The AMEC European Summit of 2010 is famous for killing anyone's lingering hopes that advertising value equivalence (AVE) represents any kind of measure of the value of PR. As I like to say, AVE is a specious sum based on false assumptions using an unfounded multiplier, only addressing a fraction of the PR domain. <sarcasm>Apart from that, it works just fine!</sarcasm>
This summer, the European Summit delegates set AMEC's top priority as determining an approach to measuring the return on investment (ROI) of public relations. Sounds a most admirable ambition, but should this be interpretted in the way I think it might, I fear we may be at risk of having dethroned one false idol only to pursue another.
Why? Because investment in public relations is investment in strategically important intangible assets, and such investments cannot be designed, executed or analysed in isolation. As Drs Kaplan and Norton put it in their 2004 book Strategy Maps:
"Economic justification of these strategic investments can be performed, but not in traditional ways. The common approach is on a stand-alone basis: ‘Show the ROI of the new IT application’, or ‘Demonstrate the payback from the HR training program.’ … But each investment or initiative is only one ingredient in the bigger recipe. Each is necessary, but not sufficient. Economic justification is determined by evaluating the return from the entire portfolio of investments in intangible assets…"
What does this mean? Well consider the hypothetical instance of two organisations designing, executing and analysing exactly the same public relations strategy delivering precisely the same results for the same investment. Read more