Posts filed under ‘blogging’

The MEP survey: six months on

It has been nearly half a year since we published the MEP survey into the digital trends of the European Parliament, looking at how MEPs go about communicating to their constituents and others, and how they conduct their research. The findings remain highly relevant to anyone communicating in the policy arena in Brussels, highlighting in particular the need for integrating online channels with well-trodden offline tactics like face to face meetings and traditional media relations. After all, if half of MEPs are reading blogs every week to research legislative issues then the validity of a  blog seems less questionable. And if 93% use a search engine daily as the starting point for their research, then presence in search engines quickly becomes a “must-have”. Likewise, if two-thirds of MEPs are on social networks, surely it’s worth exploring how to use such tools to provide relevant input and perhaps even engage?

If you wish to revisit the survey or indeed see it for the first time, click here for the full report. Embedded below is a presentation of some of the key findings, and for an analysis of the findings, I’d recommend Steffen’s posts here and here. As ever, if you have any comments and questions, please fire away!

Rosalyn

June 14, 2011 at 11:11 am 1 comment

FH Podcast: Journalists & Digital #2

After such a positive response to our last podcast  we continue our series on how digital tools are shaping and influencing journalism. This week we are joined by Dave Keating from ENDS Europe, a leading environmental policy news source which covers European environmental climate and energy developments in detail.

He chats to Anita about the increasingly integral role of digital in journalism, resistance form editors on social media initiatives, and his time as Mayor of the Commission!

Dave’s blog Gulf Stream Blues is widely read throughout Brussels, a brilliant commentary on Europe from an American perspective . You can follow Dave on twitter @davekeating.

Click here to listen to this edition of the podcast.

Click here to subscribe to the FH Europe podcast on iTunes.

(If using Internet Explorer, you may have to right-click on the link and save target as then play that file by double clicking it)

Rosalyn

May 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm 1 comment

Brussels blogs green

Ronny Patz’s blog response to our podcast with the FT’s Stanley Pignal generated some on-line debate about why there aren’t many active bloggers on EU Affairs. Opinions on the scarcity are magnificently articulated here but I wonder if they are the same reasons that there are no blogs honing in on EU policies which have a huge impact on “Joe Public”. Take EU environmental policy for example. It has pretty much reached every one of the 500 million EU citizens. A more obscure element of it helped a maverick candidate to top the poll in Ireland’s general election this Spring. So you can’t say it isn’t relevant. There’s definitely space for an informative, entertaining, sometimes critical – sometimes supportive blog on how the Europe is being changed by environmental policy from Brussels. Any takers?
In the meantime, our next podcast on “Journalists & Digital” will be here very soon….

Anita

May 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Reviewing our MEP digital trends survey: what it means for the PA professional

We recently published our 2nd survey on the online habits of Members of the European Parliament, looking at how MEPs use the Internet to communicate with constituents and other interested parties, and to inform themselves on policy matters. A few weeks back we analysed reasons for and consequences of MEPs’ use of social networks and blogging. This time, we’ll look at what the figures mean for the Public Affairs professional operating in Brussels.

1. Content strategy

It’s a given that MEPs use the web to conduct research and inform their thinking on issues e.g. 80% visit interest group sites every week. However, for the PA professional, it’s not just about sticking information on a site and assuming they’ll all come flooding.

There’s an overload of information available online and you’ll need to cut through the clutter. However, as PA professionals we’ve too often been so smug as to think that the tenets of good communications strategy – analysing audiences, testing messages, developing a content strategy – should be left to corporate communicators and marketers.

Absolutely not: provide dull content and assume MEPs will be interested at your peril. For instance, 80% of MEPs look for summaries online – more than those who look for position papers – so your content strategy may want to look at how to present key information in a more digestible manner, perhaps using video or info-graphics even. Likewise, what’s the public profile of your issue: is it a technical under-the-radar issue? In that case, technical argumentation works. Is your issue high-profile? In that case, you’ll need to show you’re aligned with broader opinion and make your content more “value” based i.e. more real stories, less facts and figures.

In terms of channels, more MEPs appreciate issue-specific websites than organisation websites (80% vs. 75%) so perhaps rather than looking at building a single site where you centralise all your content you might want to adopt a more scattered approach where you build issue-specific microsites and bring them together on your main site? Perhaps you might want to blog?

Then there’s Wikipedia, which needs to be incorporated in any content strategy (78% of MEPs visit Wikipedia every week.) Do you know what’s on all relevant Wikipedia pages? Are there Wikipedia pages which don’t yet exist which you could develop?

