Can the Indian PR Business be the first to eradicate AVE cancer?

One of the elementary reasons for most of the issues the PR Businesses world over are facing even today is the use of Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) Evaluation of PR Coverage. This is despite three decades of innumerable conferences and global advisories shared with the business. AVE or EAVs or MAVs is a cancer. In India, for more than 95% of the business, AVE is revered as the bedrock of PR and Corporate Communications evaluation parameters. The other 5% have done a fantastic job of not only throwing AVEs outside the window but replacing it with a very simple and scientific mesh of PR evaluation parameters.

I am not sure what the last three decades of lost opportunity tell us about our business. One thing is for sure – AVE has made the much-needed ‘PR for PR’ campaign weak…assuming that it was initiated, in the first place!

However, I am very optimistic that we still can! There is enough potential within our business to become the first market globally to eradicate this cancer!

Below is a quick take on this subject:

  1. Where did the term AVE come from: The term AVE was conceptualised in the West sometime around the 1940s. And like many Western evils, AVE too, was copied by the Indian market. However, the real on-ground push for AVEs in India came from the global FMCG players since they had the advertising and marketing influence.
  2. What have we done to remove this Cancer: The visionaries and who actually know what public relations, brand management, data analytics, etc. have challenged this…though the proportion of such thought leaders is very small. Both the upper and downstream of this business have been the cause & effect of this metric to flourish. CorpComm departments & Consultancy partners continue to get evaluated based on the unrealistic AVE metric.
  3. What does this signal: The ‘PR for PR’ or ‘PR needs PR’ campaign has been ineffective, to quite an extent. The education programs or campaigns undertaken to educate about the perils of AVE will need review. Understanding what PR actually stands for, how to share and execute that in the last mile, usage of real data for doing effective PR for PR, and many such things will need review and blueprint revision.
  4. What does this need:

          a) CXO’s expectations from PR need to change: The demand for AVE primarily comes from the CXOs. The PR Business needs to initiate and sustain a massive and well-entrenched orientation program for the CXOs about public relations and how it can insulate their balance sheet. More importantly, how AVEs are in no way an indicator of effective quality public relations.

         b) Orientation within the PR Business: The understanding amongst PR professionals about aspects like what public relations means or stands for, what its deliverables should be, and what framework it should use is not very homogenous, healthy or even upbeat. This has a huge scope of change.

         C) Role of Business bodies: The business bodies of the PR Business – representing CorpComm, Consultancy, and Measurement service providers need to design and execute a carpet ban on AVE! This needs Intent, Authority, Delegation, and Target Setting.

         d) Catch them young: Withdraw old and archaic PR course curriculum from Business and Media institutes that teach public relations. Install futuristic course modules that will enable students to speak the PR language that clients would want us to speak.

Intent & Target Setting needs to come from Business bodies, delegation & authority to dedicated desks with the required knowledge and finally, focused education or orientation programs for the source of AVE – the CXOs.

AVE is killing the ethos of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Business. It is a silent killer. It is this vice that is not letting our business stand up to the onslaught of Paid Media and Marketing thought processes. It is time to start the eradication process. Target audience sets – CXOs on one side and education institutes on the other!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Siddhartha Mukherjee
Siddhartha is the founder of Brand Balance that helps the C-suite & CCO collective optimize its Brand Reputation Management ERPs (efforts, resources & processes) across stakeholders. His professional mission is to establish the Corporate Communications function as the only engine towards brand reputation and valuation success.

Before setting up Brand Balance, a neutral organization, his past 23 years of holistic learning curve includes leadership roles across all the three sides of the industry – corporate communications, communications firms and as a business head of a brand data analytics, audit, research & measurement global behemoth. During spare time, he bikes across the Indian highways, writes articles, consults students & professionals and teaches at media and business schools.

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