Is Advertising Value Evaluation (AVE) the best way of measuring success of Public Relation campaigns
ADVERTISNG VALUE EVALUATION
Table of Contents
Figure 2.1: Pyramid Model of PR Research………………………………………………..14
Figure 2.2: Preparation, Implementation and Impact Model……………………………….16
Figure 4.1: Satisfaction rate of marketing directors in the UK………………………..……30
Figure 4.2: Methods most used to measure PR……………………………………………..31
Public Relations is still a relatively new profession which explains why the field still has a lot of issues that need to be addressed such as evaluation methods. The issue of evaluation and measurement has been a topic of debate for many years. The lack of a universally accepted method of measurement and evaluation is an issue that has caused lack of credibility in public relations as a profession. However, despite such issues, Public Relations is a profession that has grown tremendously in the world brought about by the increasing need for the government, organizations, individuals and businesses to communicate with either their citizens, shareholders or customers so that they can improve and maintain good relations.
Public Relations are a very integral part in helping organizations establish long-lasting reputations that are significant in building an organization’s image and improve relationships with the community. Public Relations are also important in helping change any negative behaviors or attitudes that may be present in the society and help resolve any conflicts that may affect the organization’s image. Although such results are greatly valued, there has been a growing demand from managers to evaluate the success of public relations campaigns (Morris, 2012). Advertising value equivalents is one of the methods used to evaluate public relations but its validity is quite questionable hence the research is focused on determining the method’s flaws and other methods better suited to evaluate the success of public relations.
Public Relations are defined as a management tool that establishes support among an organization’s internal and external publics. It includes activities that are created around a company’s image through publicity and community events. When it comes to PR campaigns, these are arranged activities or operations that are designed with the aim of achieving a particular social, commercial or political objective .Bobbit and Sullivan (2005) show that PR campaigns can also be described as the effort put by an organization to create, develop and maintain generally acceptable relations by using evidence-based objectives through the use of communication strategies and measuring of the outcomes.
A Public Relations campaign is comprised of seven primary components. These include audience targeted, objectives, messages, situational analysis, budget, timetable and evaluation. This research is particularly interested in the evaluation component of Public Relations (Rinrattanakorn, 2016). PR campaign evaluation is a process of systematic measurement of a campaign to determine its effectiveness. PR professionals are required to evaluate the results of a campaign after it is complete and relate the results with the pre-set objectives of the PR campaign. This enables PR practitioners to answer clients any questions they may have about the success of the campaign with accurate data.
Evaluation of PR campaign is important for PR practitioners as it helps them to determine the success of the campaign while gathering information on the efficiency and effectiveness of PR campaign activities (Watson & Noble, 2014). It also allows for practitioners of Public Relations to be able to explain the changing attitudes and behavior of the society. There are three levels of measurement when it comes to PR campaigns. The first and primary level is the media placements, compilation and distribution of messages. The middle level is comprised of measuring audience awareness, their understanding and retention of the message. There are different techniques used for evaluation with Advertising Value Equivalency or Evaluation being one of the most commonly used.
The ideas of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is one that has existed for many years and generated a lot of debate in the Public Relations profession. AVEs are a form of measurement tool used by PR practitioners. It involves calculating the space consumed by an article into advertising costs and calculating that by the cost of the space had it not been advertised. The evaluation method has brought about a lot of debate focused on its validity and reliability. Many people prefer the method especially clients as it puts a dollar value on media coverage and gives media people the opportunity to compare their results with the advertising.
In other cases, when AVE is applied, some users of the evaluation tool apply multipliers to advertising rates based on the opinion that advertising is less credible than PR. Advertising Value Equivalents calculated using multipliers are known as PR value. However, despite its familiarity with a lot of people, through research carried out and trials by PR practitioners, AVE has been determined to be invalid as it does not inform any future activities or measure the value of PR but only measures the cost of media coverage space. Other methods have been proven to be way more effective and reliable in measuring PR. These include media content analysis, cyberspace analysis, public opinion pools, case studies and many more.
Public Relations is a wide profession made up of many sub-functions which are normally separate units in the organization and report to PR. At times they report to other organizational units such as marketing or human resources. Corporate as well as non-governmental organizations are embracing PR at a growing pace due to its perceived value in creating mutually beneficial relationships. Despite this tremendous growth in the profession, the effectiveness of public relations has not been established. There is a lack of international standards for measurement and evaluation of the impact of PR campaigns. Advertising Value Evaluation has been mistakenly perceived as the best way to measure the success of PR campaigns probably because it is what most people know and is common among clients but unfortunately, the method has flaws which will be discussed in this paper in detail which make the method invalid as a measure of Public Relations.
