Understanding Barcelona Principles 2.0

AMEC recently announced the Barcelona Principles 2.0, exactly 5 years after the path-breaking launch of the Barcelona Principles in 2010. Why are these principles path-breaking? In order to understand the importance of the Barcelona Principles, I will briefly mention the evolution of PR measurement.

Measurement in the PR world traditionally involved a dossier with clippings pasted on various pages to be given to clients at the end of the month. Agencies would also provide some calculations in the dossier, mentioning a figure in millions of rupees/dollars, suggesting to the client the great ROI they were able to achieve that month. Unfortunately, this was being showcased as the value of PR. Agencies were using their own methods and metrics, based mostly around AVEs, for their PR measurement.

Against this background, the Barcelona Principles, in 2010, came as a refreshing change. These principles did not try to define the process / methods for measurement but provided rules that were supposed to be followed while developing measurement programmes for clients.

Barcelona Principles 2.0

When the Barcelona Principles were debated and adopted, only the corporates and media measurement companies were involved. However, this time there was wider involvement, with representations from non-profit organizations, academics and even government offices. Six industry bodies (AMEC, PRSA, PRCA, IPR, ICCO and The Global Alliance) worked on the revised Barcelona Principles.

The new principles have been built upon the original Barcelona Principles. However, they are more reflective of the industry and the way communication professionals work today, with focus on integrated communication. Measuring just earned media is no longer enough, as audience perception is affected by paid, shared and owned media too. Therefore, it is essential that all forms of media be taken into consideration while devising a measurement and evaluation programme. While the original Barcelona Principles told professionals what ‘not to do’, the revised Barcelona Principles go a step further by telling what ‘should be done’.

What’s the same?

  • There are still seven principles conveying seven primary concepts. They have not changed but evolved to be more reflective of the industry.
  • Goals / Objectives First
  • Outputs, Outcomes and Organizational Results
  • Quality and Quantity
  • No AVEs and no multipliers
  • Transparency

Let’s look at each of the revised Barcelona Principles and the suggested changes:

Principle 1: Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations

The revised Principle 1 focuses more on goal-setting and measurement by declaring them fundamental to communication and public relations. Before the start of any campaign, goals need to be defined, and measurement and evaluation should be against these pre-defined goals.

While defining goals, one should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Whom are you trying to change?
  • What are you trying to change?
  • When do you intend the change to happen?
  • How much or what kind of change is good?

Principle 2: Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs

This revised principle reinforces that outcome measurement is equally important, and just measuring output may not be enough. Media output may not tell you whether you were able to bring the desired changes in the target audience. Therefore, outcome analysis becomes equally important to answer these questions.

Principle 3: The effect on organizational performance can and should be measured where possible

In 2010, the PR community was more focussed on how it is affecting business results, such as the effect of PR on the sales of a new product. However, it is being realized now that PR is not just about driving sales but has a wider scope involving advocacy and change in perception. In case of non-profit organizations, the goal is never to drive sales but generate awareness about a particular issue and solicit advocates.

Principle 4: Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods

The revised principle puts more emphasis on qualitative methods for measurement and evaluation. It suggests that media measurement, whether through traditional or online channels, should include qualitative parameters, such as the impressions of the stakeholders or target audience, tone, credibility and relevant message delivery, third-party analysis and prominence, etc. Another important aspect, which has now been clarified, is that measurement means measuring results and progress, and not success.

Principle 5: AVEs are not the value of communication

AVEs are the wrong measure of PR. They are just cost of media space/time and can never be the true value of communication, be it earned, paid, shared or owned media.

Principle 6: Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels

In 2010, social media was still growing and the Barcelona Principle 6 advised that it needs to be looked at and measured. The revised principle re-emphasises this fact and adds that social media should be measured consistently with other media channels. The rules of quantity and quality used for measuring traditional media should be used for measuring social media too. At the same time, focus should be on measuring the ‘engagement’ and ‘conversations’ and not just ‘coverage’ or vanity metrics, such as ‘likes’.

Principle 7: Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid

Transparency stays. However, the word ‘replicability’ has been removed, as there was a strong opinion that qualitative analysis may not be replicable across scenarios. As a measurement agency, we need to create metrics and evaluation that clients can understand and relate to. For example, what do we mean when we say that the client has got a score of 15? How did we calculate this score? Why is it 15 and not 16 or 14?

I hope I have managed to clearly state the purpose of the revised principles and the benefits that would accrue from applying them. I also wish you luck in using the Barcelona Principles 2.0 in your measurement programme.


Reference: Speech of David Rockland, Chairman of Barcelona Principles 2.0 Working Group, at the launch of Barcelona Principles 2.0

Author: Durgesh Garg

Media Research, Measurement & News Analysis. Avid Reader with interest in Politics, Business, Sports & Gadgets. Views expressed are personal.

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