Why Aren’t We Talking About the Barcelona Principles?

Three Reasons It Is More Essential Than Ever to Prove the Value and ROI of Communication

“It’s shocking how many PR executives do not know about the Barcelona Principles, much less adhere to them,” screamed the subhead of an article in PRWeek. Talk about not mincing words. I had to read on. 

Described in the article as “the closest our industry has come to a standard for quality measurement,” the original seven Barcelona Principles from 2010 provided a universal framework for measuring effective PR programs. They were the product of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC), the world’s largest trade group dedicated to the subject of communications research, measurement and insights. Working with them was an international group of partners comprised of ICCO, the Institute for Public Relations, PRCA, PRSA and The Global Alliance.

Companies and organizations are increasingly seeking an integrated approach to their external communications across paid, earned, owned and shared channels. More communication consultancies have unified functions within their own organizations that once were separate. With functional silos going the way of the dinosaur, and more programs and content being developed collaboratively across platforms, AMEC and the original working group repurposed the principles with a holistic lens encompassing all measurement, not just what would be considered PR.

At the heart of the 2015 revisions is the unequivocal assertion (where before it was more suggestive) that measurement is not discretionary but rather essential to prove the value and ROI of communication. But why is this shift so important now? I believe there are at least three reasons.

  • We have relied on so-called vanity metrics, industry benchmarks for outputs like click-throughs and open rates, for far too long given how disconnected from business results they are and how they overgeneralize entire industries.
  • We cannot ignore the digital landscape’s proliferation of metrics and along with them tracking tools galore.
  • If we plan ahead to track what our clients really need to measure, we are surely in a better position to judge whether plans and programs are doing any good.

In tandem with this are certain realities that could explain why we’re not talking about the Barcelona Principles:

  • Silos are hard to break down. Marketing and communication budgets are tight.
  • We don’t always have the best information on what KPIs really matter in the overall scheme of things.
  • Therefore, it’s too easy to regard measurement, tracking and evaluation as an afterthought, a topic we tend to bring up at the end of a planning process instead of at the beginning.

And yet, if we take advantage of the growing amount of expertise available to evaluate performance metrics, that data can be translated back to the customer journey and meaningful opportunities to influence that journey. In that context, a framework like the Barcelona Principles was never more needed.


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