It’s time to disqualify any PR award entries that do not comply with the Barcelona Principles.

Here’s why:

I recently read three highly touted case studies of content marketing success and every single one of them broke the most cardinal rule of measurement. They didn’t measure results against the stated objective.

I won’t name and shame because I’m assuming that the people who submitted them are probably good, decent young people who are either unaware or just weren’t thinking much about the Barcelona Principles and /or don’t know how to connecting stated goals with reported results. (They should read this and learn.)

Sooner or later that HAS to change.

The problem is twofold. One, whoever submitted these entries clearly has never read or has no inclination to follow the Barcelona Principles, so the people behind the principles need to do a better job of educating their target audience. (I wonder if they’re measuring their PR?)

Secondly, the organization and people that judged them need to change their criteria for success. Instead of simply accepting any entry from any organization that ponies up the entry fee, they should state clearly that ANY ENTRY THAT DOES NOT SHOW RESULTS THAT REFLECT THE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES WILL BE DISQUALIFIED. Whenever I’m asked to judge anything, that’s the first thing I check. Most judges’ goal is to eliminate as many entries as possible on the first pass, and the criteria I use is: Do the results reflect the objectives?

These examples are typical:

  • A pet food company launched a video campaign designed to “Reinforce the key message that puppies need specialized nutrition.” You’ve probably watched the video. I’m a cat person. My experience with dogs is that they bite me. But even I watched the video. It was cute. I got the message that puppies were cute, but also a pain in the ass and needed a lot of attention. It never dawned on me that the message might be about puppies needing special food.
    • What they measured:  “views, likes, and shares”
    • What they should have measured: percentage of views that watched longer than 2 minutes (when the message actually appeared) and deducted the rest.  AND pre/post understanding of the nutritional needs of puppies.
  • Then there was this advocacy campaign designed to “change the perceptions about retail workers.”  Essentially they were trying to change classic stereotypes about retail workers from “burger flippers” to customer service professionals.
    • What they measured:  popularity of the video and views.
    • What they should have measured:  pre/post perceptions of retail workers, among the target audience
  • A well-known car company recently got innovative and issued a press release entirely in emojis. It was a brilliant idea, given that their target audience was young, international consumers who do virtually all of their communications on mobile devices.   But that wasn’t what they reported.
    • What they measured: Earned media lift in traditional news media.  And total potential audience.
    • What they should have measured:  Reach and awareness and preference among you, international mobile consumers.  At the very least they should have ONLY included the impressions from mobile devices.

It’s been said that we should award the habits and the people that we want to become. Instead  far too many professional communications’ organizations continue to award prizes for work that reflects activity and vanity metrics, and not the true outcomes that we say we want. They need to insist that all entries either need to more honest and admit that the only reason you are doing all these things is “free publicity”  — or change how you measure success.


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