The Barcelona Principles published last June were intended to “raise the floor” for measurement with minimum standards that were agreed upon by the industry. Since then, people have asked, if Barcelona was the first floor, what do the second and third floors look like?
The Valid Metrics guidelines, which were first shared in Fall 2010 and further developed for the AMEC and IPR Lisbon Summit earlier this month, is the second floor. The guidelines by no means represent the ceiling for measurement, but they do bring us closer to our goal of sharing better metrics.
The Valid Metrics are composed of a series of grids that address different types of communications campaigns, with each grid containing a suite of metrics to choose from. Many people were hoping that the guidelines would produce a single metric that could summarize the success of a PR program. In reality, there is no one perfect metric to measure the entire breadth of PR. PR addresses many different publics and has multiple forms of impact — from selling a product, to building a company's standing in a community, to mitigating a crisis, to reducing employee turnover. A single metric can't cover them all.
Furthermore, the guidelines are based on the philosophy that PR measurement should capture both outputs and outcomes. There isn't a single metric that tells the whole story from media analysis to survey results. Instead, the guidelines show a continuum of metrics, starting with those that capture PR activity, like the number of journalists briefed, then moving into an array of Intermediary effect metrics, such as those capturing the quality of media coverage, and ending with outcome metrics, which reflect the impact of the campaign on the target audience and ultimately the business results.
These guidelines are not meant to be exhaustive — there may be metrics that are not included that are applicable to a specific campaign. Moreover, users don't have to measure everything on the grids and should select the metrics most relevant to their campaign and budget. And for those busy CCOs and CMOs, users should select the metrics that serve as key performance indicators to include in their reports.
The building is low, but it can be built up over time. The more the industry adopts the same language and the same core metrics for measurement, the stronger the measurement house will be.
Ruth Pestana is worldwide director of strategic services at Hill & Knowlton.