To multiply, or not to multiply. That is the question.
No, wait, it’s two questions. Is there evidence to support the existence of PR multipliers? And if not, are we hurting our own credibility by claiming such?
This week’s Conversations column introduces a new paper (free on the Institute website) by Mark Weiner, president of Delahaye, and Don Bartholomew, senior vice president of MWW Group. In “Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures,” the authors describe the ways in which multipliers are used by public relations professionals to report total impressions and value.
Multipliers are sometimes rationalized based on assumptions about pass-along circulation or the higher credibility of PR impressions compared to advertising. The authors argue that the facts behind these assumptions are weak (at best).
In particular, there is the widely repeated claim (you’ve all heard it) that a news or feature placement is worth two to three times as much as the same ad space (or time). No matter how many times you’ve heard that claim, the authors say there is no known objective research to support it.
And the risks of PR multipliers? The authors offer real-life situations where multipliers have proven hazardous -for example, when a client employing multiple agencies called them all on the carpet to justify the different multipliers they were using.
Weiner and Bartholomew recommend the most straightforward approach. For print, impressions equal circulation. For broadcast, impressions equal audience. And for online audiences, impressions equal visitors.
But what do you think about the use of multipliers?
President and CEO
Institute for Public Relations