For a comprehensive look at the Barcelona Principles and what they mean to the industry, Perspectives solicited the opinions of five PR and measurement experts, including individuals who participated in the 2nd European Summit on Measurement and helped craft the Barcelona Principles into their final form. We asked them four questions:
Perspectives: Why do you believe the Barcelona Principles are important – why are they needed?
Richard Houghton: The Barcelona Principles are really a stake in the ground. They are a starting point for the development of consistent, practical and effective measurement criteria that can be used across the practice of public relations. It’s in the interests of both client and consultancy to work toward an accepted form of evaluation that can be used to demonstrate the value of PR activity and budgets, and also provide insights and data that can be used to refine and improve future activities. For the more mature PR markets, the Barcelona Principles may seem to be a little trite at this stage but they are an important starting point for development.
Gary McCormick: The public relations industry, by its own admission, has been slow to adopt standard measurement techniques, something that advertising, direct mail and other marketing and communications disciplines have been using to their advantage for years. Measurement and evaluation techniques that are widely understood, accepted and implemented are critical to the acceptance and growth of public relations.
Mazen Nahawi: Nearly everything in life has some form of measurement or accountability, whether it is personal (weight or height) or business-related (stock prices, balance sheets). Public relations and communications should be no exception to this rule, and the Barcelona Principles help enshrine a commonly accepted standard of credible research and proper accountability across the industry.
John Paluszek: PR is an alloy of art and science. The art portion is very difficult to measure, but clients have always been tuned in to the science part, particularly when it comes to measurement of their other communications activities. It’s very important that we work on making PR more tangible to clients. That’s what the Barcelona Principles set out to do: provide the tools that connect with clients and help us balance the science with the art.
Brendan Swale: I was fortunate to be one of the 200 delegates at the 2010 2nd AMEC European Summit on Measurement, which formulated the Barcelona Principles. I believe the principles are extremely important for the public relations and media measurement industry because they establish a level of standardization – not a standardized metric that is a false hope, but a standardized and agreed-upon approach to what is important when measuring the effectiveness of communication.
The most encouraging aspect of the Principles is what was determined as important: defined objectives and real measures that support an organization’s goals, such as market share, sales leads, earnings per share or reduced employee turnover rates. We in the industry need to be aware that the value of measurement is not measurement itself, but actionable insights that drive improved performance. The Barcelona Principles enunciated that concept very effectively
Houghton: ICCO has 1,500 agency members across 28 countries, and we are focused on helping to improve the quality and consistency of PR consultancy across all these markets. The Barcelona Principles have the potential to play an important part in achieving our objectives. As current ICCO president, I was only too happy to get involved in their development.
McCormick: As part of its industry advocacy campaign, “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA embarked last year on an effort to identify standard approaches for measuring the impact of public relations. As part of that effort, we convened a Measurement Task Force composed of the current and past chairs of the Institute for Public Relations’ Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation.
The Measurement Task Force issued a broad set of recommended measurement standards for a variety of public relations tactics and outcomes. We see the Barcelona Principles as building on these recommendations, leading to the development of tangible metrics and approaches for public relations measurement and the achievement of broad industry consensus on them.
Paluszek: The Global Alliance represents the PR industry in 70 countries and has a broad mandate to help move the industry forward on an international basis. Addressing the issue of measurement makes sense for us because it is a common denominator need in all countries. We were eager to participate in the AMEC Summit, work in development of the Barcelona Principles, and then help spread the word by playing it back globally.
Just before the AMEC summit in June, the Global Alliance held our annual meeting in conjunction with the World Public Relations Forum 2010 in Stockholm. One of our outcomes from the meeting was the “Stockholm Accord,” which is an articulation of the enhanced role and potential effectiveness of public relations in organizational and institutional success. It is a comprehensive restatement of the contemporary public relations profession — PR for the PR industry, in effect — and the Barcelona Principles sync perfectly with the Stockholm Accord because they both help enhance the understanding of PR and the effectiveness of its messages.
