The question that has faced PR professionals since the inception of the industry is “What is PR worth?” How valuable is a client’s photo in a magazine, quote in a story or profile in an online publication?

Public relations societies and organizations have argued the pros and cons of quantifying the results of media results by comparing it to ad buys. Although imperfect, it seems at least a logical method of assessing the campaign. The industry has coined this concept AVE – Advertising Value Equivalency. The Institute for Public Relations and its Commission for PR Measurement & Evaluation does not endorse this practice. While related, it is two separate industries, with two separate targets in the media. But like it or not, some clients demand it – and it does in fact, have its merits.

The variables intrinsic in comparing advertising to editorial are many, so the process cannot be scientific. But a standard formula that allows a consistent comparison of media coverage as it relates to advertising rates often bears valuable information. Even without a factor increase that says earned media (editorial coverage) is worth more than paid media (advertising placements), an aggressive public relations campaign can generate significant visibility particularly in print coverage. That visibility comes at a far more cost-effective price.

Take a profile in a local publication, for example, the South Florida Business Journal. A full page, color ad runs at the cost of more than $9,000. That same space is covered in an Executive Profile. A PR firm who can encourage the reporter to do the Executive Profile has just elevated the visibility of its client – and is all part of an active retainer that has likely included many other media spots for a monthly fee substantially below the ad rate.

On a national level, the comparison is even more remarkable. A quote in a real estate trade magazine or a known business magazine can be worth more than $15,000 in comparable advertising. A photo in a glossy magazine would have cost more than the price of a month’s retainer. An article on a client’s business, produce or success far surpasses its associated advertising prices.

For clients, that comparison is often a way to reassure that they are getting good value for their dollars. For the PR firm, it underscores the reality of what they do – and how it matches up, almost always favorably.

by: Caren Berg

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