Posts tagged ‘Blogactiv’
Our lunch event on trade associations and the use of the internet the other week turned out to be interesting for all sorts of reasons. While our own experience on this blog and that of Pat Cleary, our US colleague, was clearly a draw, the real value was the exchange of experience between participants all fighting to persuade internal audiences of the (pretty obvious) merits of online communications in a Brussels public affairs context. Hopefully some more trade association blogs will spring up as a result.
Chief amongst those sharing their experience was perhaps Brussels’ foremost trade association blogger, Helen Dunnett. Helen is the eCommunications Manager (cool title) for the European Crop Protection Association. She writes the association’s blog, which is available on wordpress platform as well as on the blogactiv platform. Happily on the back of our discussions, Helen agreed to answer a few (ok, lots) questions about her experience to share with you all on this blog. Unsurprisingly, she has a lot of interesting insights so we’ve posted her response in full to all our questions.
Why did ECPA decide to start a blog?
The blogging site, pesticideinformation.eu, was launched in March 2008 as part of our new online communications strategy. We created this information portal, which is separate from ECPA’s public website, to bring together the different perspectives on pesticide legislation and use, be it press coverage, the latest reports or events or discussions in other blogs, into one place online. I’m the only one writing or recording blog entries right now and my blogs are intentionally unbiased because I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’m on the hunt for regular guest bloggers with reasoned and informed viewpoints to contribute to the debate. So any pesticide lovers or haters reading this, please feel free to contact me!
Another objective with pesticideinformation.eu is to bring the pesticide industry out from behind those factory walls and feel the ‘breeze’ of public opinion. It’s a way of showing them the conversation taking place online, direct from critics, the misinformed, opinion leaders or previously unknown allies, so it’s also an internal communication exercise. My industry is quietly proud of it products and their contribution to Europe’s sustainable food supply. I’d be overjoyed if they starting blogging too to explain in everyday language why they are happy to work for the industry, because they have an important and honest story to tell. That goal will take a bit more time and I am currently concentrating on recruiting non-industry content providers.
Not only is there a blog on topical issues, we also have incoming news feeds with unmonitored positive, neutral and negative pesticide news and comment. We have a Delicious plug-in so I can tag good quality news articles and blogs with simple key words as they get published. This is to help visitors read up on subjects connected to pesticides and make an informed opinion for themselves, rather than be unnecessary worried by yet another ‘pesticide porn’ story… you know the kind, cancerous pesticides found in wine, NGOs just forget to add that even after drinking 200 litres of wine in one go, it’s completely safe….. from pesticides residues anyway! (more…)
An interesting survey from the folks at Euractiv on the use of the internet by European trade associations was released late last week. While we weren’t present at the launch event, we are happy to note that FH was represented at least in spirit by Sylvain Lhote (who spent 8 years with us before moving to plastics company Borealis).
As with all these things, the survey’s sponsors have sought as far as possible to draw the conclusions they are looking for from the results. One example is the ‘fact’ that the proactive use of blogs by European trade association has tripled in the last 12 months (from 3 to 9 percent!). Speaking to a member of Euractiv’s blogactiv team recently, it seems that this reflects the issues that they have been in getting trade associations to go past the stage of initial interest to actually signing up to write regular and interesting blog content on their platform. As we know all too well, blogging can take a significant time investment. If this investment was stated up front it could put the frighteners on many of those who pay the bills (thankfully in our case FH CEO Dave Senay has a healthy enthusiasm for all things digital).
There of course could be other factors at play in the lack of proactive use of blogging by Brussels based associations. A natural inclination to rounds of necessary consultation and the lowest common denominator does not bode well for fast paced reactions in blog format. Nor does an tendency to focus on ‘the issues’ for the association and its members in an already hectic workload. For an association’s blog to build reputation is a long term process and one where the organisation will have to share expertise on a subject of interest to the policymaker (e.g. how best to communicate on chemicals to consumers) rather than the position of the association on a particular dossier (e.g. why labelling our chemical in the current legislation won’t move consumers). One blog post that’s a (hopefully shorter) rewrite of your position paper just won’t do.
In any case, despite the disclaimer about the research not being scientific, it also underlines a few other interesting ‘facts’. One on one meetings are seen to be the best way to get your message across; not surprising given the fact that this is a government relations town and there is a limited number of policymakers likely to be interested in any one issue. This is closely followed by a good website. Media work comes somewhat further down the list, perhaps reflecting the fragmented nature of the Brussels press corps.
