What Is That Hit In The (insert major publication name here) Worth? Nothing, Unless it Creates Engagement.

7 May

A few months back someone posed a question in a Linked-In discussion group wondering how much the major hit in USA Today he had just got for a client was worth.  Obviously he is not the first PR practitioner to ask this question.  Before pondering the answer, there are several questions we should address first:

  • How many people in our target audience had an opportunity to see the placement?
  • How many actually saw it?
  • Of these, how many actually read the article?
  • Of those reading it, did it change their thinking in any way?
  • Did they forward it on to others?
  • Mention it in a phone conversation with a friend?
  • Visit a website?
  • Digg it.
  • Tweet it?
  • Blog about it?
  • Buy it?…

While one must have Exposure before Engagement, much like Awareness must precede Purchase Consideration, true value creation begins at the Engagement stage.  Using old school language, value occurs with Outcomes, not Outputs.  Seems simple enough yet the majority of PR professionals are still relying on output-oriented metrics like clip counts and ad value equivalents (AVEs) to judge success.  PR pros who are savvy about social media seem to be further evolved.  They understand that true value is not in the content (an output) per se, but in the level of engagement caused by the content.

Are you looking for value in all the right or wrong places?

8 Responses to “What Is That Hit In The (insert major publication name here) Worth? Nothing, Unless it Creates Engagement.”

  1. Lynne May 7, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    How the heck do you find out all of the answers to those seemingly benign questions?

  2. Lynne May 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    …in addition to last question — how the heck can you TRACK an individual (hit numbers, domains, etc. are easy) through the process?

  3. metricsman May 8, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Hi Lynne,
    Thanks for your comments/Qs. The 30,000 foot answer is you need a combination of web analytics, content analysis and primary research. You really can’t answer most of the questions without doing primary audience research to determine exposure to content and attitudinal shifts. The research should isolate those exposed to the content and those not exposed. You can then compare attitudes and opinions of the two and determine the ‘lift’ created by the PR content.

    On your second question, a very good one BTW, cross platform tracking is a key issue in SM research IMO. One approach I recall seeing in Ad Age recently used Compete, a click behavior service, and data from Dunnhumby to measure ROI of a MySpace campaign. Basically you track common individuals from each database (Compete to see who visits the site and Dunnhumby presumably for sales data) and use primary research to determine who was exposed/not exposed to the (in this case) advertisement. This allowed them to compare exposure to sales and determine ROI.

    Thanks again, Don B

  4. rick August 14, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    I’m confused as to why AVE metrics are still largely considered to be reliable metrics. Brand managers love to pat themselves on the back over these numbers. When measuring online marketing stats, we say that there is no value without engagement. However, the offline world AVEs are the epitome of measuring this value without interaction. Are traditional offline PR firms just trying to stay employed with over-inflated value estimates?

  5. rich August 14, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    How many people in our target audience had an opportunity to see the placement? – This will fluctuate based on the product / service and what exactly it is.

    How many actually saw it? I guess you can use analytics to see how many page views the “whatever” had

    Of these, how many actually read the article? This is an impossible measure to attain. How could this be done? not time on the page, not by how many post comments, or buy or change their minds because of “whatever”

    Of those reading it, did it change their thinking in any way? WHAT? Are you serious? this just made me chuckle.

    Did they forward it on to others? This could be somewhat accomplished programmatically.

    Mention it in a phone conversation with a friend? ok Big Brother. geez

    Visit a website? Could be tracked as a referral.

    Digg it. – Depending on what kind of article and what it is, Digg might not be the obvious choice.

    Tweet it? – You can see searches done and who is tweeting what, but why not use something like bit.ly with it to track clicks and such from twitter as well.

    Blog about it? – Like review and write personal opinions on the “whatever”?

    Buy it? – This in theory could be measured, but it doesn’t exactly equate to your AVE.

    AVE is an ancient measure of anything. just because you put a 1 inch by .5 inch ad on a major publication like the new york times, does not value your product or service more valuable. Its like saying that because their publication circulates 1.5 million worldwide for the Sunday paper, that you are getting your product to the eyes of 1.5 million people worldwide. Sounds ridiculous right? well thats what this is.

  6. Don Bartholomew August 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    Hi Rick,
    Thanks for your comment. The short answer to the AVE question is that practitioners are frustrated by the lack of easy and inexpensive ways to determine true ROI, so they use ad equivalency as a proxy for value. It is a poor measurement practice, but one that is apparently difficult to kill. We need to train and educate the next generation of PR practitioners to focus their efforts on outcomes and not AVEs. -Don B

  7. Don Bartholomew August 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Rich,
    Thanks for your comment. By your questions/answers, it is clear you are looking at this only through the lens of online media and web analytics. Traditional media is still important and there are many, many additional research techniques to get answers to the questions. For example, if you want to know whether or not someone read and remembered an article, you ask the questions via primary research. Same thing for attitudinal shifts – you can measure attitudes before and after exposure to a campaign for example, but you have to ask you can surmise based on online behavior alone. Sales can be measure in multiple ways – scan data, unique ecommerce URLs, etc.

    I hope you didn’t misinterpret my mention of AVE – my post does not argue in favor of them at all, in fact, its the opposite. Please Google ‘AVEs’ and see what you find.

  8. Dolly August 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I thought I wasnt going to like this blog but more I read the more I liked it.

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