Posts tagged ‘BBC’
Yesterday evening, The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel published analyses of a six-year archive of classified documents from US-led forces in Afghanistan, released to them by the organization Wikileaks. The disclosure of the material has already raised much debate about what The Guardian has termed “the biggest leak in intelligence history.”
What is different about this leak is that it is mainly happening online, and the debate around it currently spans from Washington DC to Berlin to Islamabad.
Since the Obama campaign’s groundbreaking use of social media, the US government has been coming to terms with what it has deemed “21st century statecraft,” and this leak will put the new strategy to the test.
Two weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a piece on Jared Cohen and Alec Ross, the “public faces” of “21st century statecraft,” an effort by the State Department to magnify traditional methods of diplomacy, and the first to recognize that control of information will simply not be possible as it was in the past. (The strategy was originally outlined by State’s Policy & Planning Director, Anne-Marie Slaughter, in a 2009 article in Foreign Affairs.)
But do 21st century technologies change everything? Or are they a new means to the same old communications challenges?
The hard reality is that the Internet does and doesn’t change everything.
The Web remains unfamiliar territory for traditional policymakers who are wrestling how to keep up in a world with instant online news breaks and social media. While leaks are not new, their mass publication is instantaneous, volumes of feedback are exponentially larger and it can be difficult to distinguish the experts from the amateurs. Crisis-communications take on new meaning.
A recent BBC analysis of recent online crisis-management efforts by the British government and BP asks Should we trust the wisdom of crowds? The US government has publicly denounced the publication of the classified documents. It will be interesting to gauge how the public reacts to this leak and – in turn – how the architects of 21st century statecraft react to the public.
The devil, they say, is in the detail and it is interesting how the debate on e-government is developing in the UK. This article from the BBC website talks about the move on from a starry-eyed reaction to Obama-esque digi-campaigning (or Election 2.0) to a practical, cost-driven desire to drive all access to government and government services online. It is this, they argue, more than anything which is driving Government pressure on suppliers to push broadband out to everyone. It may be exciting to exercise one’s democratic rights online, but it may be more useful to be able to get the bins emptied too.
Image via Wikipedia
It’s awards season here in Brussels. Like the 94 tram on Avenue Louise, you wait forever for a glitzy award ceremony and then two come along at once.
Last night saw the inaugural European Public Affairs Directory awards at the Vaudeville Theatre in central Brussels. Alas, Jonathan Ross was not on hand to compere, instead a comedian who looked like Billy Connolly‘s illegitimate younger brother pitched up. His jokes weren’t bad. Wine was poured. Fun was had by all.
FH sponsored the Political Journalist of the Year Award and we can happily report that two out of the three nominees are big believers in blogs. Mark Mardell of the BBC is an avid blogger about all aspects of the EU, both inside and outside the Brussels Bubble (check out his recent posts from a three day trip to Germany for example), while Jean Quatremer of Liberation has even caught this anglophone’s attention. Our only nominee who currently does not blog, Jamie Smyth of the Irish Times, left the table with a promise to start one and to even look into Twitter after a hounding from the FHers on the table. We look forward to it, dinner conversation proved he has a great many interesting insights to share and is happy to engage in debate.
As an aside, it was also good to see the NGOs in town recognised by their public affairs peers for the formidable lobbyists that they are. Friends of the Earth won the Campaign of the Year for its relentless agrofuels lobby and WWF won the award for NGO of the year.
Oh and before I forget, the winner on our table…drum roll…Mark Mardell of the BBC (ably substituted by Mark James, BBC Bureau Chief, on the night).
Thankfully there’s another award ceremony only weeks away and next time around we may win the Consultancy of the Year (last night’s award went to APCO, congrats). We’re nominated at the inaugural European Agenda Public Affairs Summit awards on 4/5 December, in part thanks to our work in digital public affairs. We’re also hosting a workshop on the subject as part of the two day event. We hope to see you there.
Earlier this week BBC World’s Have Your Say Forum chaired an interesting radio and online debate entitled; “Do political bloggers make a difference?” Certainly the comments in the forum represent a mixed bag. On the one hand we find the likes of Lamii Kpargoi, Coordinator for Initiative for Mobile Training of Community Radio in Liberia, who feel that blogs played an important role in drawing the attention of the world to “the situation in [Liberia] during the tyranny of Charles Taylor.” But on the other hand we come across Dwight, who explains that “As much as I hate to admit it, political bloggers rarely make a difference. I have no illusions that my blog is changing any opinions. The people who agree with me occasionally write and tell me, “I agree”. The people who don’t agree, rarely get past the opening paragraph before they move on.”
Relating this to Brussels, the influence of blogs is one question we are increasingly having amongst ourselves and with others. There are a number of points that we keep coming back to that we thought might be worth sharing:
1. Blogs are helping to shape the communications environment in which work
Data from the likes of Ipsos MORI suggests that 1 in 5 Europeans are indeed reading blogs (Italy apparently comes top with 27% of Italians having read blogs). And while we have (currently) no data to quantify the numbers of policymakers, stakeholders and political media in Brussels reading blogs on a daily basis, if such actors reflect the population then blogs as a form of communication could be influential in shaping the debate around issues in the future. The number of journalists, Commissioners and MEPs that are blogging themselves would suggest that there at least some of the same are reading blogs. (Yes, we know, we need “facts, only facts” in terms of the levels of such readership. We are working on it.)
2. Blogs can be used to amplify your message
Monitoring blogs will of course only tell you what’s going on, not what to do about it. However, it has already struck us (and thankfully some of the people we work with) that in some cases bloggers focused on specific issues of relevance to the policy debate may be fertile ground for what is known as “Online Editorial Outreach” for public affairs purposes. It’s the online equivalent of media relations with some subtle but important differences. Bloggers of course are not journalists…and there are some best practices we have developed as a company that take this into account.
In any case, seeking out expert bloggers, often with decent day jobs, that can amplify an organisation’s message online could prove useful in a public affairs context where policymakers and those that influence them go online to find information and insights. Noise in the blogosphere may become as much a part of the mood music to policy debates in Brussels as articles in the FT. Is it going to change a vote, probably no. Is it going to help make people more receptive to a message, perhaps yes.
3. Blogger influence is more likely to be about quality rather than quantity
When thinking about monitoring or indeed outreach, it’s the quality of the bloggers and their posts that is important rather than the sheer numbers of readers. Who are they, what do they know, how often do they post, who comments and who links to them? All questions to ask. On some of the obscure EU issues we love, the numbers are not likely to be great but the influence may be.
To conclude on the BBC World piece, the advent of the blog does not mean the end of BBC correspondents like John Simpson covertly walking the streets of Africa canvassing opinion. However, his back story may equally come from what has been written by Africans on their own blogs. This of course happened in the case of Burma recently, where the only outlet for many of the individuals involved in the crisis was their blogs. News came out through people involved on the ground and was relayed through the long tail of social media.
In all communications activities, whether you are the Director General of the BBC or the public affairs practitioner in Brussels, the online environment (blogs included) have an important role to play in how people are communicating with each other. It would be remiss of us not to take them into account in what we do.