Updates to the Barcelona Principles Widen the Scope of Communications Measurement

September 23, 2015 Max Bergen


In 2010 the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) held a summit of PR practitioners from 33 companies in Barcelona, Spain. What emerged from their discussions is the Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles, a set of seven voluntary guidelines established by the public relations industry to measure the efficacy of PR campaigns. Earlier this month, AMEC, working in conjunction with the partners involved in the original Barcelona Principles of 2010, announced the first update to the principles in the five years since they were launched.

The changes are subtle, but they reflect changes in the communications landscape and further underscore the importance of objective public relations performance management.

Principle 1: Goal Setting and Measurement are Fundamental to Communication and Public Relations
(Formerly: Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement)

The update broadens the principle to include paid, earned, owned and shared channels.

Principle 2: Measuring Communication Outcomes is Recommended Versus Only Measuring Outputs
(Formerly: Measuring the Effect on Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Outputs)

This change was made to recognize the use of qualitative methods are valuable when used alongside quantitative ones. The updated Principle also specifically calls out advocacy as an outcome that can (and should) be measured.

Principle 3: The Effect on Organizational Performance Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible
(Formerly: The Effect on Business Results Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible)

The updated principle calls attention to the fact that communications can impact more than just business results. It can impact the performance of the organization as a whole.

Principle 4: Measurement and Evaluation Require Both Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
(Formerly: Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality)

This principle attacks the “all press is good press” myth by reminding us to use qualitative measures to understand the reasons for outcomes.

Principle 5: AVEs are not the Value of Communications
(Formerly: AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations)

Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) measure the cost of media space or time and do not measure the value of PR or communication, media content, earned media, etc.

Principle 6: Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels
(Formerly: Social Media Can and Should be Measured)

This update reflects the fact that social media measurement tools have improved to the point that they can match other media monitoring tools in the assessment of engagement, quantity and quality.

Principle 7: Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent and Valid
(Formerly: Transparency and Replicability are Paramount to Sound Measurement)

This principle was updated to include more specific guidance to ensure that measurement methods are reliable, replicable and valid.

The changes to the principles reflect the growing importance of careful communications measurement and evaluation. They remind practitioners that the technology to accurately assess PR outcomes and quality is available and improving. In this data driven world, PR professionals who adhere to the Barcelona Principles will put themselves in the position to earn the trust of executive teams and clients.


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