What I meant in the title above is not FC Barcelona or Barça, the top-notch football club in Spain, but the Barcelona Principles.  Right now, Barcelona has entered its third version, Barcelona 3.0.

There are 7 points in the third Barcelona Principles. The first point is, setting measurable goals is an absolute prerequisite to communications planning, measurement, and evaluation. Second, measurement and evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes, and potential impact.

Third point, outcomes and impact should be identified for stakeholders, society, and the organization. Fourth, communication measurement and evaluation should include both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Fifth, AVEs are not the value of communication. Sixth, holistic communication measurement and evaluation includes all relevant online and offline channels. Lastly, the seventh point, communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights.

Why is it necessary to advocate for Barcelona Principles that started in 2010? Why were AVEs mentioned explicitly in one of the points? The origin indeed comes from the “resistance” of PR industry players. Coming from 33 countries, they met in Barcelona, Spain, at the invitation of an association called the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, abbreviated as AMEC. They have long been concerned by the AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalent) which are often used to assess the achievement of public relations (PR) activities.

PR Experts argued that AVEs are not scientific at all, and measuring PR performance with the wrong benchmark. They measure the output in the form of printed media (or the length of radio broadcast and television) solely on its physical aspect, similar to determining advertising cost, without paying attention to the nuances of the coverage. After all, corporate communication or PR activities are more concerned with the outcomes or achievements in the form of the success or failure of the campaign objectives. Therefore, they do not always lead to the news. Moreover, public affairs activities sometimes do not get massive attention in the media, yet the change of attitude or policy which are the objectives could still be achieved.

Ease of Use and Full of Pressure
Despite the fierce resistance from Barcelona Principles supporters, in fact, AVEs still exist now. Two reasons were mentioned by Tom Watson as the foundation of AVEs’ popularity: ease of use and pressure from corporate leaders and finance departments who demand a concrete basis in the form of an amount of money from the company PR department. Watson also linked the press agentry practice which pursues publicity at all costs and confuses PR with publicity as one of the driving forces of AVEs. Furthermore, in the 1960s in the United States, there was an emergence of clipping service companies that linked news coverage to numbers using AVEs, which further popularized this practice.

In the 1980s, resistance towards AVEs practice started to grew from academics such as James Grunig and David Dozier and big PR firms Burson-Marsteller and Ketchum. Then in the 1990s, James Grunig’s Excellence Theory underpinned best practice which rejected AVEs measurement, as the benchmark could not be justified, leading to the Barcelona Principles we know today.

AMEC has issued a scientific measurement structure or framework. It is just that the application could not be “directly done” like measuring the amount of news multiplied by the price of advertising. The Public Relations Academy in the UK which is a supporter of Barcelona Principles issued a guide to PR and Communication Measurement (Guide to PR and Communication Measurement). The guide includes setting quantitative goals by for example a target of an increase in issue understanding from 35% to 65% within six months measured through a survey. Qualitative objectives, for example, increasing positive view of an issue within six months, with measurement through FGD (Focus Group Discussion) or interview with open-ended questions.

In Indonesia, the fierce competition between AVEs and Barcelona Principles is not very prominent. However, it could be predicted that what is happening in the international world would eventually spread to our country too.


Noke Kiroyan
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners

This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 74th Edition, issued on May 2021, page 53.


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