even if the article in question doesn’t carry a link. Pretty cool, right?

I must admit, I’ve not seen this in operation yet, and I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely where measurement discussions and energy should be focused. Technology will continue to help us find answers to measurement before long, and there won’t be a scalpel in sight!

Debby Penton

Motivated, competitive and highly experienced, Debby drives excellence across the agency and leads by example, going the extra mile to create stand-out campaigns and a dynamic agency culture. As CEO, Debby champions a new breed of PR that meets the evolving communication needs of today’s tech companies.