Blattel Communications Is the Measurement Menace of the Month

When I first saw Blattel Communications’s post in a legal publication, I was impressed. The title, “When It Comes to Media Value: Show Me the Money,” was of course attractive. And the author’s disparagement of simple metrics lured me in. Law firms are not known for good measurement practices, and the author appeared to be an exception to that rule.

But after the first couple hundred words, I realized that Blattel’s solution was to offer bad, outdated advice. Their answer to moving away from counting clips was to use—you guessed it—the one metric that has been discredited and disavowed by the profession for over a decade: media value (a.k.a. advertising value equivalency, or AVE) to calculate the worth of PR placements.

Note to Blattel: You reveal your naivete when you state, “Media value is an important and emerging legal marketing KPI.” The fact is that advertising value equivalency has been rejected for many years, and has been supplanted by more accurate techniques. (See our article “How to Adapt When Your Agency or Vendor Refuses to Provide AVEs—And They Will.”) Your heart is in the right place, but you need to read up on the latest ruling on the subject and focus your attention on more valid methods of measurement.

The article makes the common argument that AVE is an improvement over simply adding up placements. The problem with this logic is that it assumes that AVE is an accurate reflection of PR’s value to a law firm. It isn’t, and never was. Earned media coverage may or may not have the same impact on reputation that a paid advertisement does. Unless you actually ask that audience what they think, you really don’t know whether you’ve influenced their perceptions or not.

And yes, analyzing your media coverage for sentiment is better than nothing. And I’m sure that the price of advertising in The New York Times is more expensive than the same ad would cost if you placed it in an obscure law journal. But here’s the catch: An ad my have the desired effect while a story in the same journal may not have any impact at all—or vise versa. You don’t have any way of knowing unless you ask your audience.

So, for promoting a metric that the industry rejected a decade ago, the jury finds Blattel Communications guilty. Congrats to Blattel, our Measurement Menace of the Month. ∞

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