The general objective of this study is to determine whether Advertising Value Evaluation method is appropriate for measuring the success of PR campaigns. However, there are also other specific objectives such as:
- To establish the limitations and strengths of AVE as an evaluation method
- To establish other preferred tools for evaluation of PR campaigns
- To investigate the effect of evaluation tools on the PR profession through systematic review
- What are the limitations and strengths of AVE as a tool for evaluating PR campaigns?
- What are some of the preferred evaluation tools for PR campaigns?
- What is the effect of evaluation tools on the PR profession?
The results from the study are of great benefit to PR practitioners all over the world as it helps them understand various tools for PR evaluation hence determine the best possible tools for evaluation that they can adopt in their organizations. The study will provide alternative solutions beyond the commonly-used AVE as a measure of success of PR campaigns. The study will make practical, theoretical and methodological contribution to the PR practice that can be used for many years to improve the future of Public Relations.
The study focused on discussing AVE and determining its validity through assessment of its strengths and limitations. The study will discuss AVE and other preferred methods and determine the best solution through systematic review using publications and studies carried out on PR evaluation methods.
The study used systematic review methodology which poses a risk since some of the authors may be biased when writing their work or conducting various studies. The researcher overcame these challenges by guaranteeing the validity and reliability of all the materials used in the paper.
This chapter discusses the literature review both theoretically and empirically looking at the factors related to measurement of PR campaigns. Various authors have put forward different definitions of Public Relations in order to clarify the parameters of the field. Public Relations is a complex subjects since it borrows on theories and practices from other fields such as psychology, media and communication (Theaker, 2004).
2.1 History of the development of PR Measurement and Practice
Various authors have traced media monitoring practices back to the late 18th century and thereafter (Lamme & Miller, 2010).In the 20th century, Public Relations was used as a description for a set of activities related to communication whose practices could be determined and measured. James Grunig and Todd Hunt who are PR gurus see Public Relations as something that was used by the Greek rhetoricians and evolved from the 1800 BC. However, they caution that the direct descent of PR today is yet to be identified (Grunig & Hunt, 1984)
Edward Barneys is identified as one of the major contributors in the 1920s who saw PR turn to what it is today (Bernays, 1928). Barneys made a proposal for a direct approach to communications by making an argument that PR was an attempt aimed at getting the support of the public through use of information, adjustment and persuasion. Press agentry was the very first part of PR development. This phase was aimed at trying to create publicity for clients with no regard for honesty or truth. It was a type of information dissemination.
The following phase was public information, According to PR gurus, this form of PR was comprised of former journalists representing clients’ interests and also constituted the issuing of press releases to different media outlets just like ordinary journalists would do. The press agentry and public information types of PR were formulated based on technical skills along with media relations, writing with words and images. One-way dissemination of information was the basis for these types of PR.
Next in the development of PR is the asymmetrical model which is a concept borrowed from behavioral psychology. The objective of Public Relations in this case is to identify the knowledge and understanding about a client’s or an organization’s issues that are of great importance. Once this knowledge and understanding is gained, it is then incorporated into the PR messages and distributed by the company. The other model, the symmetrical model was proposed between the years 1960-1980. This model uses research on public opinion but not with the aim to persuade but rather to create and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the organization and its publics.
Advertising Value Evaluation is a method that has being used by PR Practitioners from way back. However, it has never been considered a valuable evaluation method in academic and PR literature. In 2010 around the month of July, the PR industry began the process of stopping the use of AVE in the future as a tool for evaluating Public Relations campaigns. In the year 2011, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) mentioned the word ‘outlawed’ when talking about AVE, (AMEC, 2011). Advertising Value Evaluation was rejected as a method as they do not have any relevance to the financial value of an organization. The method does not reflect what the PR campaign achieves. Any successful PR campaign must have tangible results for it to be described as successful. The fact that AVE does not help provide such results makes the method invalid.
The debate on the validity of AVE is obviously one that has existed for many years. There are those who feel that the method serves the purpose it is intended for which is to determine the value of PR campaigns while other feel that new methods are necessary for PR practitioners if they are to show professionalism in their field. Data obtained from Metrics showed that the advertising value fell in the year 2008. By 2007, the AVE per article for the ordinary organization within the UK was at £ 7,520 while the monthly AVE for an organization was at an average £ 3.7m. These figures fell to £ 6,358 and £ 2.2 m respectively in 2008. This means that those organizations that were still using AVE as their PR evaluation method has a terrible year in 2008 because they had set targets that would be impossible to achieve. This goes to show that AVE has long been identified as an inefficient method for evaluating the success of PR campaigns.
