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PR multipliers are fake measures

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Many PR practitioners refer to multipliers to demonstrate that publicity in the news media is more effective than advertising. For instance, a person might claim that a newspaper article resulting from publicity activity is five times more effective than an advertisement of the same size in the same newspaper. Multiplying factors have commonly varied between 3 and 8.

However, multipliers are fake measures – their value is not supported by facts.

The multiplier claims are made by people who assume that PR is more credible and carries more weight than advertising. However, news articles are in an uncontrolled medium – reporters and editors change the content, tone and emphasis of material supplied to them by PR people.

An effective article would need to contain key messages, have a strong headline, positive tone and product recommendations to be effective as an advertisement for the same product – a difficult set of requirements. US researchers estimate that less than 10% of PR-supplied articles contain all these attributes.

The use of multipliers is much the same as the use of advertising value equivalents – they lack credibility and only create more problems in the long term. For instance, different PR people may use different multipliers for the same material. A client may compare an agency’s use of multipliers with another agency who use a different multiplier. A new person arrives on staff and uses a different multiplier. And underneath all this inconsistency lies the fact that what multipliers measure is not valid.

The conclusion about multipliers being a false measure is substantiated by researchers like Professor Glen Cameron whose experiments have found no statistical differences between reader responses to editorial and advertising; PR and advertising had equal credibility with readers.

In view of the research findings, communicators should never use multipliers to support their case. There are too many holes in the argument for using multipliers and anyone who does use multipliers lacks credibility.

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the communication field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on communication techniques and management.




This article is based on a chapter in the e-book, How to create a top public relations plan, by Kim Harrison, which you can access at

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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