In Barcelona in 2010, 225 measurement and PR professionals from more than 30 countries agreed to the Barcelona Principles at a conference organised by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication. In summary, the Barcelona Principles say:
• Goal setting and measurement are important
• Media measurement requires quantity and quality – clippings alone are not enough
• AVEs are not the value of Public Relations – we are two separate industries, so why value one based on the other?
• Social media can and should be measured
• Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results or outputs – it is not about the number of clippings generated but rather it is about monitoring if there was a shift in awareness, attitude and behaviour as a result of the campaign
• Business results can and should be measured
• Transparency is paramount to sound measurement
On the surface some of the Barcelona Principles may seem obvious and are topics that are regularly included in briefs and brought up in new business pitches and campaign reviews. However, one of the most talked about outcomes of the conference was the need for the industry to ban AVE – measuring PR coverage based on the advertising value equivalent. Clients are attracted to AVE as it puts a euro value on media coverage, but is it a true reflection of the success of the campaign? The answer according to the Barcelona Principles, is no.
At the conference 92% of delegates agreed to ban the use of AVE, but the question remained what metric should replace it? The next measurement conference, which took place in Lisbon last year, had a number of agendas; mainly to set priorities for future action, which included how to measure the ROI of PR, creating a global standard for social media measurement and educating clients and insisting on the measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results, as well as finding a basic measurement system that the PR industry could use instead of AVE. While at this year’s conference, which took place in Dublin, social media was front and centre in most discussions.
The Valid Metrics basic model, born out of Lisbon to replace AVE, offers a ‘framework for identifying possible metrics for individual PR programs. They are not intended to be the definitive rules of measurement and therefore do not include every possible metric.’ According to AMEC, ‘in reality there is no one perfect metric to measure the entire breadth of PR. Public Relations addresses many different publics and has many different forms of impact – from selling a product, to building a company’s standing in a community, to mitigating a crisis, to improving employee engagement. Recognition of the many achievements of PR requires more than one metric.’
And so the question still hangs. How can we measure PR effectively and efficiently and in line with the global industry when most clients usually want to see the size of the clippings book, the coverage in the Irish Times or on The Late Late Show or the return on investment based on how much the PR campaign cost them, (which is generally still worked out on budget versus AVE or PR value)?
In theory the Barcelona Principles are ones that the PR industry needs in order to be able to break away from valuing our campaigns against ‘what it would cost you if you bought it as an ad’. However, from the perspective of a consumer PR agency, measuring outcomes and business results has proved difficult. In some cases when a product has sold out, is seen on a celebrity or attendance figures have increased, we can trace it back to a clipping in a leading glossy magazine, a seeding list or a mention on a target radio show, but giving access to business results to a PR agency is not always a priority for many clients. Measurement is fundamentally about assessing performance against objectives and having enough information to determine what is working and what is not.
In the UK the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has effectively banned the use of AVE and PR Week is not using it as success criteria for its PR awards. Here in Ireland, the PRII has taken a similar stance in terms of its awards. It will probably take a while for AVE to disappear from the PR industry in Ireland completely, but there is a greater shift towards measuring sentiment, awareness attitude and behaviour. In an ideal world, PR campaigns will be reviewed once research and analytics, in partnership with sales and marketing and finance departments, are made available. However, for smaller clients this may not ever be possible due to budgetary constraints. Until the PR industry in Ireland starts implementing it from the pitch stage and removes AVE altogether, it will remain a grey area.