2. Driving traffic

99% of MEPs use search engines every week, 93% of them every day. Google especially is the gateway to content online. Step nr 1 to ensure that you have a presence when MEPs look up your issue is the content bit above. Next in line, you’ll need to think of search, which involves search engine marketing in the short term (e.g. Google AdWords) and Search Engine Optimisation in the longer term (i.e. making sure you appear high up in organic search.)

There are scores of other ways to drive traffic, from advertising on social networks (e.g. Facebook ads) to banner advertising on 3rd party sites (e.g. local news sites).

The best way is to produce compelling content which others are willing to spread for you (make it easy for them from the off e.g. send to a friend and Tweet functions next to your content.) Sometimes the content isn’t enough and you’ll need to develop campaigns, small and large, based around a campaign concept and a campaign “driver” (e.g. a competition?) which results in traffic if done well.

But always start with search.

3. Increasingly, you’ll want to engage and build relationships with MEPs (and others) online

The holy grail is direct interaction with MEPs (and their influencers) via channels such as Twitter, and this trend is on the up given that 69% of MEPs use social networks (mainly Facebook) and 34% are on Twitter. However, these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt. MEPs might use the tools, but that doesn’t mean they engage and listen to what anyone tells them. Likewise, they might listen to constituents but not others. But certainly, the trend is for more of them to engage and listen: in a recent interview we published on this blog, Ryan Heath, Neelie Kroes’ Social Media Manager, outlines how eager he and Neelie are eager to receive valuable input via Twitter and yet PA professionals are often absent from the conversations.

The best way to start is to map the players, MEPs and beyond, and determine how they use social media and networks. Based on that, develop an engagement approach. Most importantly, develop reciprocal relationships: in return for attention you should be providing insight and content, not just you blurting out messaging.

4. No it’s not all moved online: integration is key

Let’s not get too caught up in the excitement. By all means, the web is essential, and will only grow in prominence. However, traditional channels remain core e.g. 95% of MEPs visit online versions of traditional newspapers several times a week whilst personal contact is also valued by 95%.

Direct advocacy and media relations won’t be replaced any time soon and remain key to any communication strategy in the Public Affairs realm. Having said that, the manner in which MEPs and their influencers take in information is so varied that ubiquity becomes essential: being present not in one or two channels, but five or six.

5. Beyond the bubble

Yes, events beyond the bubble have always mattered, especially at constituency level, but information transfer and exchange is so quick that an organisation’s broader reputation matters in the Public Affairs space more so than has ever been the case before. When 99% of MEPs look up your issue online, they may find good content you’ve produced, but if the other content all addresses a recent crisis half way across the world, it won’t matter. Meaning what? Get out of your PA comfort zone and think reputation; speak to the marketers, your brand people and the corporate communicators, because the disciplines are increasingly intertwined.

As ever, if there’s anything you’d like to add or remark on, please speak up in the comments below. Thanks.

Steffen

March 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm 3 comments

A selection of recent posts on FH blogs

In my post A quick tour through the FH blogosphere, I shared some articles from other FHers writing on their own or team blogs. Here’s what some of them have been up to so far this year.

First of all we start by welcoming back James Stevens to Brussels. Having originally pioneered this blog back in the day, James has been in the Washington DC office for the past year and writing his own blog Bubble to Beltway. Here is his last post about the influence of interest groups in the legislative process and how more measurement is needed in Public Affairs – What I want is more data.

Which ties nicely with another colleague concerned with measurement from across the pond: Don Bartholomew, or MetricsMan, writes an excellent summary of the lessons learned in social media for 2011. Not strictly PA, but knowing what to measure in the digital realm is absolutely essential whatever the communications discipline, so definitely worth a read.

Steffen writes about reaching decision makers online, outlines ten key points that resonate with audiences when he presents on digital and PA to various audiences, and describes why campaigning more widely than the government relations comfort zone is important in a post entitled Campaigning to achieve PA goals, pay heed to the constituent consumer.

Outside the communications and public affairs arena, Michael Berendt gives his perspective on current affairs, specifically how Libya’s fate will have a major impact on Europe.

And of course I cannot sign off without welcoming FH Amsterdam to the blogging fold. They have been going for a couple of months now, writing about the digital and public affairs intersection. Definitely worth the Google translate!

