How the 7 Barcelona Principles Can Help Measure the Value of Your PR Campaign


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The poet Oscar Wilde once said, “There’s only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” You may also have heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” How much truth is there to each statement? That’s what PR experts have been trying to figure out for decades. How can you best determine the value of an advertising campaign? Can you quantify it in terms of dollars and cents? Over a decade ago, industry experts developed a guide for creating a PR campaign. Since then, they’ve updated it to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. Communications professionals call these guidelines the seven Barcelona Principles.

Why Every PR Specialist Swears by the 7 Barcelona Principles

What Are the 7 Barcelona Principles?

The seven Barcelona Principles come from a worldwide summit in Barcelona, Spain, for PR leaders. Summit participants developed a guide for making PR campaigns based on outcome rather than output. The first round of principles came out in 2010. An updated version called the Barcelona Principles 2.0 debuted in 2015.

The PR industry unveiled a third version of the Barcelona Principles in 2020. The updated seven standards from 2020 are:

  1. Setting goals is an absolute prerequisite to communications planning, measurement, and evaluation.
  2. Measurement and evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes, and potential impact.
  3. Outcomes and impact should be identified for stakeholders, society, and the organization.
  4. Communication measurement and evaluation should include both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
  5. AVEs are not the value of communication.
  6. Holistic communication measurement and evaluation should include all relevant online and offline channels.
  7. Communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights.

Why Did Experts Create the Barcelona Principles?

The seven Barcelona Principles stemmed from criticisms of a metric called Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). The public relations industry uses AVE to determine how a PR campaign benefits a client in media coverage.

To calculate AVE in print media, multiply the column inches by the outlet’s advertising rates. For broadcast media, replace the column inches with seconds.

Related: 4 Tips For Measuring The Impact of a Brand Event

Why Did Leaders Move Away From AVE?

Many criticize AVE as overly superficial because it fails to include the context of the advertising campaign, whether that’s an article, photograph, video, or another form of media. AVE does not understand the content, style, or tone of what you’re trying to convey. It’s simply a number without conclusive outcomes. 

The primary advantage of AVE is that it gives an actual number of dollars and cents spent and gained. AVE puts a price on the value of media coverage and is easy for PR professionals to implement.

However, industry leaders have moved away from this metric because it is unable to differentiate between the good and bad press a client is getting. AVE only gives a quantitative figure, which is why the seven Barcelona Principles call for quantitative and qualitative methods.

Why Have the Barcelona Principles Changed?

As mentioned, the Barcelona Principles have changed twice: once in 2015 and again in 2020. They’ve evolved because the world’s media landscape is rapidly changing, especially with the rise of social media. The sixth principle mentions social media and why professionals should measure it. Since the first list of Barcelona Principles in 2010, social media growth has nearly doubled among U.S. adults.

Another change to the PR campaign guide has been the emphasis on smart, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Before, this item was a recommendation, and now it’s fundamental for all types of media campaigns. Setting SMART goals for a project can provide excellent direction for a team to develop a top-tier campaign. Completing objectives and showing success means just as much as, if not more than, dollars in an AVE calculation.

Related: 3 Proven Seo Strategies That Will Extend the Value of PR Campaigns

PR Campaigns in the Modern Day

PR campaigns date back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and other civilizations. Society has seen the evolution of communications campaigns through print, mass, and digital media. 

As technology evolves, humans have gotten better at crafting messages and measuring the impact of their work.

In the 21st century, communications professionals have endorsed the seven Barcelona Principles because they’re a practical guide for evaluating PR campaigns. Like other ideas, these principles have evolved due to an ever-changing media landscape. The seven Barcelona Principles have already changed twice since 2010 and may change again in another five years, depending on what society has in store next.

Beth Rush

Beth Rush

Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind and a lover of all things health and wellness. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to fitness, nutrition, disease prevention, and holistic health. In her spare time, Beth enjoys cooking healthy recipes and trying out new fitness trends.