Houghton: Once fully developed, with clear criteria for implementation, the Barcelona Principles will provide clients with the ability to compare the impact of individual campaigns. This will be invaluable in developing budgets, planning future activity and, I hope, arguing the case for PR internally.
For agencies, many of which consider their evaluation techniques a competitive advantage, the advantages will be that the strength of strategy and creative ideas will stand out and their success will be reviewed objectively. Additionally, the evaluation of multi-country campaigns will be easier and more accurate. All of this will give agencies the ammunition to argue their case for budget and resources.
McCormick: Organizations and professionals who understand and believe in the benefits of public relations evaluation are able to validate the results of their efforts; link the results to business outcomes that further the achievement of organizational goals; credibly merchandise the impact of those results to those who fund public relations programs; set smarter objectives, develop better strategies and employ more compelling and engaging tactics; make midcourse program adjustments and corrections; and adapt their measurement approaches over time in light of changing objectives, new competitors and emerging best practices.
Nahawi: I will be forming the AMEC Middle East Chapter in 2011. A major part of that initiative will be to carry the mantle of the Barcelona Principles and make sure we promote their importance to the young communications industry in the Middle East and North Africa. I am confident that we will do so successfully and continue to help the region avoid many of the less effective research practices, such as poor campaign planning and AVEs, and make sure the work we do for our stakeholders is grounded in best practices across our industry for years to come.
Thus, the main impact will be to make a strong statement to a young and emerging market on how to do things right from the beginning. We will emphasize real-life examples, while clearly identifying the less effective practices and stressing that the entire industry is united in calling for them to no longer be used.
Paluszek: There are shared benefits for clients, agencies and the industry overall, because the Barcelona Principles are better for all parties. What data gets measured, and how it gets measured, are important issues throughout the ranks of client management and the C-suite. PR has been at a disadvantage to our advertising colleagues in that they have traditionally presented clear criteria and hard numbers. PR has struggled in that area, and been only partially successful. Clean, common PR metrics are beneficial to the industry because they place us all in a better position to get greater attention, time and budget from client management. The Barcelona Principles are an excellent start, and will get even stronger as more specifics are added.
Swale: The impact of the Barcelona Principles in my region, Asia Pacific, is currently limited, but the potential is significant. AMEC has a limited footprint in the APAC region; therefore, the principles haven’t yet entered the industry mindset as coherently as they have in the U.K., Europe and the U.S. It is my challenge, and that of my measurement colleagues in the region, to improve upon this situation. Despite this reality, I have been at industry events in Australia where the Barcelona Principles have been quoted to me, which is encouraging!
The great opportunity we have as an industry in Asia Pacific is to use the Barcelona Principles as an accepted international standard to initiate and frame the debate and, hopefully, accelerate their acceptance.
McCormick: The Principles will help public relations professionals understand the qualitative results of their activities and express them in ways that are meaningful to business executives. This will lead to more accurate and better-informed perceptions of the value and role of public relations within the diverse organizations it serves.
Paluszek: Development of the Barcelona Principles is an illustration of how PR is evolving as a management science and provides another important piece of evidence to both clients and the general public about our credibility. The public has often misunderstood PR, and these principles help the industry prove we are a serious profession. They cut through the fluff and can demonstrate how PR has a significant role in business and every institution in society. Particularly in today’s digital world, all institutions realize the dialogue of PR is vital to their success.
Swale: The profound impact of the Barcelona Principles will be when the concepts contained within them are accepted universally by our clients, and because of the focus on business outcomes and results, they will see their own individual reputations grow along with that of their organization. I have attended many PR conferences where the key topic has been “How does PR get into the boardroom?” The obvious answer is that it will happen when PR professionals can confidently relate their activities to business improvement. To do that, we have to measure. And to measure effectively, the industry must embrace the Barcelona Principles.