Rosalyn

March 16, 2011 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

The Highlights – “Social media: what works & and what doesn’t?” from the European Public Affairs Action Day

So Thursday was the long awaited European Public Affairs Action Day, organised by the Parliament Magazine, and of course it was every bit as good as it promised to be. We hosted a workshop entitled ‘Social Media: what works what doesn’t’? We aimed at having a range of perspectives in our panel to get a good picture of how social media is being developed in different areas, from industry to national and then European politics.

Michael Adolph from FH started off with some of the inspiring work they do in Washington and highlighted that good quality content which shows real personal enthusiasm for the subject matter is most likely to resonate with audiences. He showcased a video for Johns Hopkins University’s Malaria Free Future campaign, which demonstrates how a fresh approach to traditional funding applications with creative visuals and a proactive online outreach can make a practical difference to malaria sufferers.

He was then followed by Samuel Coates from the UK Conservative Party. He gave very straightforward advice: don’t just believe the hype but find out who your audience is and reach out to them. Try to build a relationship rather than just following the latest social media trend and using those media channels like you would a foghorn.

Finally, we rounded off with another perspective, that of Ryan Heath who, as a member of Neelie Kroes’ social media team, has the opportunity to experience firsthand the way social media is shaping the government/citizen conversation.  Definitely the most eye opening quote of the day comes from our dynamic Australian who said that on Neelie Kroes’ website ‘a single average blog post gets as many views as all of her 2010 press releases combined’ – a clear sign that the more immediate and personal nature of a blog post resonates with audiences.

Yes a good time was had and it was great to see so many industry leaders there. We videoed the panel and have a few snippets from the audience coming soon so watch this space…

Rosalyn

December 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm Leave a comment

“Social media: what works & what doesn’t?” – FH workshop at the Public Affairs Action Day

We’re hosting a workshop as part of the Parliament Magazine’s Public Affairs Action Day (9 December at 11.45 in Brussels). It’s simply entitled “Social media – what works and what doesn’t?” and will look at addressing some of the following concerns:

  • Am I not exposing myself to needless criticism?
  • How can I really measure its effectiveness?
  • Will I be able to control the discussion on line?
  • Brussels is a tiny community. Can’t I just pick up the phone or meet people
    face to face?

We prefer to look at social media as an opportunity rather than a threat, so plenty of onus will be on the opportunities on offer to politicians, businesses, civil society and citizens to engage as equals, and how this is being reflected in the “real world” with examples from Brussels, the US and UK.  Our panel will feature a political communicator from FH in Washington DC, Head of Social Media for the Conservatives in the UK, and a Commission Official responsible for social media.

If you fancy coming, you can still register here for our session as well as the rest of the day’s festivities. If not, watch this space, as we’ll be posting some video footage from the event including highlights from the panel discussion and some snippets from attendees willing to speak up!

Steffen and Rosalyn

December 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

A Quick Tour Through the FH Blogosphere

Whilst we’d like to think that Public Affairs 2.0 was the only blog worth reading when it comes to the digital/public affairs/PR sphere it’s not the case at all! There are quite a few excellent bloggers at FH who blog in both a personal and professional capacity, and we thought we’d bring you a few samples once in a while, from Brussels to across the Atlantic.

Firstly staying in house; some of our regular contributors to Public Affairs 2.0 also have their own blogs, one of these is our Digital Strategist, Steffen Thejll-Moller.  He writes here about the struggle to implement digital in public affairs, remember: don’t blame it all on the old fogeys.

Liva Judic is based a little further afield in our Paris office and describes herself as a ‘social media addict’.  Her blog Merrybubbles is a regular upload of all things interesting and digi.  One of her great articles is about the digital divide around the world and how mobile technology is being innovatively implemented in unexpected places.

James Stevens, whilst technically no longer a Euroblogger, now offers a unique European perspective on the goings on in Washington DC. His article ‘Neither the US nor the EU wants to kill its citizens’ takes a look at the transatlantic relationship in reality, especially in light of regulatory convergence. Whilst in his most recent article examines the line between government relations and public affairs, and how we can learn from each other.

But of course blogs take many different formats and not just personal perspectives. The FH London office clearly translates in-depth briefings into accessible blog format. For example, see their outline of the recent UK government’s spending review.

So I hope you enjoy sampling a little taste of where else the digital discussion about public affairs and public relations is taking place.

Rosalyn

November 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm 2 comments

Why the shortage of influential policy bloggers in Brussels?

Some people will tell you there are scores of influential policy bloggers in Brussels. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. There’s an active throng of smart and passionate Eurobloggers who write about the EU and a number of issues surrounding it. Most are aggregated on bloggingportal.eu and many of them are influential: some are being treated in line with members of the press and even being mentioned by Commissioners.  But most influential Eurobloggers are individual citizens who write to raise awareness of issues they care about. They occasionally write about policies, but their primary aim is not to influence a policy area.

