Dispelling the Myth of Pr Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures

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Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures

Paper by

Mark Weiner President Delahaye

Don Bartholomew Senior Vice President MWW Group

Published by the Institute for Public Relations August 2006

Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures by Mark Weiner and Don Bartholomew Copyright © 2006, Institute for Public Relations www.instituteforpr.org

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Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures Mark Weiner President, Delahaye Summary Multipliers are often used by public relations professionals to factor circulation or audience figures when calculating impressions. Multipliers are generally rationalized by users to take into account pass-along circulation and/or to assign a higher value to PR impressions than advertising impressions due to a perceived higher level of credibility. The authors argue that the facts do not support the use of multipliers, and their use may actually hurt the credibility of the profession. Background In their search for a meaningful measure of public relations performance, PR professionals turn to a variety of metrics: in terms of news coverage or “outputs,” common metrics include volume of news coverage, quality of news coverage, and combinations thereof such as the delivery of key positive messages; in terms of impact on the target audience or “outcomes,” common measures include awareness, attitudes, preference and, finally, behavior. The purpose of this paper is to discuss and properly qualify the use of “PR Multipliers” in the assessment of outputs, particularly in the form of quantifying news coverage. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors. While they are consistent with Institute for Public Relations guidelines, this is not intended to be used as strict rules but rather as an expression of a particular viewpoint. The Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research1 defines an impression as “the number of people who might have the opportunity to be exposed to a story that has appeared in the media; also known as ‘opportunity to see’ (OTS); usually refers to the total audited circulation of a publication or the audience reach of a broadcast vehicle.” Users of PR Multipliers inflate their results by multiplying the total audited circulation/audience by a certain factor or multiplier. Factors ranging from 2.5 to 8.0 have been reported anecdotally. When program results are presented, data are often reflected in terms of both the actual circulation/audience alongside PR impressions, the term that is frequently used to represent the factored or post-multiplier circulation/ audience figure. Don Bartholomew Senior Vice President, MWW Group

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Don W. Stacks (Ed.), Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research, Institute for Public Relations, 2006.

Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures by Mark Weiner and Don Bartholomew Copyright © 2006, Institute for Public Relations www.instituteforpr.org

3 Those who use and advocate the use of PR Multipliers base their argument on one or more of the following assumptions: • “Pass-along Circulation,” which assumes, for example, that more than one person reads each newspaper or magazine which is purchased, and therefore, straight circulation and audience figures undercount the actual reach of the news item. “PR Value,” which assume that public relations is more credible and carries more impact than advertising and therefore deserves a higher weight than straight circulation and audience. “All Hits Are Created Equal,” which assumes that all sections and every edition of a newspaper or magazine, and every broadcast regardless of time of airing, provide the same circulation or audience by using average circulation and audience figures. What is more, some news items contain more or less of PR’s key message points. A story that is loaded with key messages, visuals,...
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