This came to mind when I heard about the recent Barcelona Declaration, an initiative from the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) and others that attempts to provide standards for public relations measurement. What initially stuck me wasn't the ideas presented but the name chosen, with its evocation of a great place and a hardly accidental allusion to other great places and monumental ideas: Yalta, Camp David, Reykjavik. It sniffed of self importance and grandiosity. It made me think of Churchill chomping cigars and dividing up nation-states, not dudes in suits thinking of clever ways to find the value in a press release.
Well, its clear from the IPR's introduction to the Declaration principles that I have this wrong. If anything, these guys are underselling. See if this doesn't quash your expectations:
The [Declaration] language may not yet be perfect - and on the surface, some of the principles may seem obvious - but this is a credible attempt by some 200 people from more than a dozen countries to address the need for clear standards and common approaches to measuring and evaluating public relations results.
Let me first agree that most of the principles are indeed obvious, but this doesn't mean that they're not valuable. We might all agree that goal setting and measurement are important, or that measuring both quantity and quality is critical to good measurement. Hardly the partitioning of Berlin, but it needs to be said.
Later principles talk about outcomes-over-activity and the need to link PR (and marketing) to business outcomes. This is where the Declaration gets serious and meaningful.
My question is, why now? The answer, I suspect, is because now we can. The advent of online technologies, social media and advanced CRM systems make finding the complex equations that link activities to business success (sales, in my world) possible. Traditionally, a lot of marketing value was linked to ideas of awareness and familiarity, but rarely beyond that. Today, we can see how marketing campaigns play a role audience actions. And this means measurement becomes critical.