How NOT to Measure The Value of PR

Posted in PR by David Oates

A common strategy that public relations agencies still tout when selling their value is the “Ad Equivalency Value” (AEV). AEV states that any news coverage is three to four times more valuable than running a similar ad in that outlet. Similarly, it's argues that a piece delivered as a news story is more credible than one derived from a paid relationship.

To that, I cry B.S.

The idea of boosting numbers wherever possible became popular when no other ways to measure the value of PR existed; the days pre-internet. While the AEV claim did prove some benefit (free publicity, right?), the spike in attention was short-lived and often didn’t result in acquiring paying customers. The truth is that any standalone ad, including a broadcast story, holds almost no long-term value. Today, not only do we understand the importance of strategic planning and “playing the long game,” but we have the tools and the data to make it effective.

Any successful ad, regardless of delivery method, must engage with the intended audience. Sure, a one-off news piece will generate eyeballs, but will it convert a viewer to a customer? To reiterate, the AEV argument states that the value of free news coverage is greater than that of paid advertising. Modern data, however, proves these claims to be outdated. According to American Press Institute, Adults aging from 18-29 are 30% less likely to consume news on a daily basis than those who are 60+ years old. Similarly, young adults are over 50% more likely to use social media. In terms of generating revenue, you will gain more qualified leads when you understand your target market and reach them via their preferred channel. When the ultimate goal is to make money, it is imperative to focus your time and energy in creating a strategy that targets the right audience.

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To measure the value of PR in today’s world, a marketing team must have a firm grasp of what makes a public relations campaign work. When thinking about ideas for your campaign, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do I want to reach?
  • What do I want to say?
  • What I want the audience to understand?
  • How do I want the audience to act?

Understanding what will resonate with your target market is important, but navigating today’s modern "languages," from text slang to emoticons, can be tricky. Luckily, there is a wide range of products that can help guide you down the right path. Free tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Page Insights will help you get started by providing data that shows what tends to work, and what doesn’t.

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Once you’ve branched out from a traditional one-size-fits all marketing strategy, how do you measure the value of your PR investment? Here are a few ideas to help gauge your ROI:

Track how many publications viewed by your prospects mentions your company’s products or services.
  • Compare website traffic before, during and after your campaign launch
  • Ask your sales leads “how did you hear about us?” to determine if sales have generated from your PR campaign
  • Research and measure awareness by surveying your target market before and after a campaign
  • Track social media mentions to see if you're gaining traction in your community

Integrating public relations into your company will not be a small undertaking. It will require creative thinking and undoubtedly some training but, if implemented correctly, the benefits will prove the power of PR generate revenue for any company.

About David Oates

David Oates, APR, is Founder and President of Stalwart Communications, a Pay-On-Performance PR and Marketing Agency. He possesses 20 years of extensive experience directing marketing and public relations programs on a tactical and strategic level through a long and successful career that spans both agency, corporate and military environments. David is an accredited public relations expert affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. He can be reached at
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