This section presents theories that were used during the study to guide the research carried out. It is quite difficult to find any particular theory on evaluation of Public Relations in literature but it is possible to use evaluation theories and models to discuss the evaluation process in the PR practice. The study used the Pyramid Model and the Preparation, Implementation and Impact (II) Model.
The Pyramid Model of Public Relations research is an improved version of the Macro Model of PR evaluation (Macnamara, 1992). Just like a pyramid, the model is read starting from the bottom while heading to the top. The bottom part of the model represents the ground zero of the strategic management of the PR campaign or that of the firm that leads to the needed results such as attitude or behavior. This means that at the start of any PR campaign, there is a lot of information and also a wide range of options to consider in terms of media and activities. The model shows that selection and choices are made with the aim of targeting particular messages to a specific audience targeted via media which in the end results to achievement of a pre-set objective. This is the peak of the entire program. The three-step pyramid model helps in evaluation of results, inputs and outputs while providing options for the next undertaking that should be implemented by a PR practitioner.
In the model, inputs refer to the strategic and physical components of communication campaigns or projects which consist of choice of medium to use, format and content. On the other hand, outputs are comprised of physical materials such as publications, the activities and the processes to produce those materials. Outcomes refer to the attitudinal and behavioral effects of communication. The model puts effort in trying to be instructive and practical by listing various proposed procedures for research for each of the three stages (Macnamara, 1993).
Figure 2.1: Pyramid Model of PR Research (Macnamara, 1993)
The significance of the Pyramid Model to the study is that it assists in analyzing the main steps in the process of communication with particular measurement tool for PR practitioners to choose where, what and when to use the tools. The model also supports the closed and open system evaluation. Baskin and Aronoff (1992) show that the main focus of closed systems is the messages and evens planned to be used in a PR campaign and the effect it has on the targeted audience. Through a closed evaluation system, PR professionals are able to test messages and media before using them then using the results attained to compare with those gotten during the test to see if they activities achieved the desired effect.
Through the use of an open system evaluation, it was determined that there are elements beyond the control of the communication program that influence the results acquired hence need an open-minded approach. This approach views the communication on the basis of the organization’s effectiveness. Quite often, the most suitable options comprise of the closed and open system evaluation. The Pyramid Model does not exhaust all the research methods but only highlights them as a representation of both formal and informal research methods that can be used by PR practitioners (Broom, 2009)
The PII Model of Evaluation was developed by Cutlip, Broom and Center (Broom, 2009).The model is formulated on three levels or steps namely: Preparation, Implementation and Impact. This model illustrates the importance of the three steps of preparation, implementation and impact as it helps to avoid substitution. This means it guarantees that the amount of press releases issued is not used as a tool of measure in the impact level hence separating outputs and outcomes. The PII model suggests that PR practitioners should put into consideration the values of messages, information base and appropriateness in the first stage of preparation then use the last impact stage to measure any behavior or social change. (Broom & Sha (2013) showed that the last level of the model which is the impact phase is aimed at researching any repeated social or cultural change, attitude change, gain of knowledge, opinion change and behavior change. In order to research all these possible outcomes, a lot of funds are needed together with skills and time. The lack of these three main resources is identified as one of the major barriers to effective PR evaluation.
This model is important to the study as it focuses on the evaluating stages of a PR campaign. The model suggests that PR professionals should use the planning, implementation and impact identification stages of a campaign to prepare for evaluation. A PR campaign is made up of various stages meant to identify the objectives of the campaign, the actions to take to achieve those objectives, choosing the communication tools to be used and the messages. Evaluation pf the impact of a PR campaign against the pre-set objectives comes at the last stage.
Despite the model’s significance on PR evaluation, it also has its limitations. It assumes that the process of evaluation is linear. The model assumes that once a phase has been evaluated, everything about it ends at that hence should not go back to be modified after evaluation. This lack of the opportunity to adjust evaluations hinders PR Practitioners from continuously monitoring the campaign hence they are unable to determine if it is going on successfully or if there are elements that need to be modified for it to succeed. Due to this, a campaign continues with components that are not working which eventually leads to failure of the PR campaign (Dozier, 1992).
Figure 2.2: Preparation, Implementation and Impact Model (Dozier, 1992).
This segment discusses literature content on AVE as a PR evaluation tool and other PR measurement tools that are preferred by practitioners. The section is aligned with the objectives of the study.
Advertising Value Equivalents or ad values are calculated by multiplying the column centimeters of an editorial print coverage together with the seconds of broadcast publicity by the respective advertising rates for the media used. The amount of editorial coverage is valued as an advert regardless of its tone or content. Although there is a lot of controversy on the relationship between advertising and Public Relations which is the basis for the AVE method, the method still has some positive things about it.
