PR Training

A New Era for Measuring Communications Campaigns

We all know it’s important to measure our PR campaigns. However, according to Muck Rack’s 2020 “State of PR Survey,” 64 percent of PR pros still struggle with quantifiable measurement — a 1 percent improvement from last year’s findings.

Since 66 percent of pros say that measurable results are one of the top ways to increase the value of public relations within an organization, measurement is truly one of the best opportunities to up our game and show how our discipline contributes to business growth.

Surprisingly, MuckRack’s report revealed that more pros reported measurement as a challenge than COVID-19-related issues, including losing clients/revenue or placing coverage during this news cycle. With 36 percent of executive teams being briefed on PR and communications activities on a daily basis, improving our industry’s comfort level with quantifiable measurement is a worthy quest, even against the backdrop of the pandemic.

“There are so many fantastic, tailorable tools now that allow us to better measure the intricacies of PR; however, too many companies are still unwilling to allocate budget for them, as they don’t feel the investment is worthwhile,” Heather Grant, managing director of dna Communications in London, told me.

Effective, ongoing measurement — which starts with establishing a baseline before a communications program even begins — is essential to ensure that our work has an impact, she said. “True behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight,” Grant said.

Measuring PR campaigns can be daunting and time consuming, but resources are available to help professionals work smarter, not harder.

According to Johna Burke, global managing director at the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and governmental organizations are advanced at measuring their communication campaigns because they make the most of available resources and their stakeholders demand accountability.

In 2010, the “Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles,” the first overarching framework for measuring public relations and communications, was introduced by a group that included AMEC, PRSA, the Institute for Public Relations, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, the Public Relations and Communications Association, and The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. In 2015, the principles were updated to version 2.0.

“At the World Bank, we use the Barcelona Principles as the foundation for how we approach measuring and evaluating our communication efforts,” said José de Buerba, head of business intelligence, external and corporate relations at World Bank. The second principle, which recommends measuring communications outcomes rather than just outputs, “is particularly important for us,” he said.

The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication also offers two free tools to help PR pros put the Barcelona Principles into practice: the measurement-maturity mapper and the integrated evaluation framework.

Measurement-maturity mapper

Often referred to as “M3,” the measurement-maturity mapper is a survey-based planning tool that can help any organization benchmark its approach to communications measurement. Rooted in the Barcelona Principles 2.0, the 10-minute survey evaluates where a PR team or its clients stand in their measurement journey, and in comparison to others who have also used the maturity-mapping tool.

Burke says the M3 tool shows users how to evaluate PR reporting in terms of channels, metrics and frequency; objective and key-performance-indicator settings; and methods of demonstrating impact beyond channel metrics. The tool often reveals that PR teams could improve their measurements, but it also provides practical advice on how to do so, based on the team’s progress in its measurement journey.

Integrated evaluation framework

Once you’ve benchmarked your measurement approach and received some solid advice on how to improve it, plug your goals and M3 insights into the integrated evaluation framework and build an integrated measurement plan.

If you found the Barcelona Principles too philosophical to implement on your own, then this tool will show you how to put that guidance into practice for your (or your client’s) specific circumstances. It even comes with a taxonomy that explains measurement jargon.

The integrated evaluation framework is currently available in 20 languages and will be released in Japanese in time for AMEC’s 2020 measurement summit this July. (Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the summit, originally set to take place June 2-4 in Vienna, is now a virtual event that will commence the week of July 6.)

Barcelona Principles 3.0

At AMEC’s 2020 summit, the Barcelona Principles 3.0 will be unveiled. If you’re just getting the hang of being compliant, don’t worry; the principles are not likely to drastically change.

“There will always be seven principles, as they are the foundation of a good measurement program,” Burke explained. “With that said, the update will explore and clarify what that means to professionals — how the principles can be interpreted and which elements and components should be included.”

“Even with the ever-changing media and communications landscape, the principles are still highly relevant today,” said Alex Christian, assistant vice president of research and analytics at EvolveMKD, a PR firm in New York City. “For Barcelona Principles 3.0, I hope to see guidelines on how to better integrate measurement for paid influencers, and the shifting digital-data landscape.”

World Bank’s de Buerba also has a wish-list item for AMEC: “For the next Barcelona Principles, we hope they would recognize not only the importance of measuring the effect of communications on organizational performance but also on achieving societal impact,” he said.

As more companies require agencies to present a Barcelona Principles-compliant measurement framework when they bid for contracts, implementation is a hot topic.

Accordingly, a team of interdisciplinary experts from around the world are working with David Rockland, Ph.D., past chairman of AMEC and primary author of the Barcelona Principles, to ensure that version 3.0 keeps pace with the evolving communications environment and is easy to use.


Shalon Roth is co-author of the book “How to Succeed in a PR Agency: Real Talk to Grow Your Career & Become Indispensable” (Routledge 2019). In 2018, she founded PR-it, a global communications collective that delivers on-demand projects for brands and agencies.

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