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Barcelona Principles 2.0: What’s New and What’s Not

September 29, 2015

On Sept. 3, the updated Barcelona Principles were released in London.

It’s been five years since the profession agreed to the first overarching framework for effective PR and communication measurement.

At the time, the principles were groundbreaking, serving as the codification of thinking of the 200 organizations from more than 30 countries represented at the Barcelona conference in 2005.

The original goal was straightforward: Provide guidelines to measure communication campaign efficiency; provide a basis to enable the replacement of outdated program measurement models; and ultimately, end years of debate as to whether metrics such as AVEs and multipliers should be used.

This past summer, I chaired an international working group representing the original partners involved in the Barcelona Principles of 2010: AMEC, ICCO, Institute for Public Relations, PRCA, PRSA and the Global Alliance. This time, we also included people from academia, the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector and government.

Over the past five years, PR firms, companies, organizations and government teams have adopted the Barcelona Principles. However, the original set of principles was never intended to be a final or complete solution. Rather, they represented a place to start.

Uniting media and measurement

In the spirit of continual improvement encouraged by delegates at AMEC’s International Summit in Stockholm this past June, we went back to the start.

Our working group identified ways to build on the original Barcelona Principles and make them even more reflective of the profession and the way communication practitioners work today.

The Barcelona Principles of 2015 provide more guidance on what to do to unite the ever-expanding media landscape into a transparent, reliable and consistent measurement and evaluation framework.

The 2.0 version goes beyond the PR sector and outlines applications for communications measurement overall. The revised principles include greater attention to the role of qualitative and quantitative methods. They also acknowledge the realities of working in an increasingly integrated field.

• We’ve widened the scope beyond PR measurement. We’ve reframed some of the language to emphasize that the principles provide a basic foundation and are relevant and applicable to all organizations, governments, companies and brands, globally.

• We’ve reinforced the importance of integration. We recognize that in an integrated communications environment, measurement must also be integrated. This means integration across geographies, across methods and across channels.

• We’ve made a distinction between measurement and evaluation. We’ve called out the role of evaluation — the actual process of using data to make a judgment on value and effectiveness of communication.

• We’ve included more focus on qualitative. Qualitative information plays an important part in measurement and evaluation, often adding color and context that helps professionals understand the “why” behind the quantitative outcomes.

• We’ve reinforced the need for all measurement and evaluation to be transparent, consistent and valid. We’ve provided more specific counsel on accepted methodologies for both quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as suggested best practices for ensuring quantitative methods are reliable and replicable, and qualitative methods are trustworthy.

A lot has changed over the past five years, but one factor remains constant: As practitioners, we must always be prepared to prove our value and the ROI of communication.

Our goal is to ensure that the Barcelona Principles continue to act as a baseline that professionals can use as a set of professional measurement guidelines and practices, today and in the future.

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 rocklanddutton.com.

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