Corbet Communications

Modern Aesop’s Fables: communications measurement

This is written with huge thanks to Aesop’s original fable about the sun and the wind and the bet they had about who could get a man to remove his jacket.

The wind went first and blew as hard as it could, trying to force the man’s jacket off with sheer power. In the end, it had to give up when the man stubbornly redoubled his efforts to keep warm, did up more buttons and folded his arms into the wind.

Then the sun had its turn.  The sun just beamed.  The man soon removed his jacket.

The lesson of the story is of course that if you want people to do something, then showing them how it is in their best interests is often more effective than force.

In the modern context: communications measurement

Communication measurement is not always the most glamorous subject.  But it is a critical one for people in the marketing and communications industry, and one that is far too often overlooked.

One much misunderstood, inconsistent and potentially misleading approach to communication measurement is to estimate what press coverage would have cost if the space it filled had been bought in advertising.

This produces a number called an advertising value equivalent (or AVE).

There are many difficulties with the measure, which are summarised here, so there is no need to go into them now.

Back to the modern fable.

In trying to stop businesses and agencies from using AVEs, the wise leaders and elders in the communications industry all vied to play the role of the wind.

One trade body absurdly declared it “unethical” for businesses and agencies to use this measure.  Another wailed and gnashed its teeth.  Other industry leaders jumped up and down and waved their arms around.

Most businesses and agencies simply got on with doing their day jobs as best they could and ignored these shrill voices, making them shriller still.

At the time of writing, nobody has come forward to play the role of the sun.

For all that everyone agrees that AVEs are not the best, nobody has yet promoted widely an alternative that is as quick, easy and priceless to use.

Now that’s telling.

Perhaps it’s time for the sun to shine?