Shifting away from AVEs – The next steps

by Luke Paskins - Digital Lead at Spink

Applying effective measurement and evaluation to communications campaigns is vital in the field of public relations. It provides justification for why an activity was carried out, allowing marketing professionals to assess whether the campaign achieved the objectives that it set out to meet. Of equal importance, evaluation provides insight to help shape the future activity of a particular organisation, service, brand or product, leading to better decisions and improved outcomes.

Advertising value equivalents (AVEs) are a metric that claim to provide practitioners with insight into the value of earned media coverage, allowing easy comparison between earned and paid-for media. It is a technique that has long been criticised, but has recently received a particularly high level of attention within the communications and public relations arena, and for good reason.

In 2015, one of the Barcelona Principles – a widely recognised set of seven principles that provide an overarching framework for effective public relations measurement, produced by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) – outlined that the AVE metric “does not measure the value of PR or communications”.

Following this, AMEC launched a major global initiative in early 2017 to eradicate the use of AVEs. AMEC state that they are “committed to a long-term campaign to eradicate this meaningless metric and educate professionals on better and available alternatives” and their initiative has received widespread support from a number of leading influencers, trade associations and organisations. In May, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) released a statement in response to AMEC’s initiative, stating that it will publish a new professional standard on public relations measurement in the autumn which would outline an expectation of members that the use of AVEs will cease. The CIPR has pledged to ban AVEs from industry awards and has also specified that members found to be utilising the metric may even be liable for disciplinary action.

With this in mind, education on the importance of metrics that truly reflect the value of our work must be provided for media relations practitioners and information should be provided by industry associations on suitable alternatives to AVEs that always relate back to the original objectives of each media campaign. The development of digital technologies has revolutionised marketing and has provided a number of new ways in which performance can be measured within public relations and communications. Traditional media and offline metrics outside of AVEs, such as an increase in awareness or a change in attitude, should be combined with new web and digital metrics that relate to the digital boom. The number of click-throughs, the volume of web traffic, the levels of social media engagement and the understanding of a customer’s journey are all appropriate methods to measure the success of online campaigns.

Effective metrics provide clients and budget holders with the assurance that they are receiving a high return on their investment. However, if public relations agencies and in-house media teams wish to receive a higher proportion of marketing budgets, we need a comparable metric across ALL marketing principles, allowing for a quick comparison on the return on investment across different channels, including traditional media relations, digital marketing and advertising. New tools, such as AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework, which provides an integrated approach to measuring campaigns, have been introduced to allow organisations to combine traditional and new evaluative techniques to communications, but there is still some way to go in finding an adequate solution for comparison across the whole marketing industry.  

Measurement is central to our business discipline and, whilst the vast majority of public relations professionals would agree that it is time to stop the use of AVEs once and for all, it’s imperative that this metric is suitably replaced by other evaluative techniques.

As industry professionals, we need to embrace this transformation and follow guidance set by leading associations, influencers and organisations, who must set the standard by providing universal education and accessible frameworks on metrics that can be applied across all areas of marketing. It is only when we are all on the same page that we can truly prove the value of public relations, without the use of AVEs, in the evolving communications environment.

Speak to Luke Paskins to find out more about how we measure and evaluate for our clients.

 

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The Register of Lobbyists – Will we ever get it right?

by James M. Butcher - Public Affairs Lead at Spink

Lobbyists connect experts, interest groups, campaigners, industry and indeed pretty much anyone who wants to create change with the policy makers who can make things happen. As an industry, we’re weak at shouting about the positive effect that lobbyists have on improving policies for people, areas and industries.

Stories about corruption and under-hand tactics to exert influence often make a big splash in the media and so they should. Outing bad and illegal practises will hopefully bring those who break the law to justice and prevent these actions from happening again.

Registering lobbyists on a publicly available list for all to access is seen around the world as one of the best ways of achieving transparency, but here in Britain, we’ve yet to perfect the art.

Yesterday (1 Aug 2017), the PRCA released a statement regarding the inclusion of Barry Sheerman MP, who chairs the not-for-profit organisation, ‘Policy Connect’, on the Statutory Register of Consultant Lobbyists. The PRCA rightly pointed out that you simply cannot be an MP and a lobbyist – it is against Parliamentary rules. To make matters more complicated, Mr Sheerman’s role is known to the Parliamentary authorities and they don’t consider him to be a lobbyist.

This sends all the wrong messages to the public. How can the Parliamentary authorities say that he isn’t a lobbyist but the Registrar of the Statutory Register say that he is? Both authorities were set up to instil confidence in democracy but in this case, neither are achieving it.

Of course, the Statutory Register is littered with problems and has been widely criticised across the industry – the definition it uses of lobbyists only relates to those who directly lobby senior Ministers and Private Secretaries, it does not apply to in-house teams, it is claimed to ignore around 80% of those working in lobbying and it is accused of providing no more information than what is already publicly and voluntarily available.

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Perhaps the best summary of the success of the Statutory Register can be summed up by the Registrar herself. When asked whether the Register could be described as successful, she said:

“The Register does what the legislation requires – my job is to continue to make sure that all those who are required to register do so, and to operate the system cost effectively. I encourage anyone unsure about their responsibilities under the Act to contact me, so I can advise whether they need to be registered. It’s better to ask than guess!”.

Added to the issues faced by the Statutory Register, the industry has several registers on offer too.

While these voluntary registers are applauded, the fact there are so many does rather confuse the situation. The APPC has its own register, the CIPR operates ‘The UK Lobbying Register’, and the PRCA offers the ‘Public Affairs and Lobbying Register’.

If we are to strive for greater public confidence in what we do, we need to get it right. We need a register that includes the majority of those working in the industry. It needs to be the definitive authority on what is or is not lobbying, it needs to provide meaningful information and it needs to have the support of industry. Only then can we really say that we are achieving the transparency the public expect from us. 

Interested in finding out more about the register of lobbyists? Speak to our Public Affairs lead.

 

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