Moving Past Principles to Unlock the Business Potential of PR Metrics

Every year, senior level PR research and measurement aficionados trek to exotic locales for the Annual AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications) European Measurement Summit. The Summit has grown from a small gathering in Berlin to a mecca for the latest thinking in the measurement industry.

This year’s event in Madrid, titled, “Unlocking Business Performance – Communications Research and Analytics in Action,” took place in early June. It attracted more than 200 measurement and communications professionals from 35 countries. Why should you care about yet another measurement conference, this one in Madrid?

Because we need to care if we hope to get that elusive ‘seat at the table,’ retain client business or simply survive in an increasingly competitive industry.

There’s a growing movement that the PR industry needs to get beyond rhetoric and toward implementation of the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles established at the 2010 European Summit. If we don’t, other business and marketing analytics organizations will eat our lunch.

Here’s a summary of the key highlights from Madrid, which include some new tools and references on evolving standards and practices:

Accelerating the pace: In his keynote speech, Rob Flaherty, senior partner and CEO of Ketchum, challenged the communications sector to move from “Principles,” to “Action.” He referred to the Barcelona Principles as having set the cornerstone foundation for PR measurement, but the task now is to develop standards that would drive the Principles. He pledged to lead an industry-wide effort to adopt PR measurement standards within six months.

Flaherty said that he aims to persuade his counterparts at other big global PR networks to adopt the standards coming from the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards.

Companies including GE, GM, Philips, Southwest Airlines, Nissan, McDonald’s and Cleveland Clinic,have gotten on board, and now is the time for PR agencies big and small, corporations and NGOs to lend their support as well.

Real measurement standards and frameworks: After decades of dancing around the subject, industry leaders are now developing professional measurement standards and suggested frameworks to enable proper use of resulting metrics. These efforts began in earnest after the adoption of the Barcelona Principles in 2010.

For example, in 2011 at the European Summit in Lisbon, the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework was launched as an accessible, comprehensive set of operational standards and definitions, rather than a search for an elusive “silver bullet.”

The ‘Valid Metrics’ framework offers several areas of measurement that fit the following types of PR activity: brand/product; marketing; reputation building; issues advocacy/support; employee engagement; investor relations; crisis/issues management; nonprofit and social media.

This year in Madrid, two new versions of the “Social/Community Engagement” framework were presented. These will eventually replace the original framework because they better address the unique needs of social media.

Other examples of new standards include “Traditional” and “Social Media” definitions from two group initiatives:

The Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards, a group that includes the Institute for Public Relations, the Council of Public Relations Firms, the Global Alliance, AMEC and PRSA, has made progress on definitions and best-use cases for the topics below.

The dedicated website invites comments and questions from PR execs as the standards develop and get ratified.

Progress on traditional media standards:

• Communications Lifecycle

• Items, Mentions, Circulation/Impressions/ Reach


• Sentiment

• Ethics

The #SMMStandards Conclave: This offshoot of the Coalition has tackled social media measurement standards. It is comprised of leading client companies and agencies, six of the PR trade bodies already mentioned and digital groups such as SNCR, WOMMA and the Digital Analytics Association.

The group submits all pending standards to the website listed above and invites comments and critiques from the industry. The following topics are in various stages of development and adoption.

Progress on social media standards:

• Items/Mentions/Reach/ Impressions/Engagement

• Content & Transparency

• Engagement

• Influence & Relevance

• Opinion & Advocacy

• Value & Impact

Time to go to school: It’s all fine and good for industry associations and measurement gurus to wax profound in their think tanks, but it’s all for naught if the rest of us don’t know what they are talking about.

So AMEC has launched an education campaign with two primary objectives: 1) make sure PR pros know how good measurement enables communications to drive business performance and 2) to make sure measurement experts know how to communicate solutions that work for the business community.

Allyson Hugley, executive VP of measurement, analytics and insights at Weber Shandwick, is leading the U.S. charge. Among educational opportunities for practitioners:

AMEC College: This popular 10-week online course now includes an International Certificate in Measurement and Evaluation, with its next session starting Sept. 9. It is open to PR practitioners wanting to demonstrate the value of measurement and work more strategically as well as to seasoned measurement professionals.

AMEC Global Speakers Bureau: National, regional and local PR conferences will soon have access to a wide array of experts who will share their knowledge on all phases of measurement.

Underscoring the importance of education, AMEC, ICCO and the UK’s Public Relations Consultants Organization launched an online guide in Madrid that will enable every PR practitioner to get a jumpstart on great measurement. “The PR Professionals Definitive Guide to Measurement” features case studies and best practices from PR leaders and measurement experts.

The online guide, which is easy to access and navigate and includes regular updates, is designed to encourage more PR professionals, working in consultancies and in-house, to regard PR measurement as a part of their daily routine.

The guide is an everyday practical desktop reference source for PR professionals to demonstrate the value and importance of measurement.

Keep it simple: The overarching theme of the conference was the importance of simplicity over complexity. One particularly poignant presentation by Marguerite Marston, commercial public relations manager of IKEA U.S, who told of the measurement journey of her organization and the need for simplicity and efficiency.

NGOs, we hear you: Finally, recognizing the need for better measurement of communications for NGOs, a new component of AMEC was proposed to specifically focus on the challenges faced by these organizations. The idea arose from Summit attendees from UNICEF, CARE International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Look for guidance to come for this critical part of our industry. PRN


Angela Jeffrey is senior counsel of CARMA International and president of She can be reached at

This article appeared in the June 24 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.