Updated Barcelona Principles Set a Framework for Global Measurement

BY DAVID ROCKLAND, Partner AND CEO, Ketchum Global Research & Analytics; Immediate Past Chairman, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication
BY DAVID ROCKLAND, Partner AND CEO, Ketchum Global Research & Analytics; Immediate Past Chairman, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication

[ Editor’s Note: As part of AMEC’s Measurement Month, we asked one of the guiding forces behind the Barcelona Principles, David Rockland, to discuss the updated Principles and respond to critics of them.]

The Barcelona Principles 2.0 were launched Sept. 3, 2015, in London. This is an updated version of the original Principles adopted five years ago at an annual event the International Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) organized. Following feedback during its International Summit in Stockholm in June, AMEC steered the updating of the original Barcelona Principles, leading a consultation with the original partners in the 2010 framework, including the Institute for Public Relations, PRSA, PRCA, ICCO and The Global Alliance.

As the person who convened the original working group and the team that worked on the updated Principles, I am very pleased to see that work become so widely adopted. I must admit that in June 2010, when I was coordinating adoption of the seven Principles, I figured it would be a flash in the pan. Now, five years later, you see the Barcelona Principles referenced globally and they are used to define part of what is good public relations and communication practice.

By coincidence, my mother was in the room in Barcelona that day, taking time from her vacation in Spain. For me, the biggest success was when she told me afterward, “I think I finally understand what you do for a living.” Now that I see the Principles referenced in everything from academic books to RFPs for PR agencies, I think much more was accomplished; yet my mom’s comment still makes me very happy.

Similarities and Changes

The updated Principles are both similar and different from the original. The seven concepts in the seven Principles remain the same. The lexicon that constitutes the answer to “What do you measure when you measure PR?” remains the same. Setting goals first still is the first, and I would argue the most important, of the Principles.

What changed is a focus on best practices, the inclusion of a much wider array of communication types than just PR, a reflection that we live in an integrated environment rather than PR in isolation, and a recognition that it is not just about numbers, but also about adding qualitative dimensions to all research and measurement as relevant. In addition, rather than verbiage in many voices, we edited it so the language is as smooth as possible.

Some have asked how these Principles came to be and who did the update. In 2010, AMEC’s North American chapter led the development. In the room creating the drafts that were taken to Barcelona were people from a wide array of measurement companies and agencies. I found myself working with many of the very agencies I competed with daily. But we put aside that competitive spirit and instead focused on creating something that we felt would benefit our collective industry. Then in Barcelona, representatives from more than 150 companies and 30 countries voted for their adoption.

Version 2.0 was prepared in what I view as a much more, and very deliberately, inclusive process that had involvement of people from many countries and types of organizations. The participants, for example, included: Dr. Jim Macnamara from the University of Technology, Sydney; Paul Njoku from the U.K. Cabinet office; Eileen Sheil of Cleveland Clinic representing the AMEC nonprofit group including UNICEF and the Gates Foundation; and individuals from all the sponsoring organizations. Multiple rounds of edits allowed for numerous comments and improvements. Some of the participating representatives, such as the Institute for Public Relations, sent drafts to their relevant members, such as the IPR Measurement Commission, to get their input. ICCO solicited input from its 31-member trade associations around the world.

No matter how global you make a process, or how painstakingly you work to be inclusive, some will be unhappy. Usually it is because – despite plenty of opportunity – they didn’t participate in the process, and then complain after the fact. Or, they want themselves or their specific organization or work referenced in the document. In fact, we deliberately avoid calling out individuals or organizations in the Barcelona Principles to encourage as wide an adoption as possible.

Another area of criticism is that the Principles fail to go far enough. For example, they don’t say precisely how to define specific metrics or how to use different measurement approaches. In short, they don’t set standards. That’s true. They are intended to set an overarching global framework for communication measurement from which standards and the like should evolve.

I am very proud of what we accomplished with the Barcelona Principles, both the 2010 and 2015 versions. We got people from all over the world to put aside their egos and organizational identities to create something we hope continues to benefit and improve the practice of PR and communication. If you have ever complained that PR doesn’t “get a seat at the table,” application of the Barcelona Principles helps the PR and communication function earn the respect it deserves.

Note: The full text of the Principles can be found in the Resource Centre on AMEC’s website.

CONTACT: David Rockland is partner and CEO, Ketchum Global Research & Analytics. He is immediate past chairman of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications. Contact him at: david.rockland@ketchum.com

This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.