The Barcelona Principles originally came about in 2010 as a means of teaching PR pros how to best measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Many people view these guidelines as the be-all and end-all of PR principles, specifically regarding measurement.

However, because of the way in which the industry has changed over the past couple of years, and the fact that it will continue to change, the guidelines have been updated in order to “sharpen the communications industry’s focus on inclusion, impact, and integrity,” says the team at AMEC.

Here, the team at Focal Points reveals what PR practitioners need to take note of:

1. SMART goals are essential for effective communications

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable and Time-bound) goals have gone from being a goal to an absolute necessity. These essential objectives are effectively what’s going to take your communications planning to the top.

Although setting goals has always been the first principle of this framework, AMEC highlights this deliverable as something that will entirely alter or set the tone for your plan going forward. It’s no longer enough to simply have vague visions about where you see your strategy going.

You need to set clear and specific targets for the long-term that will be re-analysed and adjusted as your planning moves along. They aren’t meant to be written and then just forgotten.

“The founding principle of SMART goals as a foundation for communications planning has been promoted to an essential prerequisite. It pushes measurement and evaluation as a core component of the planning process, articulating target outcomes and how progress towards these will be assessed,” says AMEC.

2. Emphasis is placed on measuring outcomes and outputs

Prior to the recent update, the Barcelona Principles emphasised a focus on the measurement of outcomes as opposed to outputs. However, with the new changes, AMEC is encouraging PR professionals to place their focus on both.

Previously, the long-term impact of communications’ strategies were not considered. Now, however, it’s important for PR pros to think about “the channels [they] are impacting, and change [they] would like to see through campaigns, events and activations.”

This means that you need to take a closer look at the effect your campaigns have on your target audiences. Additionally, it’s important to look at the numbers before, during and after the campaign has occurred in order to get a better idea of how it was perceived by consumers.

There is no sense in merely measuring the efforts put into a campaign if the results have nothing to show for it. Subjective and qualitative measurement of business success therefore needs to be taken into account.

3. The impact of PR efforts on organisations is pertinent

Although metrics such as sales and revenue are still important, the 2020 update to the principles takes on a more “holistic view of performance.” What does this mean for you, PR pros?

Well, it seems as if the update aims to guide practitioners towards the view that all kinds of organisations are essential to communications. Not all businesses and communications roles need to be driven by profit; essentially, not for profit organisations also require PR and need to be included in your agency’s measurement of performance.

Additionally, PR is not just about the results — success stems from the company itself, meaning you need to measure your own organisation’s performance just as much as the performance of your business efforts and campaigns; i.e. is your agency doing it all it can for its clients? How do you know? Could you be doing more?

All in all, PR is essential for the identity of an organisation in both public and private sectors, and this is definitely something PR agencies need to be mindful of going forward.

4. Measurement needs to include both qualitative and quantitative analysis

When it comes to the evaluation of your PR and communications efforts, both a qualitative and quantitative approach needs to be taken. You cannot have one without the other; there is no point in looking at the quantitative stats if you can’t see why they are as high or low as they are.

That’s where a quantitative analysis comes in. It provides you an overview of the story behind the numbers, which is vital to understanding why you are receiving the numbers that you are receiving.

A previous Focal Points’ research paper reveals the pros and cons of both of these components in media analysis and measurement. The results of the study are as follows:

An ideal approach will include both quantitative and qualitative analysis. This is because a multi-prong approach can combine the advantages of each method while negating or minimising their respective disadvantages.”

Basically, if you want to get a full, overall view of your approach to your communications strategy, it is better to use both methods rather than placing a focus on just the one.

5. AVE is not an accurate form of measurement

According to AMEC, “The message remains consistent and clear; ‘we continue to believe that AVEs do not demonstrate the value of our work’.”

“It is important that communications measurement and evaluation employs a richer, more nuanced, and multi-faceted approach to understand the impact of communications.”

The debate as to whether AVE is an accurate form of measurement for PR pros has been ongoing for quite some time, and the verdict still wholly stands to reason that it is not the most precise form of measurement.

In fact, many members and researchers in the media have calculated the impact of AVE, and a general consensus was made, which can be summarised as the following: “Stop using AVE as a PR metric.”

There are too many contributing factors to consider when measuring PR and ROI, and it includes your target audience reach, whether the campaign was a success or not and what people are actually saying about your initiatives.

These components require a more in-depth analysis and monitoring in order to reach an overall idea of how your PR efforts are doing.

6. Social media provides valuable insights and should be measured

This may be an obvious principle to consider, but many businesses and PR agencies are still not utilising social media and do not see it as a valid form of measurement.

That is why AMEC highlights that digital platforms need to be considered along with offline channels in order to get a holistic view of your strategy’s performance.

“The AMEC measurement framework promotes clarity across earned, owned, shared and paid channels to ensure consistency in approach towards a common goal.”

The value that can be drawn from evaluating the engagement of your client’s brands on social media, as well as the conversations and communities that surround them, is extremely pertinent to your business success, and should be regarded as highly as other formats and channels of evaluation.

This especially holds true considering that, nowadays, more organisations are moving over to digital, meaning that both online and offline platforms provide practitioners with an equal share of value and insight.

7. Integrity and transparency are key to driving positive results

The PR industry places a large emphasis on transparency, integrity and ethics, and these values also need to be considered when it comes to measurement.

And with GPR and POPI in place, it’s important that agencies and practitioners are vigilant of privacy concerns when it comes to measuring their data.

According to AMEC, “This is also a statement that measurement isn’t simply about data collection and tracking, but about learning from evaluation and applying insight back into communications planning.”

The guiding principles also highlight that practitioners need to be “transparent about the context in which programmes are run and [be] aware of any bias that may exist in the tools, methodologies and interpretations applied.”

This means that you need to do a whole lot of research before selecting a particular tool to measure your campaign strategies. Not only do investigations need to be done on measurement tools being used, but you also need to be honest and transparent about the results and numbers that are drawn from these tools about your business.

Additionally, in your feedback reports to clients, ensure that your numbers are showcased objectively. Better yet, make use of a service provider that can detail the narrative behind the data for you in order to ensure that all of your statistics remain unbiased.

For more information, visit You can also follow Focal Points on Facebook, Twitter or on LinkedIn.