Brand Curators: A new breed of PR professionals?

In a blog post last week, I discussed how ad value equivalency (AVE) is steadily becoming a laughable means of PR measurement. As PR professionals, we already understand that there’s a difference between PR and Advertising. So why would we assume the same measurement tools apply for both? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “the problem with publicity-equivalency calculations is that they generally assume news stories are equally effective. Yet some coverage might make only glancing mention of the subject, or go negative.”

Despite that, some still cling to AVE as a means for measuring PR, presumably because there has been no simple alternative of measurement to easily translate public relations into dollar signs. After all, that’s what the suits in the C-suite want to see, right? But what companies need to understand is that PR is turning away from AVE and instead measuring things like influence, relationships, and sentiment.

However, the most frustrating thing for me as a PR student, is that the more I ask how I should be measuring, the more I’m answered with what I shouldn’t be doing. Or even worse, I’m vaguely told to measure things like “relationships” and “perception,” but am never quite told how to go about doing that. I don’t understand why we’re keeping this topic on lockdown?

During my hunt for top-secret measurement information, I came across an interesting term in a blog post: Brand Curators. I generally liken the term “curator” to the suited stiffs who incessantly “shush” me at museums, but the more I read, the more I understood its place in PR as well.

To curate is to select, organize, and look after the items in a collection. This reinforces the idea that PR should be doing less talking and more listening. The author suggests that, after the advent of Social Media, it’s now more important for brands to understand this new consumer arena.

“Though there are singular CEOs and thought leaders who wield a lot of cultural power and can guide a company’s financial narrative, there are also millions of smaller fish in the sea who hold a lot more sway over thoughts in their pond.”

Brands now have to take into consideration the power of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing that Social Media has catalyzed. Studies have shown that the Average Joe is much more likely to listen to peer recommendations than corporate babble. And bloggers, Tweeters, and Facebookers now have the power to bad mouth your brand with the ease of a button. It’s 24/7…365.

So the idea behind “brand curators” is that “it’s no longer just about that old advertising methodology of making people psychologically want something they perceive they lack. The new trick is to get people to want to belong to a group of people who have first click at a subject, a brand, or a free trial offer.” And this can only be done by first listening.

I still have yet to find a step-by-step approach to measuring PR, although the Barcelona Principles sets a good baseline for understanding it. I think a concrete how-to guide is still absent because measurement really varies on a case-by-case basis. Executives generally want to see numbers, but with PR that’s not always the most important thing. So with that said, I think it’s safe to bid AVEs adieu.

Written by Katy Hartwick

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