The Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles
A new declaration of standards and practices to guide measurement and evaluation of public relations was discussed in Barcelona this week and adopted by delegates attending at the 2nd European Summit on Measurement, organized by AMEC and the Institute for Public Relations.
The language may not yet be perfect – and on the surface, some of the principles may seem obvious – but this is a credible attempt by some 200 people from more than a dozen countries to address the need for clear standards and common approaches to measuring and evaluating public relations results.
“What we’re doing here is setting a baseline to build on,” said David Rockland, Partner/CEO of Ketchum Pleon Change and Global Research, in moderating discussion. “This is the basic philosophy behind a set of standard practices.” The standards will be refined based on feedback received in Spain and additional input gathered here [please comment below] and by AMEC over the coming weeks.
For additional information and perspective, Institute for Public Relations research papers are linked wherever appropriate.
Here’s a summary of the principles, also posted at AMEC.
1. The Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
Fundamentally important, goals should be as quantitative as possible and address who, what, when and how much impact is expected from a public relations campaign. Traditional and social media should be measured as well as changes in stakeholder awareness, comprehension, attitude and behavior. Paul Holmes was present and rightfully took exception with the measurement term “target audiences.” Instead, we need to think in terms of communities of “stakeholders” as the power of communications shifts from companies and institutions to communities of individuals.
For more on goal setting, see the Institute’s recent paper on “Guidelines for Setting Measureable Public Relations Objectives.”
2. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
This principle acknowledges that overall clip counts and impressions are usually meaningless. Instead media measurement should account for impressions among stakeholder audiences and quality (eg. tone, credibility of the source and media outlet), message delivery, inclusion of 3rd party spokespersons, prominence and visual dimension. Importantly, this principle also suggests that quality can be defined as negative, positive or neutral.
3. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
There was near-total agreement on this principle in Barcelona (92%) but the group was split on what other validated metrics to use in place of AVEs. (Weighted Media Cost was one suggestion.). The legitimate intent here is not to debate the validity of AVEs (which simply measure the cost of media space) but to move beyond this measure once and for all. Also, this principle acknowledges that multipliers are “silly” and should never be applied unless proven to exist in a specific case.
4. Social Media Can and Should be Measured
- Organizations need clearly defined goals and outcomes for social media
- Evaluating quality and quantity is critical just as with traditional media
- Media content analysis should be supplemented by web and search analytics, sales and CRM data, survey data and other methods.
- Given the scale and volume of social media, technology-assisted analysis may be necessary.
- Measurement must focus on conversations and communities, not “coverage”
- Understanding reach and influence is important, but existing sources are not acceptable, transparent or consistent enough to be reliable. Experimentation and testing are key to success.
A recent paper published by the Institute’s Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation (download here) outlined practical steps for public relations practitioners who want to adopt web analytics as part of their media measurement strategy.
5. Measuring Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Media Results
- This principle suggests that: Outcomes include shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behavior related to purchase, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation, employee engagement, public policy investment decisions and other shifts in audiences regarding a company, NGO, government or entity as well as the audience’s own beliefs and behaviors.
- The proposal that “benchmark and tracking survey research are the preferred practices for quantitative measurement” almost certainly will be expanded to include and acknowledge the value of qualitative research methodology. (Some researchers suggest that in addition to being descriptive, PR research is dominated by a short-term quantitative tradition. Some contend “that no everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted, counts.”)
- Standard best practices in survey research — including sample design, question wording and order and statistical analysis – should be applied in total transparency.
6. Business (read: Organizational) Results Can and should be Measured Where Possible
- Models that determine the effects of the quantity and quality of PR outputs on sales or other business metrics, while accounting for other variables that drive sales, are a preferred choice for measuring consumer or brand marketing. Related points are:
- Clients are creating demand for market mix models to evaluate the impact of consumer marketing
- The PR industry needs to understand the value and implications of market mix models for accurate evaluation of consumer marketing PR in contrast to other measurement approaches
- The PR industry needs to develop measures that can provide reliable input into market mix models
- Survey research can also be used to isolate the change in purchasing preference or attitude shift resulting from exposure to PR initiatives.
An important point for consideration was made by Ketchum’s John Paluszek, also chair of the Global Alliance: “The results of other organizations that we serve are critically important. Our field is growing in its service to NGOs, charitable organizations, governments, the military; organizations that fall outside the business perimeter. We should be talking about ‘organizational results’ instead of only ‘business results.’”
7. Transparency and Replication are Paramount to Sound Measurement
- PR measurement should be done in a manner that is transparent and replicable.
With additional comment from the global PR measurement community, the Barcelona Principles will be further refined and distributed in mid-July for further discussion. Also, we look forward to exploring additional principles at the Institute for Public Relations 8th North American Summit on Measurement October 6-8 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
So, what do you think?
Robert W. Grupp
President and CEO
Institute for Public Relations