What’s the AVE of Negative PR?

by Julie Primrose

In a recent column and blog post, Carl Bialik of The Wall Street Journal raised a point that comes up many times in the public relations industry.  Bialik discusses the dangers of relying on advertising value equivalencies, or AVEs, to measure the outcome of publicity efforts.

Bialik’s article leads to several questions for those who continue to use AVEs as a form of measurement, including “How do you measure negative publicity using AVEs?”  If an article is worth three times an advertisement of the same size, how do you calculate the value of a negative story?  Do you subtract its value from the total of all positive coverage?  And what happens if the sum of all coverage dips to a negative number?

As many have previously written, a story receives its value simply because it cannot be purchased.  It may be difficult to quantify, but the fact that coverage in the news can’t be bought speaks to its value much more than an arbitrary figure based on the cost of an advertisement.

In his article, Bialik pokes another hole in the sinking argument for AVEs.  The public relations industry may not have given up on AVEs entirely, but there is a growing consensus that these figures don’t communicate the true impact of publicity, whether a story is negative or positive.

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