PR Brings Measurable Change – We Can Prove It: The Barcelona Principles 3.0

barcelona principles

As communicators, we make stories to move audiences – emotionally, socially, physically. The results of our work are sometimes intangible: a shift in consumer perception; a growing or burgeoning trend; a new emotional reaction; intensified brand loyalty or ambassadorship. These form the foundation of the changes that, together and over time, move the bottom line for our clients, bring about social or economic change.

How do we measure the impact of a story?

We need consistent feedback, through every phase, to affirm and direct our strategies and track progress toward business growth. The Barcelona Principles provide a structure for PR practitioners to define and capture meaningful metrics.

Understanding the Barcelona Principles 3.0

The seven Barcelona Principles have been updated to reflect the challenges in communications, and how audience expectations have shifted. The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) presented the new principles virtually – one indicator of how completely our world has changed.

  1. Setting goals is an absolute prerequisite to communications planning, measurement and evaluation.
  2. Measurement and evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes and potential impact.
  3. Outcomes and impact should be identified for stakeholders, society and the organization.
  4. Communication measurement and evaluation should include both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
  5. AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalency) are not the value of communication.
  6. Holistic communication measurement and evaluation includes all relevant online and offline channels.
  7. Communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights.

The Evolution of Digital Communication

The 2015 update of the Barcelona Principles (originally developed in 2010) acknowledged social media’s profound impact on communication and human behavior – and even in the last 5 years the digital landscape, and communication overall, has shifted dramatically.

Concretely, the 2020 update reflects changes in public use of the available tools. Social media usage has grown from 48% of US adults in 2010, to 65% in 2015, to 72% and rising. As I write, social networks are prompting readers to share carefully; Twitter is reckoning with its power in disseminating news globally, and the potential for manipulation; Facebook is using its controversial position and live broadcast tools to connect audiences with leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest changes to the standards of PR measurement shine a light on how our world has expanded: it is now possible for any voice to emerge, and to connect instantly across the globe.

At the same time, the Barcelona Principles 3.0 call for a reintegration of online and offline metrics, quantitative and qualitative outcomes.

New Metrics for 2020: Measuring Purpose

What’s changed? First, goal setting is more than ‘fundamental’ – it is ‘an absolute prerequisite’ to communications. That is always rule #1.

Also, strikingly, the new rules introduce the language of holistic societal impact.

Communicators have the responsibility to measure impact – beyond measuring outputs and outcomes, taking stock of the broader long-term changes that result; beyond the impact to a single company and its stakeholders to ‘society’ at large.

What does this mean? For example, rather than focusing solely on vanity metrics like social media followers, the industry must evaluate both quantitative and qualitative outcomes. We look at what each of our metrics means in context: combining, for example, social media and in-person engagement; online search volume, search questions and keywords; sentiment; website and foot traffic; revenue and profit.

And ultimately, the real measurement is achieving our goals. Since our earliest campaigns, GH has measured and recorded elevated reputations and stronger bottom lines, changes to the law,   successful infrastructure improvements; increased access to a product or service that makes end users’ lives easier, and improves their health or quality of life.

That is the real power of strategic communications.

Read More Blog