The use of AVE is simply fantastic on the basis of client relationship. There is nothing that feels as good as telling a client that they have gotten media coverage at an AVE of £ 5m. The client is happy and the PR agency gets to look good. It is a similar case when one goes to the board of directors of a company and tell them that a PR agency got coverage at an AVE of £ 5m on a budget of just £ 5,000 in turn makes the client look good too. The ability to compare PR to advertising directly makes the industry and the profession look good. Advertising Value Equivalents also make it easy to explain the value of Public Relations even to people who have never heard it before and are not familiar with media or marketing (Wallace, 2009).
In times of economic hardships where financial managers are in control of the Managing Directors, it pays to have clear Return on Investment (ROI) that can be provided upon questioning. When trying to justify investments in any PR related activity, financial directors may not be interested in the number of media platforms that the firm has appeared. However, if the communications department names a significant ROI that has been achieved due to that investment in PR, the finance director will be glad it was done. This is a tool that can help PR agencies beat their competitions. Using AVE also gives clients assurance that their million-worth investments will definitely pay off (Wallace, 2009). This is why it is widely accepted and requested by many clients as more and more clients are looking for assurance of media coverage. This eliminates the issue of PR agencies telling clients that they cannot tell them how much coverage they will get. Thanks to AVE, agencies can no longer get away with that and clients can enjoy fearlessness as they sell it to their board of directors because they are sure it will be accepted.
As much as most client prefer use of AVE, the method has been identified to have some serious flaws which show that it is not the best way to measure the success of PR campaigns. The first major flaw is the fact that AVE does not take into account the difference in credibility between advertising and editorial coverage. Studies suggest that credibility is not constant rather it varies by topic and over time. This further suggests that there cannot be a fixed multiplier as suggested by AVE method. Another factor that deems AVE unsuitable is the difference in messages in advertising and PR, Advertising uses controlled messages whereas PR uses uncontrolled messages hence the article’s content is important in the evaluation of its value. In addition, messages used in advertising are normally repetitive and homogenous whereas PR uses a totally different approach that involves constant changes to identify the message that has the most impact on the publics (Macnamara, 2006).
The AVE method fails to take into account the quality of coverage such as the key messages, tonality and the spokesperson effect. In cases where there is neutral coverage, AVE method will still give that a rating and it will not be a zero. Another factor that AVE fails to consider is that editorial publicity can be negative. It does not make sense to compare creative advertising with negative publicity. However, this is exactly what AVE does in its calculations. Those practitioners who feel they cannot use any other method in their evaluation have to go to the trouble of eliminating negative paragraphs, sections of articles or even whole articles and this can be very time consuming.
The concept behind AVE makes the method flawed considering that editorial coverage can be in low priority media or media that does not reach the audience targeted. Such media that is low on circulation and does not reach the audience targeted may never be used for advertising but can be used for PR campaigns which makes the comparison between PR and advertising meaningless. The calculation for AVE are normally based on casual advertising rates which are usually higher than those rates used for advertising campaigns. This only further invalidates the so-called value of PR and makes AVE statistically incorrect (Macnamara, 2006).
The most significant flaw of all that makes AVE a wrong choice for PR evaluation is that AVEs only calculate the cost of buying media space that is equivalent to space covered by an article and time for advertising but are not a measure of value. Advertising is not evaluated on the basis of the cost because this would mean advertising is only valuable because it costs a certain amount which does not make sense. Today, the value of advertising is determined based on audience reach, recall of messages and share of voice. Even more, advertising is measured based on outcomes such as sales generated, inquiries or leads. The value is obtained from the achievement of those objectives. Considering AVEs mix metrics from two different parts of the balance sheet makes them financially invalid as well.
There are many other better and more accurate tools available to PR practitioners that they could use to measure the outcome of PR campaigns. Some of the most common tools used to measure the impact of PR include Media Content Analysis, Cyberspace Analysis, Case studies, Public Opinion Polls, event and trade shows measurement (Grunig, 1983). This segment is aligned with the research objectives hence will discuss these tools and show why they are more preferred unlike Advertising Value Equivalents.
The term cyberspace refers to the online world comprised of the internet and other computer networks. With the growing technology present today, chat rooms, forums and new web groups are becoming an important tool for measuring an organization’s positioning. The same method used in assessing print articles and broadcastings can be used to evaluate postings made in cyberspace. Nowadays, more commentaries are found on the web not on print media and this can be used as an output measurement for PR by conducting reviews and analysis of cyberspace postings.
