What is the value of publicity?

- July 9, 2013 3 MIN READ

There’s a never-ending debate about the monetary worth of media coverage. We know publicity expenses affect the bottom line, but how do we measure and value the results?

There are a few standard measures I’ve seen used over the years, but none convince me that the true value of media coverage is understood, let alone able to be measured.

Here are some ways of measuring the value of publicity:

Commensurate with advertising rates

This means your three-minute interview on a TV show is given a dollar value equal to a three-minute advertisement. If the advertising rate is $5000 a minute, your three-minute interview is valued at $15,000. Does this seem like a helpful or accurate way to value a TV interview and what it brings to a business?

The triple somersault

Some argue the advertising rate should be trebled, because publicity delivers a quality and credibility above and beyond advertising. This means your three-minute TV spot is now valued at $45,000. Anyone finding that a useful measurement?

Circulation, or audience reach

This is measured in terms of how many people clicked on the story; saw the Facebook post; subscribe to the magazine or watched the TV show you appeared on. If 1,500,000 people watched the TV show, claps will be heard all around. How does that one sit with you?

These are just a few of the ways the publicity industry has tried to demonstrate value. I beg to differ on all three counts and have been on the lookout for other methods of measuring publicity’s value. Problem is: different businesses value publicity in different ways, all of which are hard to measure. Here are three examples.

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One of my clients only wanted a small amount of media coverage, but was specific about the messaging and media outlets. He didn’t want to appear on a mass-audience TV show, because it couldn’t guarantee the message. He wanted the right message to appear in select business media.

The spike in enquiries following the media coverage was exciting, but the real value for him was the ability to incorporate the media coverage into his pitches and sales meetings. It would help to argue their business case and create trust and credibility. Hard to put a KPI-style measure on this, but he certainly saw the long-term role and value of the media coverage.


I thought a business owner in the finance industry would surely have a good way to value publicity in numbers. But no, he didn’t. “The true value of being profiled in the media can’t be expressed on a balance sheet or P&L,” he said. “The value is priceless and becomes more so the more you use it. This culminates into a valuable reputation that money can’t buy.”


Another business owner said the real value of publicity for him was in “doing a Richard Branson” – becoming influential in his field. He had become a spokesperson in his industry, as well as the face of his business, and had advanced his industry’s messages. Again, he loved the new clients that publicity brought, but his eye was on long-term business and personal goals.

As can be seen in the above examples, if you value publicity for delivering reputation, credibility and influence in your industry, measuring those is difficult. There is a system that measures your influence in the social media environment, called Klout, but so far there is no ratings system to gauge one’s overall clout resulting from publicity.

My advice is to ensure publicity plays a strategic role in the business and is judged on how well it achieves that, rather than using handy numbers with no real meaning.

Do you try and put a value on publicity? Or do you trust that the value is priceless?