Widely discussed, but also predominantly misused – PR measurement is certainly one of the topics that never gets old. What causes the stir is the AVE metric that remains used amongst PR professionals despite its questionable effectiveness at best. 

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That’s why we start off the series about effective PR measurement with this article on the right way to prove the value of your efforts.

Read on to learn more!

A Brief History Lesson: from Press Clipping to Media Monitoring

The history of PR measurement started in the 1850s when more and more people started to realize the importance of staying on top of their reputation.

First press clipping agencies

That prompted polish newsagent Henry Romeike to start the world’s first press clipping agency in 1852 in London. Actors, singers, and writers came to his shop to browse the latest newspaper that talked about their work.

In 1879 in Paris, Alfred Cherie upgraded Romeike’s press clipping model by offering cut-out articles instead of entire newspapers to a similar clientele – hence the name for the entire process.

This was the original PR measurement method. Back then, metrics were comprised of information about the size of the article, the page number, etc.

history of pr measurement
Source: National Film and Sound Archive

Radio and television monitoring

Then, after radio and television appeared as the new mass media outlets in the 1920s, press clipping services were extended to tracking those as well.

Initially, the process was completely manual, meaning that agencies would listen or watch and transcribe relevant information. But, in the mid-20th century, it was much more automatized thanks to the development of audio and video recorders. 

Internet tracking

The next major milestone was the appearance of the Internet in the 1990s. The revolution that was prompted by the new mass media outlet encompassed press clipping as well. What soon happened was that press clipping became media monitoring, a version of it that is much more similar to what we know and use today. 

In the 21st century, media monitoring became even more advanced. Thanks to machine learning and advanced algorithms, media monitoring boasts features like sentiment analysis, global coverage of millions of online and offline sources, real-time tracking in any language, and much more. 

Throughout all of these changes, improvements, and subsequent new, more precise metrics, one has remained present to this day. Remember how cut-out articles were initially evaluated by their size, positioning, etc.? Well, that leads us to AVE, a notorious public relations metric

Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE)

As explained in the AVE debate, the Advertising Value Equivalent is the cost of buying the space taken up by a particular article, had the article been an advertisement. 

To demonstrate how AVE works, let’s take a look at the following example. 

You pitched your client’s story and it successfully landed a quarter-page article in a credible newspaper. Then, you looked into how much it would cost for your ad to be published in the same manner in that publication. 

The estimated cost is the value you’d attribute to your article. To report back on your success to your client in terms of AVE, you’d probably explain how you secured a 50 000$ ROI while on a 5000$ budget, for instance. Mind you, you haven’t actually secured that ROI. It is just a fictional amount of money that will never land on your client’s bank account.

The issue with AVE

Admittedly, it sounds terrific. It certainly is effective for demonstrating the value of PR to people who don’t know much of it because it presents results in such an arbitrary way. 

But, AVE is simply not accurate nor relevant. MuckRack states several reasons for it:

  • The value of earned public relations coverage is based on the cost of ad space that AVE has absolutely no impact on or control over.
  • AVE fails to take into account the content of a media placement that might often not be as positive as you’d want it to be.
  • Editorial coverage in non-target media outlets does not further your goals and objectives, regardless of their high circulation numbers.
  • Social media impressions cannot be tracked or measured monetarily with AVE.

Consequently, PR professionals that primarily use AVE to report on their work often give out a wrong impression of it. And you would be surprised how many still do so. 

According to the latest ICO World PR Report, 2020 marks the first time that a majority of respondents said that they do not ever use AVEs. Out of those that still do, 75% do it as per their clients’ request.

So, if not AVE, what is then the right approach to effective PR measurement?

The Barcelona principles

As an answer to this question, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) presented an industry-wide consensus on measurement and evaluation during the 2010 Barcelona summit, thus known as the Barcelona principles. 

They are as follows:

1. Setting goals is an absolute prerequisite to communications planning, measurement, and evaluation.
2. Measurement and evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes, and potential impact.
3. Outcomes and impact should be identified for stakeholders, society, and the organization.
4. Communication measurement and evaluation should include both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
5. AVEs are not the value of communication.
6. Holistic communication measurement and evaluation include all relevant online and offline channels.
7. Communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights.
The Barcelona principles 3.0 

As you can see, the Barcelona principles unambiguously state that AVE should not be used as a metric. Rather, as AMEC itself states:

“It is important that communications measurement and evaluation employs a richer, more nuanced, and multi-faceted approach to understand the impact of communications.”


Furthermore, AMEC proposed an Integrated Evaluation Framework that shows how to operationalize the Barcelona Principles into action and prove the value of one’s work. 

Integrated Evaluation Framework

The Integrated Evaluated Framework (IEF) provides a consistent and credible approach that works for organizations of all sizes. At the same time, it can also be tailored to very specific user cases and objectives. 

integrated evalued framework
Source: AMEC

It is a client-centric approach comprised of three phases that are then divided into smaller sections that cover the most important aspects of effective PR measurement, as is visible from the image above. 

