There was a nice article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal where columnist Carl Bialik dove into measuring the value of media coverage. Fortunately, Carl’s article supports the conclusions that ad equivalencies (AVE) and a multiplier effect on standard circulation are unimportant numbers in our business. Contrary to the quote from Katie Paine, who said that “Agencies use [ad equivalencies] to impress clients,” this agency does not. In fact, we hate doing it and try to counsel our clients against using AVEs to justify their marketing spend. We have a proprietary method to gauge our clients’ media relations efforts that accounts for objective and subjective factors. It’s also affordable.
Bialik’s article quotes Jim Macnamara, a professor of public communication at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, who talks about the importance of outcomes in measuring return on investment. He’s right, but I wonder if the focus of this discussion should be at the other end of the marketing and communications spectrum. I wonder if it shouldn’t be at the beginning with research. How else can we meaningfully measure an outcome if we don’t have a baseline?
Yes, research requires investment and it often is not as sexy as the campaign implementation. Good research not only shows marketers opportunity but also helps us determine the most appropriate form of communication to generate a meaningful outcome. Increasingly our clients don’t care if we’re using media relations, advertising, search engine optimization or social media to fuel our campaigns; rather, they want to invest their dollars in the best way to achieve the desired outcome. The best agency partners for these clients are the ones who insist on research out of the gate so that an engaging and meaningful conversation about return on investment can be had at the finish line. In many instances, phase two of the research should be completed at the end of the program to gauge effectiveness. If the budget won’t support research, marketers should at least commit to agreed upon goals and measure against them.
Measuring without research is a wasted effort. We might as well use ad equivalencies.