What the Revised Barcelona Principles Mean or the Future of PR Measurement


Five years ago the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) established the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles, an overarching framework for the measurement of PR and communications.

AMEC has just announced a revised set of Barcelona Principles. The changes are shown in the image below, followed by an explanation of why the changes are made, and some reflections on the implications for the future of PR.

David Rockland, a partner at Ketchum and past Chairman of AMEC explained the changes:

If the original set of Principles focused more on “what not to do,” the updated Barcelona Principles of 2015 provide more guidance on “what to do,” in order to unite the ever-expanding media landscape into a transparent, reliable, and consistent measurement and evaluation framework.


  • We’ve widened the scope beyond PR measurement: The Barcelona Principles outline the basic principles of PR and overall communication measurement. We’ve reframed some of the language to emphasize that The Principles provide a basic foundation and are relevant and applicable to all organizations, governments, companies, and brands globally.
  • We’ve reinforced the importance of integration: We recognize that in an integrated communications environment, measurement must be integrated. This means integration across geographies (global and local), across methods (quantitative and qualitative), and across channels (including paid, earned, owned and shared media).
  • We’ve made a distinction between measurement and evaluation: In addition to the role of measurement, we’ve called out the role of evaluation – the actual process of using data to make a judgement on value and effectiveness of communication.
  • We’ve included more focus on qualitative: Qualitative information plays an important part in measurement and evaluation, often adding color and context that helps professionals understand “the why” behind the quantitative outcomes.
  • We’ve reinforced the need for all measurement and evaluation to be transparent, consistent and valid: We’ve provided more specific counsel on accepted methodologies for both quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as suggested best practices for ensuring quantitative methods are reliable and replicable and qualitative methods are trustworthy.

In the big picture the changes to the Barcelona Principles are relatively subtle, reflecting that the original framework hit the key issues in PR measurement.

Point 5, that Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) does not measure the value of PR and communications, is perhaps the starting point. While AVEs have never made that much sense, arguably in a past in which almost all communication was through mainstream media, it wasn’t entirely unreasonable.

One of the main reasons that AVEs are even less meaningful today is that advertising is having an ever-diminishing impact, while effective communication through social channels is having a greater impact. Effective PR and communication is about engagement, not message dissemination; these are completely different domains.

It is by now blindingly obvious that social media can and should be measured. The issue now is being able to integrate the measurement of social media with that of other channels. Almost every effective campaign spans multiple channels, and there must be ways to bring these together in assessing value.

The new principles point to “organizational performance”, which is a definite improvement on “business results”. I would argue that the impact could potentially be even beyond that, in shaping the organization itself.

Of course the principles only provide a high-level framework. There are still many challenges in establishing specific, meaningful measurement structures within these principles. Over the next few years the focus should be on building another layer of consensus, or at least constructive debate, about the mechanisms for measurement.

The framework is in place. The opportunity now is to bring this to life in consistent measures that clients recognize and value.