Evaluation Using Barcelona Principles

Article 5 min
Evaluating your communication efforts is challenging, but one of the most important questions you will have to ask yourself is, "Did our communication efforts help us achieve our command's goal?"

Evaluation is the way for you to understand and answer this question. Use these principles in your communication plan for a more thorough and accurate reading of the plan's effectiveness.

Evaluation is not simply a postmortem exercise. It’s an ongoing process and a means for managing continual improvement in public relations.

The Barcelona Principles were developed specifically for the field of public relations and are the framework for effective public relations and communication measurement. They consist of seven guidelines.

Principle 1

The first is that goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations. To set goals: identify who, what, how much and by when. With every campaign, big or small, you need to identify your target audience and ask yourself what success looks like, from a holistic perspective, as well as a specific point of view.

Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. Here’s an example:
To increase positive or neutral coverage generated by outlets embedded during the exercise by 5% with respect to the Marine Corps’ involvement and contributions by October 28, 2020.

Principle 2

The second principle is that measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs. An output is simply the work you produce, like the number of products you write during a PR campaign. An outcome is the effect your communication has on an audience. For example:
Did increased engagement lead to people subscribing to your newsletter?

Outcomes can be:

  • reputation
  • comprehension
  • behavior
  • engagement
  • attitude
  • awareness
  • donations

Look to measure shifts in these areas, and you’ll learn more than if you just measure output alone.

Principle 3

Principle three says that the effect on organizational performance can and should be measured where possible. Everyone on the communication team should be aware of the impact of PR and communication on the target audience. In the end, the change in awareness, behavior and engagement is what really matters. Measuring these results in an organized way is challenging, but surveys, research, good internal cooperation and an integrated approach can help you do it.

Remember that it’s more useful to measure data like the length of time videos are viewed versus the number of videos viewed, or the number of shares and retweets versus the number of likes or clicks.

Principle 4

The fourth principle is that measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods. Quantitative metrics can show trends and the big picture. Qualitative analysis gives context to the numbers. Qualitative helps explain quantitative. While it is beneficial to measure the number of comments, it also important to analyze the quality of comments, like tone and topic.

Principle 5

The fifth principle states that Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) are not the value of communication. They show the cost of media space, but they don’t give you any idea about its effectiveness.

To show a return on investment, you need to weigh each factor that impacts the overall success of your communication efforts. The value of communication is not the cost or the level of effort but the quality of coverage and the changes it brings about. It is the shift in attitudes, knowledge and behaviors you should focus on measuring.

Principle 6

The sixth principle is that social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels. This measurement should have a focus on engagement. The rules that apply for PR, are also valid for social media.

Principle 7

The last principle is pretty straightforward. Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid. It is important that measurement is replicable to see the changes in attitudes, knowledge and behaviors among your audience.

Evaluating communication efforts is focused on tracking progress and measuring impact. Knowledge outcomes, predisposition, changes and behavior can all be measured. And remember, evaluation is ideally conducted before, during and after a communication campaign to ensure your plan is effective.

Implementing the Barcelona Principles as part of your ongoing evaluation process will help you measure and manage the impact of your communication efforts. It will also ensure you have a complete and thorough communication plan for any mission.

Note: This is based on Barcelona Principles 2.0 (2015). For more information on Barcelona Principles 3.0 (July 2020), click here.