This morning I went to an event: the relaunch of the Barcelona Principles. I’m not sure where the name comes from but I just got back from a lovely holiday in Barcelona so I felt optimistic. But these principles aren’t about sightseeing and shopping, they’re about measuring communications activity.
If you work in digital comms you’re probably already using some of them, even if you didn’t realise they were named after the sunny city. Some of them might be common sense but I found it useful to have them set out in a way that I can use as a checklist when I’m evaluating my activities. This is version 2.0 and is a refresh of the seven 2010 principles. The 2015 language is plain English and the principles have been tweaked so they can be used by all organisations, not just those selling a product. There’s more focus on social media, not just traditional PR. A range of sectors had input into the new principles, including government, and it’s intended that government organisations will use them as a framework for evaluation.
The gist of the Barcelona Principles (or la esencia as they say in Spain)
- Set your goals and objectives before you start. The key things to ask yourself are: Who is your audience? What are you trying to achieve? How much behaviour change are you aiming for and by when?
- Measure outcomes not just outputs. Don’t just look at what you did but what has changed as a result. Using the Fire Kills campaign as an example, the comms message is that you’re four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm. The outputs are tweets, Facebook posts, radio ads, YouTube videos etc. The outcomes are an increase in the number of people testing their smoke alarms regularly and a decrease in fire-related accidents and deaths in the home. It sounds simple but it’s easy to look at success in terms of number of retweets or likes rather than what happened next. Pretty hard to measure sometimes.
- What is the affect on your organisation? For example, has your comms activity improved your organisation’s reputation? Are you getting more endorsements?
- Use qualitative metrics as well as quantitative. It’s not enough to say a post generated 50 comments. Were those comments positive or negative? Did people react the way you hoped they would?
- Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) are so last season. This is a method of calculating the effectiveness of PR by multiplying column inches by advertising rate to come up with a money figure. AVEs are as passé as inches. It’s centimetres and engagement rates now.
- Measure social media engagement. It’s tempting to look at vanity figures such as the number of likes your Facebook page has, but what are people actually doing with the information you’re giving them? Are they responding to it and sharing it?
- Measurement should be consistent, transparent and valid. To confirm the validity of your results look at them in the context of what else is going on in the world. For example, could your message have got lost under a big news story that week?
The new principles look at evaluation not just measurement – what have you learnt for next time? It’s hoped that they’ll be widely adopted and that the results will be used to shape business models.
I went to a second analytics and evaluation event this afternoon where Alex Aiken, Director of Government Comms, reminded us of the importance of not just listening to what people are saying on social media, but responding to it and using insights to shape our policies. This is something the digital team at DCLG have been working slowly towards for years and I hope these principals will help the process along.