On the institution’s communications, associations do not frequent the Council’s website as often as the Parliament or Commission’s; not surprising as a little bit like the Council as an institution, it is designed to confuse and obsfucate…Underlying a longstanding view that if one wanted to tackle transparency in the EU, one would start with the Council’s website.
A while ago we pondered the merits of Euractiv’s blogactiv platform as it boldly sought to change the face of the EU blogosphere. The intention seemed, and still seems, good. Now and again, when we get the time to read, there seems to be some decent posts from some interesting people. One could of course say the same of this blog (with the exception of us being interesting as people), we know.
However, a post of late January in preparation for today’s “Greening the Economy” European Business Summit worries us somewhat (we just found it as we are attending the event tomorrow). It’s a basic introduction to the topic of greening the economy, with links to other actors and a possibility for comment. Sound familiar? Is it just us, or could the post just as easily be a page on the main section of the Euractiv site (such as this one)?
If Euractiv is already a filter of information (one type of blog) and a diary (another type of blog) on the travails of organising the event wasn’t deemed interesting enough, then an expert insight/reflection on the issue is all that is left. Perhaps the journalist quoted by Euractiv editor Christophe Leclercq in his comment should have been asked to write it. The overview/filter could have been left where it belongs, on the main Euractiv pages.
Just as worryingly, at least one blog posting (“European Business Summit a success”) from today on the same event seems to have more of than a tad of self-promotion about it. Hopefully, they will get back to the noble aim of posts of”Europeans challenging Europe” soon enough. There is surely enough good material to go around.
We often stare in wonder at the supposed influence of US bloggers on political discourse and ponder whether such things will ever happen in Brussels. Over at the Brussels Media blog, they report on a development we heard mooted around town over recent months; the development by the internet information portal Euractiv of its own blogging platform blogactiv.eu
It is an interesting development, but we think it also throws up some interesting questions about the development of the EU blogosphere.
From Euractiv‘s point of view you can of course see why they are doing it. If it works and they link it as they suggest to relevant Euractiv content pages, it will provide more fresh content for their pages everyday. It may also draw people than would normally otherwise read Euractiv to their site. You will recall that Euractiv generally steers clear of editorial content, preferring to offer information and positions straight and simple. (BTW – sites like Euractiv have been a godsend to public affairs consultancies because of this. They allow us to focus on the more value added activities of intelligence and strategy rather than information.) Of course this effort clearly changes that dynamic and may attract a different kind of visitor.
For the potential blogger the Euractiv USP of being able to offer an instant readership is a strong one. Building a readership is not an easy task, especially in a world full of blogs. Its USP is especially important if one is seeking to reach out to those of us who live firmly inside the Brussels Bubble, a core section of Euractiv’s readership.
However, with respect to the development of the EU blogosphere we remain to be convinced. While the blogging platform is it seems open to all, the site pitches itself as “expert-generated content for Europe”. How is Blogactiv going to decide who is expert and who is not? The great thing about the blogosphere is that of course it’s the readers that decide with their mouse clicks and their links. As Blogactiv points out, the web is full of rubbish as the barrier to entry is so low, a few minutes on WordPress and hey presto. However, in addition to “expertise” to create a successful blog one needs sack fulls of patience and time. Natural selection occurs. Only the strong survive. If Blogactiv is an open platform, then expect as much rubbish as expertise. Especially if Disgruntled of Doncaster starts off on an anti-EU rant.
If Blogactiv is an “expertise” platform, i.e. you need a ready-made reputation and an invite from the Euractiv team, then it is in effect the same people from the Brussels Bubble talking to the same people in the Brussels Bubble. Looking at the Alpha authors (Stanley Crossick, Willy De Backer) one has to suspect that this may be the case. As such, do not expect the site to have the kind of impact that US bloggers with new faces and new ideas have had on the US political scene.
Nevertheless the advent of Blogactiv is of interest. It’s a logical extension to a successful information portal and potentially something we and our clients could be interested in. A guest blog on an issue at an opportune moment may be of interest in the same way that getting an opinion piece in the traditional media is. Don’t expect it to change the political landscape though, for that look to the fresh-faced bloggers with expanding networks and readerships that are already creating debates online.