Copyright 2017

Background:
In a move towards developing an industry standard for media publicity measurement the PRISA Public Relations Consultants’ Chapter (PRCC) has prepared this document with the intention of providing voluntary industry guidelines for media measurement which is tangibly linked to programme goals.

Definition of Media Publicity:
Published or broadcast content generated by a Public Relations practitioner, stakeholders (mainly online) or the media itself in the form of editorial copy, photo captions, cartoons, letters to the editor, blog opinion etc. The publicity is deemed newsworthy or of interest to audiences and is not paid for.

Current trend in Media Publicity Measurement:
Currently, the majority of public relations practitioners use the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) measurement method which compares the cost of a paid advertisement with the same amount of space or airtime of an unpaid publicity item.

The Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) is concerned about the trend within the industry where the advertising equivalent value is frequently exaggerated by using multiplier factors based on prominence, image impact, prestige of the media channel and other criterion. This results in attributing inflated and subjective values to media publicity against the comparative value of paid advertising space or airtime.

Secondly it creates considerable confusion in how to go about calculating negative publicity or bad news which was minimised or kept out of the media entirely. Clearly the ‘column per centimetre’ value of negative publicity which can be hugely damaging to an organisation’s reputation would need to be measured in a different way to news which is positive. Negative media publicity highlights the flaws of trying to compare two separate disciplines (advertising and media publicity) designed to do different things; which begs the legitimacy of comparing them.

As public relations practitioners we are required to demonstrate the extent to which public relations activity supports and achieves business objectives. This requires measurement of all outputs against business objectives.  Professionalism and best practice requires that as practitioners we therefore introduce the most valid measurement metrics to our clients and organisations so that we can move the focus away from output measurement to content analysis and impact on reputation and the bottom line.

PRISA Guidelines on Media Publicity Measurement

While PRISA accepts that AVE measurement is used by the majority of practitioners and is not advocating its exclusion; the practice of applying multiplying factors to AVE measurement is strongly discouraged. This means that if AVE is used as a measurement method, only a direct 1:1 comparison of value should be used.

AVE is only one dimension of multidimensional media research and only the first step in the process because it only measures outputs:  i.e. how much media publicity was produced.  Counting clippings and attributing an arbitrary monetary value to them is merely a quantitative measurement of outputs not a measurement of results.

Meaningful measurement metrics
When evaluating the effectiveness of Media Publicity, more meaningful measurements are:

  • Outtakes (perception shifts)
  • Outcomes (behavioural change)
  • Engagement (the level of stakeholder interaction achieved)

Meaningful figures relating to reach and value can include:

  • Cost per reach (How much did the organisation spend to reach how many stakeholders with the message?)
  • Readership / Listenership
  • A customised rating system where the backbone for scoring is based on tone (positive, neutral or negative) and customised criteria that reflect campaign goals and tone are the backbone for scoring.

The formula for calculating cost per reach is as follows:
PR Spend on generating Media Publicity ÷ Readership  =  Cost per reach

Evaluation criteria
Each organisation will have different evaluation criteria depending on its objectives and stakeholder profile.

Examples of predetermined /customised criteria are:

Was the intended message conveyed?

  • Company Name Mention
  • Product / Brand mention
  • Photo / Image
  • Spokesperson quote
  • Credibility of Spokesperson
  • Were the intended target audiences reached?
  • Prominence in broadcast or publication
  • Competitor / peer inclusion (How did the organisation compare to the exposure given to competitors)
  • Call to action opportunity for stakeholders to act on the message e.g. website, hotline no, ticket sales)

Interpretation of these types of metrics should be included in a media content analysis report. See below:

Suggested headings for media content analysis report

In Short:
Old communication models have traditionally been based on a monologue. Today, consumers want dialogue. Translated into measurement, this has meant that companies need to not only measure eyeballs, but engagement. To achieve this, innovative measurement methodologies need to be adopted that can serve across all media sets to provide comparable and qualitative data through both formative and evaluative research.

Using adverting value equivalent (AVE) may have historically provided a rough monetary unit of measure to try to compare advertising space to editorial space, but it had its share of challenges. One of the biggest changes emerged as a result of today’s ubiquitous digital access, which has removed barriers and enabled anyone to create influence.

To this end, the Public Relations Consultants’ Chapter in Southern Africa engaged influencers in the communication sphere and agreed to adopt new guidelines in communication measurement that would be applicable to both traditional and new media. The new guidelines afford the industry and profession in the country to be more comparable than ever before; use the same units to measure across media types; include basic qualitative measurement units; and shift thinking from perception to reputation.

This evolution brings about new rules of engagement by providing an innovative framework to the measurement landscape.


Established in 1957, the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) represents professionals in public relations and communication management throughout the southern African region and has registered practitioners in Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa.

It is a founding member of the Global Alliance for Public Relations & Communication Management and initiated the formation of the Council for Public Relations & Communication Management (CPRCM) renamed Council for Communication Management (CCM) in South Africa. The Council is the coordinating body representing various groupings of professionals in South Africa.

PRISA plays a leading role in uniting professionals and driving transformation. As the recognised leader of the public relations and communication management profession in southern Africa and beyond, PRISA provides the southern African industry with the local professional advantage.

Issued by:
Lesley Schroeder-McLean APR, Bridget von Holdt APR, FPRISA and Daniel Munslow PRP on behalf of the Public Relations Consultants’ Chapter (PRCC) of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA)

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