Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
Public relations practitioners have historically struggled to find accurate and reliable methods of public relations tracking. It wasn’t just an individual problem, but it was an issue that concerned the industry as a whole and probably explained why US companies spent 30 times more on advertising than PR. It’s very difficult to get business executives to invest in something that is difficult to track with no known ROI.
In order to address this problem, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) held a summit of PR practitioners from 33 companies in Barcelona, Spain in 2010. What emerged from their discussions is the Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles, a set of seven voluntary guidelines established by the public relations industry to measure the efficacy of PR campaigns. Here is a summary of the 7 principals for public relations tracking:
1. The Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
The summit attendees agreed that defining quantitative goals at the outset was an essential element of public relations tracking. Goals should be specific, measurable and timely and cover both traditional and social media.
2. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
This statement signaled the move away from simply counting clips and impressions. Understanding quality also requires taking into account desired audiences and communities, the sentiment of coverage and the authority of the source and media outlet.
3. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
The group was nearly unanimous with 92% of attendees agreeing that AVE, or Advertising Value Equivalency, was an invalid method of PR tracking. It was, they agreed, time to move beyond this measure and search for something better.
4. Social Media Can and should be Measured
Social media was a much newer force in 2010, but even then the assembly acknowledge that it should not be ignored. They argued that measurement should focus on conversations and communities, rather lumping all mentions together. They also realized that tracking social media would require an assist from technology.
5. Measuring Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Media Results
The outcomes referred to in this principal refer to changes in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behavior. The conclusion was reached that, “ benchmark and tracking survey research are the preferred practices for quantitative measurement.”
6. Business/Organizational Results Can and should be Measured Where Possible
This is simply the idea that public relations goals should align with business goals and success should be measured against business performance. This means tracking PR effectiveness and ROI in terms of sales, leads, website traffic and other metrics that are important to the business as a whole.
7. Transparency and Relicability are Paramount to Sound Measurement
As with the other principals, this one applies several concepts associated with scientific research. Measurement should be done in a way that is transparent and repeatable.
Although they were released in 2010, some PR professionals have been slow to embrace these principles as they do represent a radically different paradigm for the industry. We think they are sound and, if widely adopted, will increase business leaders' trust in the value of public relations. Applying a systematic and controlled method of public relations tracking is good for the industry and those of us who practice the trade.