In change initiatives adoption doesn’t always neatly follow awareness. AMEC needs to help PR practitioners understand the urgency for change in embracing the excellent Barcelona Principles 2.0 – writes Scott Guthrie

The Barcelona Principles have been updated for the first time since their introduction in 2010. The new version was launched this week.

The original goal was straightforward:

  1. Create guidelines to measure how effective your communication campaign is;
  2. Provide a basis on which to ditch outdated programme measurement models – in other words to finally put-to-bed the debate about whether metrics such as AVEs and multipliers should be used.

Where the original principles were a bit “thou shalt not”, Barcelona 2.0 unveiled by AMEC, the international association for the measurement and evaluation of monitoring and evaluation of communication, are more “how to.”

I won’t go through any of the principles here. They’ve already being covered expertly in blogs by Stephen Waddington, Steve Earl, Stuart Bruce as well as in PR Week. Alternatively you can read them straight from Amec’s website. Instead I wanted to spend a little time here talking about adoption to change.

Barcelona Principles

One of the questions in the Q&A session was something like: “My agency uses the Barcelona Principles. But what’s the benefit of us doing it?”

The question seemed silly at the time. Naive. It didn’t chime well with the audience, either. Comprised, as it was, mainly from fully paid-up Barcelona Principle advocates. But later I reflected on the cheek of the question and realised it wasn’t so silly after all.

Sadly life is often awkward. Adoption doesn’t follow awareness as surely as night follows day. Change is non-linear, often iterative and always personal.


Adopting a change needs more than awareness

Adopting a change takes more than awareness of the new procedure. It needs relevance, too. The reasons for the change need to be made relevant at an industrial, organisational and at a personal level.

The Barcelona Principles 2.0 are the output of rigorous, international thought from industry leaders. It’s an intelligently designed methodology. But an intelligently designed methodology that isn’t widely used won’t produce the best, desired, performance improvement.

The bridge between a quality solution and realising the benefit is people embracing and adopting change. Successful change outcomes at an industry level are the collective result of individual change – of PR practitioners doing their jobs differently.


Change initiatives fail when they start with education

But change management initiatives fail when they start with the education bit. The ‘how to’ element of embracing the new process. How to master the new tactic. How to adopt the new behaviour.

A key tenet of all change initiatives is that we change for a reason. To improve performance, capture an opportunity (or mitigate a risk). Resolve an issue.

So, the change process needs to start far earlier than at the ‘how-to-change’ phase. It needs to start with building awareness of the change context. Not just: here’s an excellently and expertly thought-through bit of kit in terms of a set of principles for best practice in monitoring and measuring the impact of integrated communications programmes, but also considering: Why there needs to be a change. And, what the risks are in not changing.


Real threats to PR industry

The challenges facing public relations industry are very real. It is under attack at every angle. From management consultancies to SEO agencies, to digital agencies to marketers and advertisers. Adopting the Barcelona Principles 2.0 will help the PR industry demonstrate its professional credentials. It will help PR take the lead more as communications programmes become integrated across PESO models. The flipside of this is also true. If the PR industry doesn’t fully get behind initiatives like the Barcelona Principles 2.0 it becomes just a little less relevant. A little less effective.

The change process starts with those affected by the need to change becoming aware of the situation. And, what Professor John Kotter refers to in his seminal book Leading Change as building a ‘sense of urgency’ to do something about it. In dire occasions this may mean building a burning platform.

Jeff Hiatt, the man behind the PROSCI change management methodology, divides this essential change phase in two. Starting with awareness of the situation and then developing a desire to embrace that change.

It’s only when this desire is built – or at least the understanding that going along with the change is more beneficial than ignoring the change – that you can start with the education bit.


Reaching the long-tail of PR practitioners

At the launch Barry Leggetter, AMEC’s CEO, explained how his organisation was working with universities to broaden awareness at a industry entry level.

Francis Ingham, director general of PRCA and ICCO’s CEO shared with the audience that the organisations he represented were fully behind the Barcelona Principles, too.

AMEC needs also to figure out how to target the long tail of PR practitioners. Those who don’t belong to industry bodies such as CIPR, PRCA and how to build that sense of urgency for adoption.  

Finally, just as adoption doesn’t always follow awareness. So change doesn’t end with adoption. PR practitioners need to be reminded about the principles. To have the change reinforced.

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Further reading

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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