So, first things first, you would start the preparation phase with clear organizational objectives and define communications objectives that will reflect and mirror them. Then, you’d define your inputs: target audience, strategic planning, situational analysis, resources, budget, etc. 

In the implementation phase, you’d define the activities that will be carried out, any testing or research, content production, etc. Moreover, here is where you’d use the PESO model we’ll talk about in just a bit. 

Finally, in the measurement and insights phase, you delve into: 

  1. Outputs – a combination of qualitative and quantitative data that covers the core metrics within PESO (e.g. reach, web traffic, number of mentions, number of event visitors, media coverage)
  2. Out-takes – the response and reactions of your target audiences to the activity (e.g. sentiment analysis, engagement rate, subscription rate)
  3. Outcomes – measuring the effect of communications on the target audience (e.g. change in attitude, increase in trust, increase in understanding of the topic, retention)
  4. Impact – demonstrating business outcomes and linking them to the organizational objectives (e.g. improvement in brand reputation, established relationships, increase in sales, etc.).

The PESO model

A useful tool for planning how an organization uses different forms of media to achieve its goals within the IEF’s implementation phase is the PESO model. PESO stands for the integration of four media types: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned.

earned paid shared and owned media
Source: Spin Sucks

What’s great about PESO is that it enables PR professionals to properly communicate from a prospective customer’s very first touch, regardless of the media used. The reason for it is that it takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each media type, rather than focusing solely on the traditional, paid approach. 

Source: Wadds Inc.

As you can see from the table above, each type of media has different qualities in terms of trust, scale, cost, and predictability

So, if your goal is to scale, for instance, then paid media should be your go-to. But, if you want to focus on building trust, earned and shared media might be your best bet. Combining media types will maximize the effectiveness and value of each.

What Is the Right Way for PR Measurement?  

Well, the good news is that the effective PR measurement does not base on or include AVE. The bad news is that there is still no consensus on what should be measured exactly

We’ve already mentioned metrics suggested by the Barcelona principles:

  • A tangible incremental increase in sales
  • A shift in behavior, rather than just purchase intent
  • More brand advocates this quarter compared to the previous quarter.

Institute for Public Relations, on the other hand, proposes the following metrics:

  • Return-on-investment
  • Circulation, reach, and impressions
  • Mentions
  • Engagement.

The third set of metrics by The Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards includes:

  • Engagement and conversation
  • Reach and impressions
  • Sentiment, opinion, and advocacy
  • Influence and relevance
  • Impact and value.

All of these or none of these metrics might be relevant to you. It all depends on what your business, industry, or goals and objectives are. That’s why it’s hard to establish the ultimate set of metrics that could apply to virtually every organization out there. 

Although there is no definitive answer to this question, there is a solution that tackles this problem successfully – a media monitoring tool

The great thing about using media monitoring tools mentioned at the beginning of this article is that they automatically track all the most important metrics for your organization. Determ, for example, has an abundance of predefined metrics, as well as an option to create more than 2000 custom combinations of metrics. 

PR Measurement with Determ

Now, to be more specific with the metrics you can track with Determ, let’s explore all the information available at hand. 

Feed metrics and tags

To start off, it’s important to mention the feed. Your feed is a central place in which you can see tracked mentions from any source along with the most important metrics. 

Other than data on the post and author itself, you can see the information about the reach, interactions, engagement rate, and influence at the very bottom. These metrics can be very helpful when measuring the potential value of a specific mention.

Metrics in Determ

Another cool feed feature is the tags. This comes in extremely handy for the PESO model, as you can easily tag each media type to get very specific insights and analytics for each one. The process of assigning tags and sentiment to mentions can also be done automatically with the help of Automated actions.

Reports and customization options

Determ’s Reports section is where you’ll find ample analytics on your queries. The three predefined dashboards contain the majority of metrics we mentioned throughout this article. 

Predefined dashboards and corresponding charts in Mediatoolkit
Predefined dashboards and corresponding charts in Determ

What’s more, you can fully customize each of the preexisting dashboards and charts to create unique datasets. For example, create a custom chart based on a tag. Backtracking to the PESO model once again, we could analyze the sentiment for a specific media type to evaluate its performance. 

For a detailed analysis of all dashboards and charts in Determ, check out our article on PR report templates in which we’ve also demonstrated several examples of custom dashboards you can create with the tool. 

To Sum Up on PR Measurement

Metrics and analytics, when used right, are crucial for informed decision-making and effective strategy optimization. That’s why you shouldn’t rely on a metric such as AVE to demonstrate the value of your work. 

Rather, opt for metrics that truly reflect the progress you made with your specific goals and business objectives. A media monitoring tool such as Determ will take the guesswork out of the equation, as it already tracks all of the most important PR metrics you could ever need.