The other output measurement tool that can be used is the review and analysis of website traffic patterns. Cyberspace analysis involves a lot of things. These include assessing the requests made by visitors to the firm’s website. Browsers on the internet use a review of flash-click streams or click-through. This can be used for analysis by checking traffic times, home page visits and returned feedback forms. A review of the amount of time spent on each page and the bytes transferred can also be helpful in carrying out cyberspace analysis (Pavlik, 1987).
Media content analysis is defined as a sub-set of content analysis, a deeply established qualitative research method (Macnamara, 2005). McNamara shows that there are two major types of media content analysis; quantitative and qualitative content analysis. Qualitative content analysis involves gathering of data on the relationship between the text meaning and the expected audience. When it comes to quantitative content analysis, it involves collecting data on media content such as topics or issues discussed, volume of mentions and messages identified by analyzing key words present in the context, audience reach and frequency.
Lai and To (2015) agree on the fact that media content analysis is one tool that is used in measuring the effect of social media in PR campaigns. A paper written by the 2003 Institute for Public Relations on the guidelines for evaluating the success of PR activities and campaigns showed that there are many variables available that can be adopted in the measurement of media content analysis. These include, media vehicle variables, audience variables, subjective variables, news item variables and subject variables.
Measurement and research in evaluation is conducted in three levels from bottom level to the top most level (Lindenmann, 1993). Output refers to the way a PR campaign is presented through various media relations. Out-growth measures how messages are received with the purpose of creating awareness, retention and comprehension through quantitative and qualitative methods. Outcome and behavioral changes measure opinions and attitudes using pre and post-campaign research. It also uses an array of commercial market research methods, social science techniques and polling. In addition, PR professionals can use either evaluation of outcomes or output to evaluate PR campaigns.
A study conducted in Australia on how to use evaluation techniques and performance showed the impact of PR campaigns that used evaluation methods (Xavier, 2005). The study showed that more than 80 campaigns used outcome evaluation while 106 campaigns used output evaluation. The outcome evaluation method usage in the study was at 26% as PR practitioners used evaluation approaches of three at an average consisting of two output evaluation methods and one outcome evaluation method for each campaign. At the end, the number of output methods used were six while outcome methods were four.
The main objective of PR campaigns is to create and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between a firm and its publics. One way of achieving this is through holding special events, creating speaking opportunities or staging trade shows. The amount of people who attend these events is one way to determine the output and evaluate the effect of the PR campaign which in this case is the trade show or event planned. The number of materials used for promotional purposes is also included here together with the interviews generated from those who attended and the different personalities that attended the events or show. In certain scenarios, such events or shows bring about media presence which enables the PR practitioner to carry out media content analysis of the articles that will result from the media coverage (Lindenmann, 1990).
Case studies have proved to be very effective in PR evaluation as they provide a lot of descriptive information as compared to other evaluation tools. They provide helpful insight into what was effective and what was not in different contexts and why the methods used in those contexts did not work as expected. For examples, case studies carried out on alcohol and tobacco are comprised of personal experiences from victims of alcohol and tobacco abuse and other targeted publics. This information is used to measure the effect of such information on behavior to see if people will change their practices related to alcohol and tobacco (Jernigan, 1994)
Public Opinion polls are carried out in an attempt to measure PR by identifying if targeted groups were or were not exposed to certain concepts or messages. They also help to assess the effectiveness of any promotional effort carried out. For example, after a PR practitioner has hosted an event or show, they can conduct a short survey to determine what people thought of the whole thing and the main concepts that they picked from the event which was a PR campaign (Pavlik, 1987).This will help the PR practitioner to assess the outcome of the campaign and determine if the set objectives of the PR campaign were met. Most of PR campaigns are conducted in areas with the most population of the intended audience hence the opinion polls received will be an effective evaluation tool for the PR campaign.
This chapter discusses the data collection and research design applied in the study. This section will also cover the population, sampling design, research procedure, data analysis methods used and the chapter summary. Other issues discussed in this chapter include the reliability and validity of the results.
Public Relations evaluations is an issue that has been a hot topic for debates within and outside the PR profession for many years now. The basis of this chapter is to gather evidence of the invalidity of AVE as an evaluation tool and evidence on better tools that can be used in future for better results by PR Practitioners.
The study adopted the review design specifically systematic review. There is a lot of literature and research conducted on PR evaluation methods considering the issue has been debated for years. This makes the systematic review method a good way to gather evidence on the subject. It provides the study with secondary data to use for provision of evidence on the study subject hence saving on time and costs that would have been used gathering primary data. Systematic reviews are aimed at providing exhaustive evidence and conclusions related using literature that is relevant to the research question. The method uses a transparent approach for synthesis of research and objective with the primary aim of minimizing bias. The method was used due to its ability to open the research to various works or studies done by prominent authors hence successfully answering the research question.
