Industry launches updated Barcelona Principles to measure the value of PR

A new framework for measuring the performance of communications has been launched, with an aim of reflecting the changing media landscape.

Ketchum's David Rockland: New principles reflect significant changes in media landscape
Ketchum's David Rockland: New principles reflect significant changes in media landscape

The so-called Barcelona Principles have been updated for the first time since they were introduced in 2010, with the new version launched today by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) in London.

David Rockland, Ketchum partner and past chair of AMEC, who chaired the group that developed the 'Barcelona Principles 2.0', said the original set of principles focused more on "what not to do", while the updated ones provide more guidance on "what to do".

The main changes include:

  • Changing the language to make it clear that the Barcelona Principles are relevant and applicable to organisations, governments, companies and brands globally
  • Recognising the importance of integrated communications and that measurement must be integrated across geographies, methods and channels
  • Making a distinction between measurement and evaluation, separating the role of measurement from the role of evaluation as the actual process of using data to make a judgement on value and effectiveness
  • Including a new focus on qualitative evaluation, recognising the important part that qualitative information plays in measurement and evaluation, adding colour and context that helps professionals understand 'the why' behind the quantitative outcomes
  • Reminding professionals of the need for all measurement and evaluation to be transparent, consistent and valid, giving more advice on approaches and accepted methodologies.

Rockland said: "In 2010, the development of the Barcelona Principles was a powerful moment in time in the development of public relations.

"The original set of principles was never intended to be a final or complete solution, but simply a place for us to start. What AMEC and our partners have now done is refresh the Barcelona Principles to reflect the significant changes we have seen in the media landscape and the emergence of integrated communications."

The framework was developed by the AMEC along with industry bodies the Institute for Public Relations, the PRCA, ICCO, the PRSA and The Global Alliance. It followed calls two months ago at AMEC’s International Summit in Stockholm for the Barcelona Principles to be reviewed.

Barry Leggetter, CEO of AMEC, said: "The launch of Barcelona Principles 2.0 represents the first stage in a global education programme. AMEC is calling on all PR firms, PR associations, AMEC members and academics to get back this cross industry initiative and endorse the new principles.

"We have a new opportunity to make Barcelona Principles 2.0 internationally known – and used."

Senior industry figures have long called for a universally-agreed way of measuring the value of PR. In 2013, Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty voiced his support for creating industry measurement standards that go beyond impressions or advertising equivalency.

Francis Ingham, PRCA director general and ICCO chief executive, said: "These refreshed Barcelona principles are the latest significant step in the professionalisation of the PR industry.

"The industry needs to embrace measurement and evaluation if it is to continue growing in size and relevance. These new principles will be a fantastic help in doing so."

How the Barcelona Principles have changed from 2010 to 2015

The changes made to the seven Barcelona Principles are as follows:

Principle 1:

The name of the principle has been changed from 'Importance of goal setting and measurement' to 'Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations'.

AMEC says: "While the Barcelona Principles were intended to provide a foundation for PR programs, the updated principles recognise that they can also be applied to the larger communication function of any organisation, government, company or brand globally. In fact, measurement, evaluation and goal-setting should be holistic across media and paid, earned, owned and shared channels."

Principle 2:

Changes from 'Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs' to 'Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs'.

"The updated principle is more encompassing of the role of qualitative methods. While the original principle stated quantitative methods of measuring outcomes were 'often preferable,' the updated principle recognises that the use of qualitative methods (along with quantitative) should be used as appropriate. The updated principle also specifically calls out advocacy as an outcome that can (and should) be measured."

Principle 3:

From 'The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible' to 'The effect on organisational performance can and should be measured where possible'.

"The updated principle emphasises that communications impact more than just business results; rather communications can impact the overall performance of an organisation. To do this, organisations must have, and practitioners must understand, integrated marketing and communication models. The PR channel does not exist in a silo, nor should PR measures."

Principle 4:

From 'Media measurement requires quantity and quality' to 'Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods'.

"The updated principle recognises that qualitative measures are often needed in order to explain 'the why' behind the quantitative outcomes. In addition, the updated principle reminds practitioners that to be truly objective, we need focus on measuring performance (be it positive, negative or neutral), and avoid making assumptions that results will always be positive or 'successful'."

Principle 5:

From 'AVEs are not the value of public relations' to 'AVEs are not the value of communications'.

"The updated principle continues to underline that advertising value equivalents (AVEs) measure the cost of media space or time and do not measure the value of PR or communication, media content, earned media, etc."

Principle 6:

From 'Social media can and should be measured' to 'Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels'.

"The updated principle recognises that social media measurement tools have evolved to a point where there is greater potential for consistent measurement on engagement, along with quantity and quality."

Principle 7:

From 'Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement' to 'Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid'.

"In the spirit of integrity, honesty and openness, the updated principle includes more specific guidance valid quantitative and qualitative methods in an effort to ensure quantitative methods are reliable and replicable and qualitative methods are trustworthy."

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