That’s the dividing line. An influential policy blogger is an authority on a policy area who has a professional interest in it. They represent an organisation – be it a single issue pressure group or a global corporation – that is one of many stakeholders on a set of policy areas and present that organisation’s positions in blog format. The level of expertise and relevance of the blog is such that it is read by all or at least most other relevant stakeholders including policy makers and key influencers. At this point, the blog can arguably be called an “influential policy blog” (although I’m not going to define influence scientifically.) How many are there in Brussels? Far fewer than I can count on one hand.

Why not? The old “policy makers don’t use the web” chestnut certainly won’t hold any longer. What’s more, it’s advocacy of the most open and transparent kind; and it allows organisations to move beyond purely focusing on key policy areas to engaging on broader issues and build relationships in the process. Plus the flexibility of the medium allows them to enhance their advocacy by producing an ongoing narrative in line with events rather than the “all your eggs in one basket” approach which face-to-face meetings or a one-off position paper demand.

So why the poor uptake? Three broad reasons, I’d say:

  1. Sometimes, the sensitive nature of their industry may force PA professionals’ hand. Fair enough, although I suspect they won’t be able to keep quiet forever.
  2. Other times, it’s just a question of sticking to what they know best – and frankly, who can blame them? It’s worked for years and blogging is both time-consuming and a little frightening. Presenting your views to the world rather than a narrow set of key stakeholders: why bother unless someone is twisting your arm?
  3. Communicators (internal and agency) haven’t done enough to help organisations make the shift. The basic sell is: this is not a fancy add-on but a basic publication tool which, used well, has the potential to improve your reach and influence. Too often, the sell has been tactical i.e. selling “blogging” per se as something near-revolutionary rather than what it can do. We for one are doing our best to change that, but it won’t happen overnight.

Over to you. Do you agree with the premise: are influential policy bloggers indeed far and few between in Brussels? Is that perhaps a good thing?! And the reasons I cite for the scarcity? Keen to hear your thoughts.

Steffen

June 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm 15 comments

Posts I’ve enjoyed on this blog

After nearly eight years in our Brussels office and coming up to three years posting on this blog I’m off to our Washington D.C. office for a couple of years at the end of the month.

Before I leave I thought it not a bad idea to indulge myself just a tad, forgive me folks, and point to some of the blog posts I’ve enjoyed writing or reading on this blog. I say enjoyed because, as my wife (sorry, my luv) will testify, relaxation of an evening has become me on the laptop tinkering with this blog, the twitter feed or various other websites that are in some way work related.

Which MEPs use Twitter?

Part of our hypothesis when we started the blog was that digital communications was changing how policy-makers were interacting with voters and stakeholders. To support our view we created a long list of MEPs, the good folks at Europatweets aggregated them a couple of months later on their nice website, Digimahti had another go at listing them and finally we’ve now created our own Twitter lists to categorise them by Committee on our twitterfeed in recent weeks.

65% of MEPs use Wikipedia at  least twice a week

Spotting MEPs that tweet was one thing, but we wanted to go a little deeper in understanding how they use the internet and how we may be able to use it to communicate to them. Our EP Digital Trends study sought to do this in 2009. The results led to three conclusions on how our results influence our thinking on public affairs here. It also turned out that MEPs aren’t the only ones who rely on Wikipedia – seemingly the Commission services have a penchant for it too

Grayling’s EU office starts it’s own blog

We are known to say that to be a thoughtleader one has to have thoughts and they have to be leading ones. Well one measure of thoughtleadership may well be that others follow where you have gone. Grayling’s team has a super blog. We wish more agencies in town would join them (and us).

Helen Dunnett explains the value of blogging for trade associations

Helen’s views on how ECPA was using its blog in Brussels was enlightening and uplifting. It underlined that there are organisations out there who do recognise the value of using digital tools in Brussels.

Scoop: European Parliament talks about European Parliament

Wordle is a great tool. Never more so than when reminding us of the fact that the Bubble likes to talk about the Bubble. The outgoing EP President’s speech was a classic.

Parallels between a Mel Gibson film and the President of the European Council

Sometimes it’s just been fun writing. No more so than one Sunday morning over coffee when I delighted in the fact that the nomination of the President of the European Council was like a seen from a 1980s US action film.

James

April 9, 2010 at 1:06 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 www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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