Marketing Metric of Last Resort

Pretty much all marketers do it.  We spend money on programs that we “know in our our heart” are the right thing but are extremely difficult to track.  What am I talking about?  For me it has been PR.  PR has always been a no brainer as a cost effective way to tell your story in long form and present your organization as a category leader.  Plus from a team building standpoint, everyone likes to see the company’s name or the CEO’s smiling face in the Wall Street Journal or your hometown newspaper.

The challenge always arises during budget season when the pointy headed types ask the inevitable question:

“So, what did we get for that $120K we spent on PR last year besides some glossy reprints?”

As always it comes back to measurement.  In a perfect world, one could connect the prospect who read the product review in a magazine and then bought your product.  In reality it is much more complex.  Different stakeholders learn about you through different media, leaving you with a series of indirect measures.

So what is the marketing metric of last resort?

When in doubt, I’ve seen people use a measure called “advertising equivalents”.  This is defined as the cost to purchase an equal amount of advertising in the publication where you received PR coverage.  If you get a half page editorial, then this is worth a half page of advertising.  You get the idea.  This is certainly better than nothing but here are the problems:

  • This metric is more about activity than results
  • It assumes you would actually buy media in that publication if you had a choice
  • It has no reflection of the quality of the coverage

So, how do you measure those hard to measure programs?

Author: Frank Days

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  1. Ad eeuivalents is nothing more then vooodoo math with so many holes no PR person worth their salt subscribes to this urban legand methodology.

    Share of discussion & share of voice are two proven methods..but it all goes back to your plan. What were your objectives & that will tell you what to measure.

  2. “advertising equivalents” is a slightly dumbed-down way of calculating “Reach” or CPM. CPM is an “old world” Advertising 1.0 measurement. Imperfect in the past, and even less perfect in a 2.0 world. But….it’s all we’ve got. Your PR investments are measured first and foremost against reach — as in: “what was the circulation of the pubs you got yourself in?” Reach is a bit better than advertising equivalents b/c you might be paying more/less for your media buy relative depnding on the type of media you’re in. Next in the sales funnel is retention — how many of the people who bought/received that mag remembered your ad. Retention is partially a function of segmentation – is the pub you got yourself in part of a target audience that is likely to be moved by FirstGiving? This is an assumption that the “pointy heads” will likely test, but so be it — at least you’ve got them in a conversation about what is/isn’t effective. Finally we all make assumptions about what is the “purchase intention rate” for those who remember our marketing. For different types of marketing, different intention rates apply. What each rate is is difficult to agree on, but the conversation about what is more effective, if centered on intent, is the right conversation to have. Some good writing on this is over at BzzAgent:

  3. Another issue with the “advertising equivalents” approach is that advertising and editorial content don’t have the same value.

    In most cases, I’d argue that a half page of real content would be more influential to prospects than a half page ad.

  4. I guess it’s an easy pile-on. Other commentators are spot-on, ad equivalence reminds us how worthless most ads are, and is a poor measure of PR results. If you need to track to revenue, you should pretty much give up on PR, but that doesn’t mean you can’t track to results. And you shouldn’t let the PR firm tell you that coverage measured in ad eq is a result.

    What you have to do is have a real PR plan with its own desired results that you can measure. Maybe that’s just plain tonnage of coverage, but more likely it’s at least coverage of a particular type in particular outlets. Maybe it’s blog comments or inbound links. Maybe it’s mentions by specific influencers or awareness measured by some kind of survey.

    You have to work with your vendor to agree on metrics that matter to you. You’ve got to have some ends in mind, or you have no business investing in a marketing program in the first place.

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