Why PR metrics are as much use as a chocolate Karl Stefanovic

If ever you wanted a demonstration of the dreadful state of metrics around PR, Mumbrella inadvertently demonstrated it last week.

We published a story about the achievements of PR agency DEC for client Darrell Lea. The press release sent to us began with the following bold claim:  

“6 September 2011, Sydney, Australia: DEC Public Relations launched a Father’s Day campaign on Friday for Darrell Lea – incorporating social and traditional media relations, and in-store activity – reaching an audience of over 33 million on day one.

“The agency created a campaign giving Aussies the opportunity to take home their favourite celeb dads, including Comedian and 7PM Project presenter, Dave Hughes; TODAY Show host, Karl Stefanovic; and food critic and MasterChef judge Matt Preston; all who have been immortalised in one-of-a-kind, life-size Darrell Lea chocolate head sculptures.”

Not surprisingly, this raised a few eyebrows – what with the country only having a population of 22m, and most people commenting not having seen the campaign.

Then came the explanation from DEC‘s Sarah-Ann Britain in our comment stream:

“As for this campaign’s editorial reach – it has been excellent. To reiterate, this reach has been calculated on the cumulative readership/viewer figures of the media coverage achieved – many individuals consume more than one media outlet a day and we’re not claiming these are unique views. The number was calculated using the official audited figures of the media outlets engaged — News.com.au, for example, claims a unique audience of over 5.5m. The PR industry is moving away from using AVEs, and ‘Reach’ is one of the recommended measurements from the ‘Value Metrics’ guidelines developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications. We’d also like to point out that reach is just one of several metrics which will be used to evaluate the campaign.”

Which deserves some further thought. The 5.5m unique audience for news.com.au is not for a single new page, but for the site over a period. DEC doesn’t say, but my guess is over a month. Certainly not “on day one” as DEC claims. Even so, it’s the reach for the entire site, not a single page.

I can demonstrate using Mumbrella’s own numbers. (These are based on our Google Analytics rather than audited ABA numbers, by the way.) Last month, Google Analytics tells me we delivered 634,276 page views to 160,271 visitors. So by DEC’s calculations, by featuring on Mumbrella, they reached an audience of over 160,000.

In truth, that story generated just 1,352 unique page views – a total some 120 times smaller than the methodology used by DEC.

Divide their claimed 33m reach for the chocolate celebrity heads story by 120, and it comes to a reach of a slightly more credible 275,000.

The point of this is not just to pick out DEC. Although it is pretty shocking that these are the numbers they must be reporting to their delighted (assuming they are gullible) client. Any suggestion that gives the client the impression that this campaign was seen 33m times, regardless of whether uniquely or cumulatively is ridiculous.

But the fact that a well established PR agency is happy to go public with this methodology demonstrates just how much of a problem the whole industry has.

When it comes to PR, no wonder many clients take the discipline less seriously than any other agency type.

Tim Burrowes


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