As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I recently had the opportunity to speak on a cable industry panel that addressed such subjects as client-agency relationships, social media and what's next.
I was paired with a branding expert and a big agency guy. The former was somewhat out of his depth since the audience was far more interested in discussing media relations 101. The latter was all about basic blocking and tackling, so he was eating it up.
The big agency guy waxed poetic about his knowledge of the media, the intricacies of wire
service reporting and how best to construct a press release. I kid you not. It was all smart and on-target, if somewhat rudimentary,
But, then, the moderator asked a question about the Holy Grail of PR: measurement. She asked if we experts had found the right solution. I said if we had, everyone in the audience would already know about it and you, the moderator, wouldn't be asking the question.
That's when the big agency guy barged in and said, “We rely on advertising equivalency to validate our programs. For those of you unfamiliar with the approach, we determine the cost of a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, for example, and tell our clients that's how they should measure an article of the same length.”
I was speechless (which is quite rare for this blogger). Anyone and everyone in strategic communications knows that equating advertising with editorial is an ersatz approach. And, using it to evaluate the ROI of a PR campaign is misguided and disingenuous. Here are the obvious reasons why:
– A company pays for advertising. As a result, it determines what it says as well as when and where it appears. The end result: zero credibility from a reader standpoint.
– An article written by a professional journalist contains no company bias whatsoever. The article is balanced, contains positive and negative commentary and appears when and where the media property's editors decide. As a result, the content is far more credible to a reader.
I'd like to think my fellow panelist's POV on measurement was an anomaly. But, something tells me it reflects the archaic, stultifying thinking that can infect many holding company cultures. The big leagues love to pitch their depth and breadth but, sadly, many of their top people seem stuck in the 1980s when it comes to thinking about what's next. And, that's fine with me. I've always thought the best ideas and smartest people work at the smaller firms. Wednesday's panel only reinforced that belief.