For many years, one of the traditional metrics used by PR agencies to report to their clients is media value. This is a rough indication that can be used to quickly calculate a gross “marketing ROI” value for various channel activities used by the Bangkok PR agency for its clients.

How is media value calculated?

For print media, the agency will normally use the indicated paid media (above the line) cost of buying actual ad space in that newspaper or magazine hard copy pages, journals, inserts, glossies and or/publications. So, if the cost of buying a full-page advert in a glossy magazine is 5000 US dollars, and our media interview or calendar news item runs but covers only a quarter of a page, the value is determined to be 1250 USD. Suppose that the agency’s press release or interview feature ran to that same exact size in 10 different publications of a similarly equal reputation/prominence, then the total media value of that specific PR campaign activity could be expressed as 12,500 USD (10x quarter pages in the same tier of media).

Media value irrelevant KPI

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It is arguable (in either direction) that an editorial, in which a magazine editor provides their own commentary on the client’s news, is worth more (or less) than a paid ad. This is because the editorial may question some claims, and raise the prospect of the client’s message claim being open to either negative interpretation, or in resounding support, and either way a reader may believe this to be more credible than claims made in a direct advertisement. Hence the “media review type article is still popular with readerships as it builds trust and expresses truth of opinion. However you wish to amend or interpret this rough media value (up for good, down for bad), it is simply a quantifiable expression of a supposed ballpark dollar value of that activity.

For Digital PR and online publications, Bangkok PR agencies typically break websites down into three tiers of quality (high, medium or low). So, a very heavily trafficked site would be classed as a “tier A” website, and each feature page (unique URL) would be 1x tier A value (3500 – 5000 USD, in Thailand typically. On a low tier, tow value website such as a non-powerful blogger’s own domain, the indicated media value would be much less, but a standard type of press release distribution may be picked up by 50 such sites, and so there is a large number multiplier which is duplicated across that estimated tier C value. So low value each, lots of value because it goes out to lots of bloggers, etc.

Problems with media value reporting

You can see from the above illustration that there is a great deal of room for ambiguity or controversial interpretation. An agency may claim for convenience of simplification in reporting that every low-tier website published example is worth 2000 USD. Obviously, some of those platforms publishing a story verbatim without editorial commentary would be worth much less than this in real terms; perhaps they are a brand-new site, or they have either no following or no engagement.

With the massively increased importance of social media as a go-to for primary comms, it can be argued that the exact values are not really important; this is because when a client advised their public relations to adopt an effective social media strategy, it is very easy to see reach and engagement due to influencers’ reporting metrics, page interactions, Call to Action responses leading to a desired action, etc. After all, it is easy for a client to see if their recent paid digital ad or influencer program has resulted in more traffic to their site simply because they have easy access to their own site analytics.

A PR agency’s media report will encompass all three methods, as most campaigns nowadays are multi-channel, 360-degree or “fully integrated”, which are different ways of describing the same multi-channel approach.

Why is media value controversial, and is it meaningless?

This is something that has been hotly contested for – if not decades – then certainly over many recent years. There is a temptation for an underperforming PR firm to massage those numbers, either by pushing content out to reputationally weak or unknown platforms (but lots of them) to quickly grow “number of websites”, which is an annoying and over-used element of a typical PR agency’s media value reporting. There is also a temptation for lesser PRs to over-value the media value of each individual publishing case, which makes it easy for the weaker firms to “diddle” or over-claim on those gross dollar values. It is a way of pumping up ROI, and many a content production sweatshop in the BKK market still does this daily to try and meet KPIs.

Has media value become an irrelevant metric therefore?

In our opinion, it has. We at Gemini do provide media value reporting, simply because most marketers ask for it, as they need something to show their directors as part of communicating on internal ROI spend. An indicative and even somewhat-controversial measure is still “data” in any regard, and anyway arguably rough data is better than no data.

At Gemini, our approach is unique in that our client relationships – and the reporting we generate as part of our commitment to honouring these important arrangements – contain a pre-mentioned and transparent caveat. We always make clear that we measure media value because we are required to do so, but to us, there are much more important real-world indicators and ‘true to life’ KPIs:

Open and Fair. No hidden fees. No crazy mark-up. No inflated media values.

Newer, agile agencies are quicker to deploy tech and tools which enable the client to meet their target metrics and campaign reported goals, whilst being fully versed in the world of digital influence, and engagement connectivity which we hand over as-is; fluid reporting with tools like AI-driven heat maps (rather than the old-school way, which is literally making up a random figure for media value and website posts to the client, which on its own is irrelevant) is important to us.

In conclusion, we often joke with our clients that “Media value reporting in traditional PR agencies is almost entirely made up, and is prone to being inflated to make agencies look like they are not underperforming their contracts.” There is some truth to this supposition, and so we use it as one small element of the overall macro (and true) collection of reporting statistics we provide for our clients. This is true even for one-off press release packages we offer, as well as for ongoing PR strategic consultation reporting for our retained full-service clients.

At Gemini, whilst we do provide these metrics to give you a ballpark understanding of month-to-month activities and reach, we prefer to “focus on the hard data which backs up our digital engagement endeavours”, plus two other KPIs which are very close to our heart an which mean everything to us; those are: do you enjoy working with us, and is your business selling more stuff?

This is so much easier to understand, and everyone seems to like this approach we take.

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