From principles to action: Are we making enough progress on measurement?

May 30, 2013

The Barcelona Principles, which many PR industry groups adopted in 2010, are composed of seven principles that serve as the foundation of  communications measurement.

The principles introduced alignment across the communications industry of what’s working in PR measurement.

As this column goes to press, measurement leaders are convening in Madrid to figure out how to take these principles to the next level. In fact, the keynote speaker, Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum, titled his talk “It’s  Time:  From Principles to Action.” Attendees come from roughly 40 countries; in fact, the  AMEC may change the name of the event from the European Summit to the International Measurement Summit.

Next month’s column will cover the Madrid meeting in terms of  building PR’s measurement muscle, and the specific role that PRSA members can and should play in that initiative.

Positive change

In recent weeks, I’ve seen encouraging signs that more people are adopting the new principles. First, I had the chance to be a judge for PRSA’s Silver Anvil Awards, and was glad to see that the entries I reviewed did not include equating the value of earned media with the cost of advertising (AVEs). And while guest lecturing in a graduate communications course at New York University, I asked the students if they had heard of the Principles; more than half raised their hands.

A recent CARMA/PR News survey also showed progress in the adoption and practice of the principles. While things are moving in the right direction, there’s ample room for improvement. For example, one out of four respondents said they still use AVEs, but only 40 percent said they include the four key components of a measurable goal for their PR or social media campaign. If you can’t write good goals, then you can’t develop a measurement program to see if you reached those goals.

What would sufficient progress in adopting the Barcelona Principles look like?  There are four critical components:

1. Every PR program would have goals that specify who you are trying to reach, what you are trying to change about them, how much you will achieve and when this will happen.

2. Media measurement would always answer the question:  Did we reach the people we were trying to reach with the messages that we were trying to deliver?

3. PR practitioners would use data to determine if the people they were trying to reach changed.

4.  People would acknowledge that there are two realistic statistical approaches to reaching an ROI: discrete choice modeling using surveys and market mix modeling using time series data across markets.

Next steps

What happens next? In many ways, it’s about education.  We know how to measure public relations and just need the gumption and smarts to do it.

AMEC and PRSA will hold a measurement symposium at the 2013 PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 26.  This event and other similar ones provide a great opportunity for PR practitioners to hone their measurement chops.

So, are we making progress? Yes. Will the Madrid Summit and similar conferences keep the momentum going? Yes. But I will not be totally satisfied until all of the students in a PR graduate course raise their hands when asked if they know about the Barcelona Principles and how to apply them to the real world.

 This is an edited adaptation of a piece that originally appeared on April 22 in PRNews.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D., retired as CEO of KGRA in 2017, but continues as part-time chairman. He and his wife, Sarah Dutton, who recently retired from CBS News, have also started their own research and consulting firm to work with Ketchum and other clients at


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