Measuring Public Relations with The Barcelona Principles

public relations barcelona principlesMany public relations professionals are calling the Barcelona Principles “the first step toward establishing standards for measuring public relations.”

According to a recent study conducted by media measurement company CARMA and PR News, communications professionals are making some progress toward implementing measurement strategies based on those seven principles.

The Barcelona Principles

  1. Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
  2. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
  3. Advertising Value Equivalency is Not the Value of Public Relations
  4. Social Media Can and Should be Measured
  5. Measuring Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Media Results
  6. Business Results Can and Should be Measured Where Possible
  7. Transparency and Replicability Are Paramount to Sound Measurement

Are standards for public relations measurement even important?

I believe that Dr. Walter K. Lindenmann (2003) said it best when he wrote, “media measurement determines whether or not the key messages, concepts, and themes disseminated via the media do, indeed, receive some measure of exposure as a result of public relations activity.” As one of the main tools of public relations, the ability to measure media coverage and the effectiveness of public relations activities is very important and standards for doing so must be set for all practitioners to utilize.

According to Lindenmann, establishing “clear program, activity, strategic and tactical objectives” is the first step to setting a standard for measurement. Once PR professionals develop a consistent means of identifying the correlation between goals and objectives, they can create a standard of measurement that will help PR professionals validate PR’s relationship to business objectives. This will also release public relations measurement from its dependency on other professional standards, like advertising value evaluation.

Dr. David Rockland of Ketchum says that, “the ‘banning’ of AVEs (the practice of placing a value on PR as the cost of purchasing the same amount of advertising space)” has received the most industry attention. He even notes that, during the meeting in Lisbon this year, AVEs were no longer listed as a priority for public relations standards and measurement because, “It is a dead issue; we agreed they are wrong in 2010, and now we need the client and practitioner education to make them go away and replace them with valid metrics for media, target audience, and business result measurement.”

Which Barcelona Principles offer the best chance to accomplish a standard?

public relations roiLinda Childers Hon and James E. Grunig (1999) suggest that “a growing number of public relations professionals have come to believe that the fundamental goal of public relations is to build and then enhance on-going relationships.”

In their attempt to engage publics, PR professionals use a variety of communication tools, which often rely on earned placements coordinated via media relations activities. It could also be argued that, in their attempt to validate public relations activities to top management, PR professionals are constantly trying to prove return on investment in public relations.

It is my belief that, of the seven Barcelona Principles, the two principles regarding media measurement and business results will gain most of the industry’s attention. When I consider the immediate, practical needs of the industry, I am convinced that public relations practitioners will push for a standard of measurement that they can utilize in the work place more than they will strive for academic enrichment. This disparity between the practical and academic realms has persisted on the educational and corporate levels, so I can only assume that it will surely trickle into the Barcelona Principles debate even as the industry slowly advances toward acceptable industry standards.

If you have suggestions on how public relations practitioners can utilize The Barcelona Principles in their everyday practice, please feel free to leave a comment below! I would love to hear them.

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Yasheaka Oakley

Yasheaka Oakley is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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