Custom Scoring: The PR Metric Of The Future

Why the need for alternative metrics?

In the first part of our series, we discussed the use of AVE as the main determinant for PR value and why PR professionals shouldn’t rely on it as a marker of their success. 

We identified the main reasons why PR professionals need more than just AVE:

  • The media landscape is growing increasingly diverse, and so are the different avenues for obtaining earned, owned, shared, and paid media coverage.
  • Management is slowly recognising the importance of measuring activity both on and offline that can result in vital brand coverage.
  • AVE neglects important factors that can help PR professionals decide on the value of a piece of coverage, namely the placement of the article, the key messages addressed in the article, as well as the tone of coverage.

In this article, we highlight alternative metrics and rubrics that can help PR professionals obtain a more holistic view of PR value, as well as how Meltwater’s Custom Scoring tool can help them do just that.

Metrics used to measure PR value must shift to align with those used in mature markets

Consider this — Meltwater works with a global hospitality company who cares a lot about how their investors perceive them. As they operate out of the United States, these investors obtain their coverage from tier-one publications there. The United States is a mature market that supports a diverse and largely digital media landscape. As a result, PR organisations in the U.S. have since shifted their gaze away from AVE as the main proxy for PR ROI. These investors thus expect to benchmark PR performance on alternative metrics that provide a more well-rounded understanding of PR value. Our client therefore needed a means to move towards measurements that match those used in these markets.

All over the industry, PR professionals are recognising the need to catch up. As early as 2010, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) has been advocating for a shift away from AVE towards more meaningful evaluative metrics. In 2015, these principles were updated to place greater emphasis on social media coverage, KPI-based indices and sentiment analysis. 

A combination of these alternative metrics allow PR professionals to tailor PR value to their brand based on how significant each metric is in relation to their goals. 

Currently, various alternative frameworks exist to help PR professionals with measurement and evaluation alongside the plethora of individual metrics that may be used to measure PR ROI:

Lewis’ Awareness Measurement

Lewis’ approach to integrated PR evaluation places an emphasis on the creation of clear organisational objectives and the creation of KPIs that best match the target audience and campaign constraints, including available resources and budgets. Campaign results are also measured by how well audience actions lead to desirable business outcomes — this includes whether or not the target audience increases their understanding or changes their attitude towards a certain topic, or whether the campaign impacted their intention to take tangible steps towards purchasing a product or subscribing for a service. This allows PR professionals to evaluate the impact of their campaigns beyond output and reach. 

AMEC’s Valid Metrics Framework

AMEC’s Valid Metrics Framework provides suggested metrics for different types of common PR campaigns: Brand/Product Marketing, Reputation Building, Issues Advocacy/Support, Employee Engagement, Investor Relations, Crisis/Issues Management, Not-for-Profit, and Social/Community Engagement.

The framework includes three phases of communication that allow PR professionals to measure their PR activity from information dissemination to audience reception and action. It also considers five stages of communication, from audience awareness to their eventual  response. This allows PR professionals to evaluate the success of a campaign depending on how far it moves along each axis.

While these frameworks are helpful in allowing PR professionals to measure their campaign outcomes in relation to their goals and campaign reception, these frameworks still require manual calculations on the part of PR teams. This means that they are not able to aggregate their campaigns at-a-glance or obtain instant insights and reports to prove their worth to management. This poses a hurdle for PR professionals looking to make the switch. 

Enter Custom Scoring

Meltwater has been working with PR organisations over the years to combat the weaknesses of 

AVE and formulate a more robust means of calculating earned media value. Meltwater’s Custom Scoring tool helps PR professionals that want to look beyond AVE by taking weighted indices and automating them for ease of use. 

Custom Scoring allows you to provide a score for each piece of editorial content. These scores are associated with six key metrics, namely the publication source, article prominence, article sentiment, article reach, tags, and virality or social echo. These metrics can be toggled on or off based on the needs of each brand. 

Source, sentiment, prominence and reach are indicators of an article’s tone, trustworthiness, and readership base, which can give you an idea of how targeted the article is to your audience and how valuable the article is to your brand. Tags allow users to assign particular attributes to their articles in order to observe trends in their earned media coverage.

Social echo, on the other hand, is an extremely important aggregator of the value of social posts, where shareability plays a huge role in determining where and when your post appears. An Instagram post that has been liked, commented on, and reshared multiple times has a better feed ranking than one with less engagement. This post gets prime real estate on both a user’s feed as well as their Explore page. Facebook posts, too, rank better when consistently shared. In addition, posts that exhibit similar attributes to these viral posts or discuss similar topics often rank better as well. Brands that are in tune with their social echo therefore have a better understanding of their reach and how their content is being received.

Users are able to assign weight to each of these metrics based on their brands’ needs and goals and apply this formula to an existing news search. The result is a total score tallied from their coverage, as well as an average and individual article score. 

Meltwater’s Custom Scoring tool also provides users with the ability to analyse trends in their earned media coverage, compare their coverage between periods, and prepare instant reports for management.

It is worth noting that Custom Scoring does not assign monetary value to these metrics. Unlike AVE, there is no way to directly associate earned media with the bottom line. However, Custom Scoring is still useful for PR professionals looking to aggregate PR value in a more holistic manner.

What does this mean for PR professionals?

On the whole, Custom Scoring and other alternative measurement models provide an outlet for PR professionals looking to move beyond AVE. The adoption of alternatives allows PR professionals to evaluate the effectiveness of more diverse types of content and publicity available, therefore maximising the potential of the new media landscape. 

Regardless of whether AVE is considered a sufficient indicator of PR value, the existence of new ways to refine PR measurement enable PR professionals to anticipate the need to better justify their work to management. With more believable, well-rounded indicators for success, PR organisations are able to work towards producing better campaigns that fall in line with business objectives.