The study used any literature that could be found on the internet and academic databases to come up with evidence material that could provide indisputable answers to the research question. The study used various literature search engines to achieve as many relevant literature as possible. Various databases were searched to come up with studies on PR evaluation methods. The study also used various articles written on Public Relations. In addition, various search engines were searched for possible web pages that might provide valid references.
In order to identify the appropriate literature to use, the study used specific search using a group of keywords hence sieving out numerous results to give only relevant published articles or studies. Articles found during the search were assesses for biases which is either the exaggeration or underestimation of content. If such articles were found, they were put aside. Another sampling technique involved looking at the content covered. The study adopted material that focused mainly on PR evaluation methods and nothing else related to PR. Therefore, only literature or studies discussing PR evaluation methods were used in the study.
The search conducted lead to discovery of 100 articles. Out of the 100, half of them (50) were put aside for being bias while others were put aside for their lack of needed content. Out of the 100 original sample, only 7 ended up being adopted in the study.
The study used the internet and PR databases to gather literature and collect various studies conducted regarding the measurement tools for evaluation of PR campaigns. Some of the searches conducted include the following urls and databases:
Public relations review journals
The results from the various literature gathered was analyzed through statistical means using the main points gathered from each article all contributing to answering the research question. The analysis is aimed at showing the effect of AVE as a PR evaluation tool and other tools that have proven to yield better results and have less flaws as compared to AVE.
This chapter shows how data collected from various reviews was analyzed and presented. The chapter will be arranged based on the main concepts form the gathered literature.
Advertising Value Evaluations is common among clients or bosses who demand it is used by their PR agencies. However, the Institute of Public Relations Commission does not endorse the method as a valid PR evaluation tool. The commission shows that the problem with AVE does not lie with its calculations but rather lies with the name itself and the way it is used. The method being referred to as ‘advertising equivalency’ highly implies that a news story printed on a particular size of paper has similar impact to an advertisement put in the same article of similar size to the news story (Bruce, 2003).
It is not exactly simple to compare the relationship between advertising and news stories. For example, many studies have been carried out in the journalism field in the recent years showing that in the past decades, an increase in entertainment components introduced into news stories has seen the credibility of news media slowly decline. Journalists refer to this as credibility crisis. There have been surveys carried out in the recent years asking people how much credibility they have put into advertising and news media and the results have shown a drop of credibility in news stories (Watson, 2013). The survey has also shown the level of credibility people have in news stories varies depending on the topic hence showing that the relationship between advertising and news stories cannot be constant but rather varies over topic and time. Not being able to easily compare this relationship goes ahead to dhow it is even more impossible to know what multipliers to apply in calculations.
Another issue that makes the use of AVE so debatable is that the method only values only what appears in the media. This is contradicting considering most Public Relations practitioners normally guide their clients to behave in a manner that results to absence of publicity. This means that in such cases, absence of publicity is what is valued and is what is desired. The Advertising Value Evaluation’s method has no way to reflect such value. On the other hand, the issue of different types of communications in advertising and news is also a concern related to AVEs. Advertisements are normally part of a campaign which involves repetition of the same adverts in the media. It is a very huge possibility that an individual sees that advertisement several times. Various studies show that repeated exposure to particular content in this case an advert or commercial creates significant effect on the perception, awareness, behavior and attitude of consumers.
Unlike advertisements, news stories work very differently. One news story is not repeated severally but rather an individual is exposed to a number of stories of different topics and events. Even when the news is on the same topic, the stories are bound to be different considering they are written by different journalists who have varying facts, views, personalities and delivery skills. Other stories may be loved than others or may be more insightful than others. So yes we know that exposure to news stories also has an impact on consumers but what we do not know is hot to create comparison between the homogenous messages of advertisements and the diverse messages delivered through news coverage (Watson, 2012).
Apart from these conceptual problems, there are also logistical problems related to AVEs. A good example is the fact that advertising rates do not exist in many scenarios. It is rare to find articles that accept adverts on the front pages or in major sections. There are even those broadcast shows that do not accept any advertising at all. This is unfortunate because these media and locations within the media are often the ones coveted by many. This spots within the media are the most prominent which is why any big news is placed in these spots because they are the most influential. Although supporters and users of the AVE method may have developed alternatives in cases where ad rates are not available, these techniques definitely undermine the basic PR concepts.
