The answer to whether PR's measurement should be done in advertising value equivalent (AVE) still eludes practitioners, but the view emerged at a PRCAI forum in Mumbai on 30 April that it could in some instances, not all.
A panel discussion on ‘How PR leads to measurable results’ features representatives from client and agency, and was moderated by Aseem Sood, CEO, Impact Research and Measurement.
On the question of whether AVE should be used to measure the value of PR, Nandini Goswami, director – corporate communications, Kellogg, noted that the notion undermines PR, and said, "Is media equal to PR? Goodwill does not translate on AVE.”
Madhvendra Das, group communications and CSR, Deutsche Bank, pointed to the relevance of AVE for certain brands or campaigns. He noted, “Sometimes it’s used just to show that your money is being well spent.”
Also voicing his view against the use of AVE was Girish Huria, head of communications – India, eBay. He countered that 'AVE is used by lazy people' and added: “Using AVE, a person can get 1:3 ROI and that makes them look very good internally. I have known of clients who use AVE globally and they have been made to believe that this is the best measure India can give.”
Lavanya Wadgaonkar, head – communications and CSR, Nissan, balanced the argument saying that it was wrong to generalise the use of AVE. She explained, “It’s not a brand measurement. It is good for certain campaigns. For certain campaigns, when I have to measure marketing forces to show what we achieved, this is a good measure to show that because it is the same media used in advertisements and the kind that we use.”
Siddharth Sankhe, head insights and analytics – India, Waggener Edstrom Communications, concurred with Goswami on the point that 'AVE is not for PR'. “It’s not a bad metric of measure, but it’s not for us. PR is all about merit," he added.
Sankhe also noted that clients shouldn't be approaching agencies at the end of the year on measurement. He noted, "Measurability isn’t what you do at the end of the year. It has to be ongoing.”
'Output' or 'outcome'?
As that debate continues, another took centre stage at the forum. While measuring effectiveness of PR, what should one measure -- outcomes or output?
Das reasoned that it could not be either-or, and said, “There are several touch points that clients are looking for and PR is just one of them, therefore I would hedge. If we can create a metric that would look at PR’s contribution to the whole piece, I would be more comfortable with one or the other.”
Explaining in the context of the auto sector, Wadgaonkar noted, “It has to be result-oriented. All the outputs are designed to get the outcomes. Everyone in PR signs up for sales.”
Jaideep Shergill, founding partner, Pitchfork Partners, said, "Outputs are means to the end and the outcome is the end. You can’t have one without the other. But you have to set your goal for the outcome.”
Citing the case with eBay, Huria revealed how some people are worried that the company 'is never in leading national newspapers'. He went on to add, “We don’t raise capital or acquire companies or anything like that. A TOI or ET is not relevant to me. So why do I need to be in those publications?" His point was that the consumer eBay is targeting is possibly not getting his or her information from traditional media channels.
Should effect on business be measured where possible?
The panel unanimously agreed on this one.
Shergill said, "The model should be not looking at it as an 'agency'. It should be about looking at it as a group of people coming together to solve a problem. The moment I stopped calling myself an ad or a PR agency, people started to open up to me. They told me their problems that they never told me before. We are looking to elevate the business to the next level and come in as trusted advisors.”
Das added, “We could add to this by extending the role of PR to more strategic goals and not just business goals both internally and externally.”
Among takeouts from the discussion was one on objectives and the fundamental role of PR.
Huria articulated this when he said, “We all talk about share of voice, tone of voice... but what is it that we actually want to achieve?” Until the objective was clearly defined, agencies would not know what they should be chasing, he surmised.
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Rao is currently CEO of dentsuMB Group India