In Defense of AVEs

Terry Hemeyer

I read with interest PR News' April 1 article titled "Study Shows PR Pros Making Progress in Following the Barcelona Principles." I respectfully disagree with the premise that AVEs (advertising equivalencies) are not a value indicator for public relations earned media measurement.

I have used AVEs and other measures successfully throughout my 40-plus year career, which included working for multiple globally recognized, industry-leading brands and PR agencies. At each venture, AVEs were not just requested by C-level executives, they were expected.

You see, AVEs reveal something many PR professionals claim to provide—tangible value. While some may claim AVEs are inaccurate or antiquated measurements, if you review most PR award submissions, you’ll see AVEs and similar dollar-value measurements listed as key proof points for success.

The real issue related to AVEs surrounds how they’re used and derived. I believe AVEs are relevant and meaningful when combined with the following assessments and stipulations:

  • Placement is in the right medium and media

  • The placement reaches the targeted audience

  • The distribution of the placement is significant

  • The percentage of positive versus negative tone and content relating to the client

  • Client message(s) and spokesperson quotes are included in the story

  • Good story placement location and/or timing of the article or broadcast

  • Share of voice—audience impressions

  • I define AVE as cost to buy the same space or time, divided by two.

The non-measureable but significant part of AVEs is that the placement has the aura of third party credibility by originating from independent journalists or producers. It’s from here that unspoken value is derived, which only further strengthens a PR professional’s case for relevancy.

Terry Hemeyer has served on boards of directors and been in charge of communications for two major corporations. He now teaches PR Strategies at the University of Texas at Austin, crisis management in the Rice University MBA program and serves as executive counsel to Pierpont Communications.

  • David Rosen

    AVEs ain’t perfect. but they’re the best measurement tool we have to demonstrate the value of earned media coverage that is targeted, positive and well placed. The value of third party credibility, while not quantifiable, seems self-evident, to me at least and also to savvy employers and clients, especially when original coverage is re-purposed and cited by others.

  • VA PR Director

    I’m so glad to read this – I’ve been saying the same thing. Top execs expect to see a return on their investment, no matter what field/industry it pertains to. The Barcelona Principles ignores this and attempts to put vague “measurements” in place, which are not measurements in any shape or form. At the end of the day, a CEO or CFO wants to know what value ($y) they received for their expenditure ($x).

  • Markham Howe

    Sorry, Terry, but that AVE boat won’t float. I compliment you on trying to fix the holes with definitions and formulas, but even some of those are vague and left to interpolation. Most of all, the values you propose aren’t recognized by another outside authority. I think we all know that there is value in stories being picked up by the media, and we desperately want something to prove to our clients. However, we would never use AVE in validating negative stories. Think about Carnival Cruise Lines. Would you use AVE in measuring that mess? While their boat was still floating when they pulled it into the pier, for all practical purposes their reputation sunk faster than a rock. My experience is that some meter has to move in order to validate success; either the sales meter or the public opinion/customer satisfaction meter. There are likely other success metrics we can use, but I honestly can’t see AVE being one of them.