Another logistical problem with AVE calculations is the lack of an advertising equivalent to an unfavorable or bad story. This leaves a gap in such cases because how then are such news to be handled. Are bad or unfavorable stories supposed to be ignored and use AVEs to calculate only the favorable stories? Are the unfavorable stories supposed to be subtracted from the favorable ones and AVE calculated on net? What about the neutral stories? Do they fall under favorable or unfavorable stories? (Bruce, 2003). These are just some of the controversies raised by use of AVE calculations.
There is a significant difference between the methods of PR evaluation that were used in the past and those used in the recent years. Despite the fact that the issue of evaluation of Public Relations was brought to light many years ago, there has been slow progress in addressing the issue on the part of PR practitioners. According to a 2000 survey carried out on Marketing Directors in the UK, Public Relations had the lowest percentage of satisfaction rate of marketing directors with its evaluation. Other fields in which the satisfaction rate of the marketing directors was determined included direct marketing, sales promotion and advertising. This is presented in the chart below:
Figure 4.1: Satisfaction rate of marketing directors in the UK with evaluation of sales promotion, advertising, public relations and direct marketing (Test Research survey of UK Marketing Directors, 2000.)
This survey clearly indicates a lot of effort needs to be put by PR practitioners. It is quite clear that evaluation research by PR practitioners is used poorly and there is a need for major reforms to be made in the area in order to attain high levels of accountability and professionalism.
In 2002, a congress held in Cairo by the International Public Relations Association agreed that the measurement of corporate communication and PR was still among the hottest issue in the industry worldwide. John Pavlik in his book on PR research said that “measuring the effectiveness of PR has proved almost as elusive as finding the Holy Grail” (Pavlik, 1987, P.65).In a landmark study of 1988 conducted by Walter Lindenmann, a survey was carried out on 945 PR practitioners within the US and the study concluded that most methods used in opublic relations research were sytill informal and casualk rather then being scientific (Macnamara, 2008). The study referred to as the Kethcum study showed that 54% of 253 respondents strongly agreed that research for PR evaluation would grow in the 1990s while 9 out of 10 PR practitioners agreed that there was a need for PR research to become more complex. (Lindenmann, 1990).
In an internet survey carried out by the Public Relations Society of America on 4,200 members, it was identified that press clippings or tapes were the most commonly used measurement and evaluation tool in PR. 82% of PR professionals showed comp-lete reliance on the method. On the other hand, intuition was cited as the second most common method with 50% of PR professionals admiting it to being a reliable method which is actually quite surprising.There were practitioners who still believed in AVE as an evaluation method with other methods used including media content analysis, focus groups, audience surveys among others.The results of the study are as shown below:
Figure 4.2: methods most used to measure PR (Media Relations Reality Check Internet survey of Public Relations Society of America members, 2001)
The fact that AVE has been identified as an invalid PR evaluation tool has not made practitioners to stop using the method mostly because it is requested for by bosses and clients hence are forced to use. However, studies show that the AVE method should be limited only to the financial impact of PR campaigns as it fails to capture other effects of PR campaigns due to the flaws in the concept behind the method. The other methods such as clippings, audience impressions and content analysis have proven to be effective from various research and literature written on the methods and the rate at which these methods are being accepted by PR practitioners as shown by the figure above prove the methods are effective in PR measurement and evaluation.
This chapter uses the results gathered from the systematic reviews to give conclusive statements on the research questions and provide definite answers based on the evidence provided. The summary and conclusions part of the chapter focus on collecting the main concepts and ideas form the study and showing how they all contribute to arriving at a solution to the research question. The chapter also identifies areas of future study through identifying gaps in PR related research that can be addressed in future studies. It is also in this chapter that the limitations of the study are identified.
Evaluation of Public Relations campaign is a very important aspect in the PR profession. Although there are still numerous debates on Advertising Value Evaluation as a PR evaluation tool, it is clear that AVE is not the best way to measure the success of PR campaigns. The method has major flaws such as comparing editorial coverage with advertising when they are not similar at all right from the way they are presented and everything else.
Another major flaw that eliminates AVE as the best way to measure the success of PR campaigns is AVEs only calculate the cost of purchasing similar media time and space for advertising. Determining the cost is very different from measuring the value. The cost itself that is claimed to be measured by the AVE method is highly hypothetical because there is no evidence that supports the concept that media time or space gained by editorial coverage would have been bought for advertising purposes.
Advertising Value Equivalency is based on the concept that editorial coverage and advertising are similar which is totally wrong. The content used in advertising is highly controlled unlike editorial content which is highly flexible or variable. The two features also differ significantly when it comes to issues of presentation and placement. Arguments on editorial coverage having nothing in common with advertising do not mean that advertising is more effective than editorial coverage. There are cases where editorial coverage can have much greater impact compared with same level advertising. For example, when one or two columns of editorial coverage in an influential media or section such as a positive review of a restaurant can have great outcomes such as boosting of share prices or sales. However, the same space featuring an advertisement may not have the same effect if it were purchased. Nevertheless, the AVE results for such an editorial coverage would be really small hence significantly under-estimating the PR value in that scenario.
