Make it count. What are valid metrics?

This post was originally published on for their monthly “Ask Doc Rock” column.

Jessica was back. This time she brought her boss Alana, a vice president.

“We have a problem,” Jessica began. “We’ve convinced more clients to stop using AVEs, but they keep asking what to replace them with.”

“And now we are planning for one of our largest global accounts,” added Alana.  “The client wants goals with specific key performance indicators and a measurement plan. But the work we do for them covers everything from employee engagement to public affairs to CSR to brand marketing. How do we decide what the right success factors or KPIs are?”

It is something the profession has struggled with. AVEs were popular because they were simple and cheap. But they are also incredibly inaccurate, as we talked about last month.  To help determine what to measure — often half the battle in measurement — the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) partnered with PRSA and developed the Valid Metrics Framework.

This framework is a series of matrices that are easy to use and show what to measure for all different types of PR programs — CSR, public affairs, employee engagement, brand marketing, etc.

You select the right chart by the type of program you are doing, determine what you are trying to change about the target audience and then select the relevant metrics in that box in the matrix.

This idea is based on the marketing funnel. If I want you to buy something, then I have to make you aware that the product exists and then, tell you what it does. If you feel good about the product, then you might buy it. It also gives metrics for program execution, results in the media (social and traditional), and the effects on the target audience, including business results.

The  Valid Metrics Framework adds tremendous robustness to how practitioners evaluate public relations, and gets us away from dumb metrics like clip counts alone, or worse, the dreaded AVEs.  And, it turns public relations from media flacks to valuable business associates.

Reader email

And, now some questions readers submitted by readers of this column:

Diana: Do you use multipliers? Is there ever a place for multipliers in PR measurement?

DocRock: No. If the multiplier is intended to show that earned media is more valuable than paid media, then that is simply not universally true.

Don’t bother with multipliers based on pass-along readership — which publishers use to boost ad rates — because you are almost always overstating how many people actually read what was placed among your specific target audience. Hardly anyone reads everything in a publication, and many people receiving a publication are not in your target audience.

Nancy: How do you figure out impressions?

DocRock: Start with circulation and then adjust downward based on what percent of the circulation actually reaches the people in your target audience. Caveat this along the line of  “opportunities for exposure,” since everyone doesn’t read everything in a publication or on a blog.

Karen: We want to assign a value to stories picked up online. For broadcast, we take the cost of a 30-second ad, adjust it for the actual length of the piece that we placed, and multiply it by three. Do you do something similar for online?

DocRock: No. All you are doing is using advertising costs as PR value. They are not the same. We covered this in last month’s column.