newspaper image by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com

Calculating the value of media coverage is one of the tools companies use to gauge their return on investment from public relations activities. Unlike advertising, which is purchased, media value is print, electronic and non-traditional news coverage resulting from editorial content generated via press releases, interviews, photos, video and special events. The simplest way to generate raw data is by using the advertising value equivalency (AVE). This involves determining what editorial coverage in traditional media would cost, if it was purchased as paid advertising.

Measure the editorial content--headlines, copy, relevant photos, graphics and pull quotes--by using a pencil and ruler to square them into blocks. The blocks should be as large as possible and separate the content being measured from advertising and other stories in the publication.

Convert the blocks of editorial content into column inches using a ruler and calculator. A standard column inch is two inches wide (1.83 inches wide with a .17-inch gutter) by 1-inch deep. To calculate the number of column inches for each editorial block, measure the width and divide by two, then multiply by the depth. Repeat for all blocks and add together for the total number of column inches.

Review the advertising rate card and multiply the total column inches against the cost per column inch for the AVE. If the cost per column inch is not available, determine the number of column inches by dividing the width of a full-page ad by two and multiplying by the length of a full-page ad. Then divide the cost of a full-page ad by the total number column inches for an estimated cost per column inch.

Here's an example:

Company ABC has two blocks of editorial content coverage in the local newspaper. One block is 10 inches by 6 inches and the second is 8 inches by 5 inches.

Take the 10-inch width and divide by 2. That's 5. Then multiply by the 6-inch depth. That's 30 column inches. Now take the 8-inch width and divide by 2. That's 4. Then multiply by the 5-inch depth. That's 20 column inches. Add the amounts from both blocks together for a total of 50 column inches. The rate card shows a cost of £156 per column inch. Multiply £156 by 50 for a total media value of £7,800. This would be your AVE.

Record the length of editorial content such, as a news story or interview on radio or television. Multiply the number of full minutes by 60 and add any additional seconds for total seconds of airtime.

Use a stopwatch.

Review the advertising rate card and calculate a per second value by dividing the cost by number of seconds. For example, if an advertisement costs £58 per 30 seconds, divide 90 by 30 for a £1.90 per second value.

Multiply the total seconds of airtime by the per second value for an AVE of on-air editorial content.

Here's an example:

WXYZ conducts an on-air interview lasting three minutes and five seconds with a company executive. The cost of a 30-second ad is £78.

Multiply 3 minutes by 60. That's 180. Add the five additional seconds for a total of 185. Divide the £78 ad rate by 30. That's £2 per second. Multiply 185 by £2 for a total media value of £481.This would be your AVE.

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- Public relations is subjective. In addition to the monetary return on investment, organisations should also assess intangible items such as the tone of the article, how the company is portrayed, and if key themes and messages were delivered.

- newspaper image by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com