Despite these flaws of AVE being brought to light by numerous literature and through various studies conducted by PR practitioners, we still witness the continued use of AVE as a PR evaluation tool. The continued use of AVE poses major risks to the Public Relations industry as well as other research and media monitoring firms. To begin with, the method deviates the PR industry from pursuing, researching on and adopting valid evaluation and research methods hence holding back the growth of the PR professions, its acceptance by society and its reliability in a professional sense. Secondly, the exposure of AVEs and the multipliers used as faulty over a long time brings out a lack of ethics in the PR profession because some of the PR practitioners still insist on using the method despite knowing this. Most codes of ethics in the PR profession contain clauses that warn against knowingly presenting misleading and inaccurate information to employers or clients.
An approach that has been identified throughout the study to have better effect and cover all important aspects required for evaluation of PR campaigns is the content analysis method. In this time and age where a lot of people spend a lot of time on technology gadgets or social media and depend on technology to know just about everything ranging from news, lifestyle trends and fashion, media content analysis is a method that makes more sense to use today.
Although technology is more adequate today or rather in abundance, this is not to say that media content analysis has only being adopted in the recent years; no. Content analysis is a research methodology in Public Relations that has been used since the year 1920s. Media content analysis is among the best methods to evaluate PR campaigns because it takes into consideration some of the major variables such as the audience reach, placement of the editorial, size of article, sources, messages communicated among many more other important variables in Public Relations..
Through the systematic review methodology used in the study, it was confirmed that the most common method used in evaluating PR campaigns is the media content analysis method. Various literature and studies gathered from the systematic review proved beyond reasonable doubt that AVE was not a valid PR evaluation tool to use in determine the value for PR campaigns by giving details on the factors that make the method inaccurate. There are many other better and more accurate tools available to PR practitioners that they could use to measure the outcome of PR campaigns. Other preferred tools as identified in the study include, audience reach, web surveys, case studies, audience impressions among others. The study showed how each of these methods worked and gave satisfactory insight on why the media content analysis was the best preferred method.
The study confirmed that AVE did indeed have an impact on PR practice and as a profession only that it was not a positive effect. The debate on the validity of AVE is obviously one that has existed for many years. There are those who feel that the method serves the purpose it is intended for which is to determine the value of PR campaigns while other feel that new methods are necessary for PR practitioners if they are to show professionalism in their field.
The study identified other tools that have been proven to have better results that are more reliable and more accurate. However, there is still some slack among PR practitioner in adopting these other methods especially those used to the AVE method or agencies whose clients insist on the AVE method to be used. In failing to elaborate to clients the effects of using the AVE method and continuing to use the method that they know is faulty shows great unprofessionalism and lack of moral ethics among such PR practitioners. It is not in the best interest of PR practitioners to be in the middle of unethical practices considering people acquire their services to look good to the public and nobody in their right mind would hire a PR agency already having a stained reputation form unethical practices.
Evaluation is an important aspect in the field of Public Relations, one which should be taken very seriously if PR is ever to have a chance of being accepted as a serious and valid profession. There are many multi-billion dollar companies that feel they can do without the services of PR agencies instead use on of their own to handle their publicity matters. In order for such things to change, PR practitioners need to go back to their boards and conduct extensive research on suitable evaluation methods that are clear, precise, accurate and reliable. This way they will be more confident in their abilities and more able to approach clients with methods that they can explain and leave the client satisfied beyond doubt.
The study failed to get into enough detail regarding the many options provided for other PR evaluation methods. Use of systematic review methodology also exposes the study to some level of bias despite precautions taken during selection of articles to use. The study could also have used more studies or gathered more data in order to get more conclusive results however this was limited by the number or bias articles which made the study to use just a few numbers of articles to limit bias and inaccuracy in data. Another limitation was in the research question which was limited to one specific method which limited the study from discussing a lot of other methods that may be used in the PR profession but are invalid.
The research conducted an analysis of PR evaluation tools in different parts of the world. It did not focus on a specific country or state. There is need for further study that will be particular to specific countries to establish different PR in individual parts of the world. This will help create better insight than when research is generalized. There is also need for further research to be done on each of the preferred PR evaluation tolls in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses and just how much their weaknesses impact the PR practice and profession. Another issue that calls for further study is why PR practitioners still use the AVE method despite its many identified flaws and steps taken in the profession to protect employers or clients form inaccurate data as a result of using the AVE method.
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