Note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the December edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.


Rob Wynne’s Manhattan Beach Principles takes the prize for The Worst Thing to Happen to Measurement in 2015. His flamboyant and Meltwater-enabled proposal to revive AVEs would send the public relations and communications measurement industry back into the Dark Ages. He is well-deserving of our Measurement Menace of the Year Award—with extra sprinkles on top.

And a special Measurement Menace Facilitator Award goes to Meltwater, that firm of the too-persistent salespeople, for providing the webinar to promote his ideas. Just when PR is finally starting to measure true value—in terms of revenue, cost savings, and conversions—Mr. Wynne and Meltwater would have us go back to measuring AVEs and using multipliers:

Manhattan Beach Principles

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Wynne was cocky enough to call his back-from-the-dead AVE invention “The Manhattan Beach Principles,” presumably because his office is in Manhattan Beach and he was trying to imply that his ideas should carry the same weight as the Barcelona Principles.


The Barcelona Principles were written by a diverse group of academics, PR agencies, practitioners, and researchers and agreed upon by every major PR industry association. As far as I can tell, Mr. Wynne’s “Principles” were invented by a “diverse” group of himself only, and agreed to by at least 2 Twitter followers.

One of the problems with AVE as a metric is that it assumes that an earned media placement is “worth” a paid ad, despite the fact that the majority of ads contain an organization’s key messages and generally some recommendations and desirable visuals (see this blog post outlining how to warn everyday people about AVEs). The majority of PR does not.

The ultimate irony is that Mr. Wynne’s firm, Wynne Communications, specializes in PR for higher education. Higher ed today provides the best examples of why counting column inches is such a terrible and unnecessary diversion to demonstrating success. Just ask the Trustees of the University of Missouri. What would AVE say that coverage is worth?

Let’s find out. Just for fun, I used Mr. Wynne’s formula to calculate the “value” of that WSJ story:

  • 20 inches in the Wall Street Journal = $50,000 x 5 = $250,000

Meanwhile, in the real world:

  • 531 comments, mostly advocating for reduction in state funding for the college and pointing out even deeper problems the school faces = Priceless, but highly negative.
  • Loss of trust and damage to reputation = Incalculable, but, again, highly negative.

But yet Mr. Wynne would value that one article at something above a quarter of a million dollars. Tell that to President Wolfe and Chancellor Loftin, who lost their jobs over the situation.

The really menacing aspect, measurement-wise, of Mr. Wynne is that he is distracting his audiences and his clients from demonstrating their real value. If, for example The University of Missouri had followed the examples of  Rutgers Center for Management Development, and established meaningful metrics as  Greg Jarboe and Jamie O’Donnell helped them do, they would have seen tangible increases in revenue.

Thanks to the Barcelona Principles, more and more organizations are rethinking their metrics and putting measures in place to demonstrate the real value that PR brings to trust, relationships, and credibility. They are tying PR to conversions, to leads, to greater efficiencies, and more engagement with key messages. There’s no need to reduce PR’s value to a made-up metric, we can tie it to business results.


Runner up for The Worst Thing to Happen to Measurement in 2015 is Trendkite, with its “Instant AVE” calculator. Now it’s even easier to generate reports with false and misleading metrics. ∞



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  • Heather Yaxley


    Thank you for calling out this appalling document. One of the worst things in it was the pseudo-academic nature, particularly where this included misappropriating credible sources. The selective quoting, for example of Professor Tom Watson is something we would not tolerate in junior practitioners or students. The work is pure puff, but could be harmful if those who read apply the poor ‘methodology’ to justify their own use of AVE. The blanket application of a multiplier is appallingly bad science too. For those who do wish to compare editorial coverage to advertising, as we know, the answer is to track outcomes don’t rely on a dodgy calculation that is about spend, not effectiveness. Then it may be possible to draw some inferences in comparing the investment made in relation to results achieved, but that wouldn’t necessarily apply for every advert or every piece of editorial coverage.

    – Heather

  • Todd Murphy

    Dead on post, Katie. All you said is true and accurate. I guess there will always be a market for snake oil. Thanks for posting.