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Euronews on the digital trends study

European lawmakers underuse the internet according to new research. The findings show that while three quarters of MEPs use their personal websites to reach the electorate, only a minority understands the potential of using online technologies to help them interract with people. Only half visit blogs once a week or more, and two thirds have never heard of the social networking tool Twitter.

May 19, 2009 at 9:42 am 1 comment

Social in Sweden? Yes, if it is social media.

In Sweden it’s also interesting to note the proliferation of the use of social media. All main candidates, irrespective of their political belonging, are using blogs, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to interact with potential voters on the Internet. The US presidential election campaign in 2008 is a source of inspiration and  all Swedish candidates are eager to imitate Obama’s success in campaigning through social media.

Swedish MEPs’ willingness to embrace digital communication channels is a factor well worth bearing in mind for anyone wanting to engage with these MEPs in the next European Parliament. More about these trends soon in an FH report about how MEPs use digital tools.

— Magnus

May 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm 1 comment

Illegal downloading ignites spark in Swedish election campaign

Until a few weeks ago the Swedish Piracy Party was unknown among most Swedish voters. Likewise few Swedes were aware of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. The Pirate Bay verdict and the Telecoms Package changed all that.

On 14 April the founders of Pirate Bay, an internet file-sharing service, were sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay about 3 million euros in damages to entertainment companies for having violated copyright law. The verdict led to massive mobilization among Pirate Bay supporters in Sweden and elsewhere, claiming that the verdict was a declaration of war on a whole generation.

A few weeks later a mobilization on a similar scale took place ahead of the European Parliament’s second plenary vote on the Telecoms Package. Named in Swedish newspapers as ‘The battle about Internet’s future’, Brussels’ plan to cut off illegal downloaders from the internet (or 3 strikes and you’re out)  caused outcry among Pirate Bay supporters, Swedish politicians and open citizens rights groups. All of sudden the EU was hugging the media limelight in Sweden.

This combination of events played in to the hands of the Swedish Piracy Party.  From having had less than 1% support from Swedish voters, current estimates are that the party will get a seat in the next European Parliament, perhaps even two! More importantly the debate about illegal downloading and the future of the internet has been acting as a catalyst, raising the interest of the European parliamentary elections among ordinary Swedes. It remains to be seen if this interest will still be there on election day!

May 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

A brief definition: digital

Public Affairs 2.0 uses the word ‘digital’ a lot. It’s a term used frequently in the Public Relations and Public Affairs business, but it is not immediately clear to someone unfamiliar with our specific lexicon.

Digital does not mean ‘digital’ as in a digital calculator, or a digital watch, or a digital screen. For people in PR and PA, digital means communications over the internet.

Fleishman-Hillard’s global digital team offers this definition:

Digital Communications (n.) Myriad of outbound communications tactics that leverage digital technology to deliver messages: e-mail, video, text messaging, online advertising, paid search, optimized press releases, podcasts, vodcasts, etc.

So, the display below standing out front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg last week is not digital communications, though the affiliated website is a digital ‘tool’. Using both online and offline tools in a coordinated campaign is what we call integrated communications.

Humane Society

thanks you

for not clubbing this seal.

May 12, 2009 at 8:54 am 2 comments

Welcome, The Lobby

We welcome another public affairs agency into the blogging world; Grayling EU has launched ‘The Lobby‘.

While possibly mistaken for the title of  John Grisham‘s next book (if only Brussels were so exciting), we eagerly await The Lobby’s contributions to the Brussels Blog-Bubble.

May 11, 2009 at 9:49 am 1 comment

What did Pottering really say?

Pottering’s calm voice may be able to hide his emotions, but we found a nifty digital tool to unmask his true sentiments.

Wordle creates “beautiful word clouds” (their words, not ours) based on a text or website that one inputs. It identifies the most often-used words and makes them larger to show their repetition.

What did Pottering talk to the European Parliament about?

Parliamentarians favourite conversation topic

Parliamentarian's favourite conversation topic.

Public Affairs 2.0 should also face up to it’s own obsession. We clearly like the European Parliament as much as Mr Pottering, but the words ‘European’, ‘digital’, ‘public affairs’ are about the same size as Fleishman-Hillard.

FH talks about MEPs, European, Parliament and FH

FH talks about MEPs, European, Parliament and FH

European Parliament, digital and public affairs will get another tick in the word count next week when we publish a report on the use of digital tools by MEPs.

May 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm 1 comment

License, registration and website, please.

Last week in Strasbourg, Public Affairs 2.0 came across two examples that show how people still fail to grab the ‘digital’ opportunity.

Andreas Schwab has a slick car. So much so that I wanted to read more about him online. I walked carefully around his car, but couldn’t find a website address. Enormous disappointment.

On the road to the Strasbourg Parliament

On the road to the Strasbourg Parliament

Imagine if I wanted to learn more about Dr Schwab’s positions. I would have whipped out my new BlackBerry, connected to Bouygues Telecom’s mobile network, and visited his sharp website But, too lazy to Google, I continued on on the yellow brick road, where all memory of Dr Schwab’s car was soon erased…

Et tu, Bruno?

Et tu, Bruno?

Et tu, Bruno*? What if I want to learn how they are lying and ruining me? Where on your beautiful camping car can I find this information that I desperately thirst for? If only you had a website address for my idle BlackBerry thumb.

My point is simple: Real-world communications should be linked to online communications. In this day and age, neither are independent, nor is one sufficient without the other.

Both Schwab and Gollnisch are clearly investing time and money in campaigning on the road. They also both have websites. Schwab is even on Facebook and MySpace. But they haven’t connected the two sides of their campaign.

It’s as simple as providing people the means to get online to more information. Once a website is built or any other digital platform is set up, it does not cost more per visit, unlike setting up a stand at markets or handing out flyers. Everything should have a clear and distinct internet address where anyone can go for more information.

Ultimately, ‘online’ is no longer a bolt-on for niche audiences, it is very much mainstream and for many audiences the primary channel of social interaction, communication, information and entertainment. It’s essential to grab that opportunity.

* Yes, I’m aware that it’s Brutus. But close enough.

April 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm 1 comment

Digital, ascendant hand in hand with the Parliament

The FT’s EU-watcher Tony Barber wrote a insightful comment that I’m willing to bet many people missed because it appeared online only and over the Easter holiday weekend, when most EUrocrats and assorted hangers-on depart for family or sunny locales.

Tony takes a look from outside the bubbling pot of frogs and notes how the power relationships are shifting among the Commission, Parliament and Council. It’s worth reading the full comment for his analysis.

His conclusion: “Love it or loathe it, the parliament is increasingly the place to turn to understand what drives the EU.

This has many implications for public affairs, but the most significant is the increasing importance of digital communications.

As MEPs use blogs, Twitter and Facebook more to communicate, and Google, Wikipedia and online data sources more to inform their policy positions, it is essential for people who work with the elected officials to communicate to them in a way that they understand.

Along with the Parliament, digital public affairs is also ‘in the ascendant’.

April 14, 2009 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment


A quick nod – via Julien Frisch – to, a nifty website that does a good job of compiling all MEPS twitter feeds.

Like out MEP Twitter feed on the right hand column, this site uses a pipe to collect twitters from MEPs, but also to MEPs, from Candidates to MEPs, and from the general public using the elections hashtag. It’s an interesting resource.

It’s good to see a number of sites popping up that track elected officials as Twitter is not easy to use itself. The US has Twitter Room and Tweet Congress.

April 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm Leave a comment

Could you wait while I look for my hearing aid?

Can you Hear Me Europe? Really? That is the best name that MTV could come up with for their European Elections project?

As I noted last week, the campaign is initiated by European Commissioner for Communication Margot Wallström and MTV, who met earlier this week. It has received some press coverage.

I think the campaign’s name is misguided at the least. The Commission’s target of ‘young citizens between 18 and 24’ is the most recalcitrant and rebellious demographic. Their likely response to “Can you hear me Europe?”: No, and I don’t care.

Communications consultants frequently repeat the mantra : Don’t repeat the negative. If you’re writing a letter to the editor, you don’t restate the erroneous claim. If you’re writing a speech, then focus on hope and optimism not doom and gloom. If you name a campaign about voted engagement, don’t highlight the general lack of ‘sound’.

In addition to a Twitter stream, the most visible component right now is a set of faux-home videos in which kids climb up Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and other monuments and hang speakers. I don’t understand the trend of faux-viral videos. Some group in Brussels did a faux video of Palais de Justice’s dome blowing off, and not even 4,000 people have watched the video. Though I am impressed with the CGI skills.

The ‘keystone’ of this campaign is something called ‘The Shout‘. MTV is inviting everyone in Europe to shout, “Can you hear me Europe?” at 15h30 on April 30. I couldn’t believe it was that simple, but it is.

I can’t help but think of that worn-out quote that it is;  “full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.”

April 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm 3 comments

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at

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