Posts tagged ‘campaigns’

Need help with Google Analytics? Guess who rides to the rescue.

Google is the big friendly monster, out to hug you and provide you with all sorts of free help. In some way, it is sort of frightening. But those of us who help build websites for a living shouldn’t complain when the ‘Analytics Evangelist’, the man behind Google Analytics, offers advice on how to use that service.

The Official Google Blog is publishing a series on measurement, and the first article discusses bounce rates. If you think this means the number of times per hour that someone jumps up and down on your website, you definitely need to read the article.

Key learning: ‘Puked’ is actually a technical digital term.

February 23, 2009 at 3:27 pm 3 comments

What do you mean you don’t have a website?

This morning, on my way back to the office, a marching brass band, 10 three-meter tall cardboard smokestacks and a few dozen people in black t-shirts carrying black balloons that read ‘NO MORE COAL’ headed the other direction towards the European Parliament building. I asked a girl for the group’s website address, hoping to learn more.

“We don’t have a website”, but she handed me a flyer.

What do you mean you don’t have a website?! She explained “We’re a coalition of groups, so you can get information on any of our websites”.

The groups involved, according to the black and white flyer, are WWF, CAN Europe, Greenpeace, Friends of Earth Europe, die klima-allianz, Christian aid, and the World Development Movement. Clearly this coalition invested a lot of time and money into the event, and I can’t help but think that they made a massive oversight by not having a website or a microsite for the event.

The cynic may point out that since Fleishman-Hillard offers a full-service digital group that builds anything from fancy emails to websites of all shapes and sizes, then of course we would argue that every event needs its own website. But in this day and age, with the low costs of websites, I can’t see any reason to not have at least a one page microsite or a dedicated page on an existing website, no matter how short-lived the event.

Just on the other side of Place du Luxembourg, one can see a digitally-driven campaign. Vattenfall has placed a massive digital screen asking people to go online and ‘Sign the climate manifesto’. The engaging website has a live webcam of the screen on Place du Luxembourg and a video of what happens when you ‘sign’ the online manifesto.

October 7, 2008 at 4:17 pm 1 comment

Wallstrom launches climate change wiki

Today sees Margot Wallstrom, former Environment Commissioner and now the EU’s Communicator-in-Chief, launch another climate change initiative the Road to Copenhagen. At least it’s a road to somewhere, we suppose.

The organisation, which includes Club de Madrid, Respect and Globe Europe, is inviting citizens, NGOs, business and government to contribute to a wiki that will become a draft resolution to go to global leaders at Bali climate change meeting in December. One has to wonder which will have more contradictions and caveats, the wiki resolution or the real resolution to come out of Bali? The title of the site comes from the Danish city where the final negotiations on the post-2012 climate change agreement are expected to be held in 2009.

Alas, the interactivity promised by the site is for a large part under development. Other than the wiki you can add your views to their forum. In addition, you can waste a few minutes listening to the avatars of Margot and fellow travellers Gro Harlem Brundtland (former Norwegian PM) and Mary Robinson (former Irish President) on why they are involved.

To coincide with the press launch today, the organisers are hosting a launch conference this Friday in the shiny ECOSOC building in Brussels. Unfortunately for any citizens out there, there is no virtual way of attending. A shame really, but perhaps next time. In any case, the organisers are promising more to come. It is after all, a long way from Bali to Copenhagen.

November 19, 2007 at 4:43 pm Leave a comment

PES launch online manifesto debate for 2009


The Party of European Socialists are proudly trumpeting the fact that they will be the first European party to develop their manifesto through an open dialogue using web-based tools. Their manifesto website features blogs, buttons, video, photos using flickr and links to events. Party activists can register to get involved both online and offline. Party leader, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, features in the opening teaser YouTube video.

No doubt the PES hope that these activities will mobilise local party activists in the run up to the elections and allow them to feel that the manifesto is in effect theirs as much as it is that of the PES. Painful personal experience from last time around suggests that there is nothing more important. It’s always a tad disheartening to find that half the local constituency party activists are refusing to put the European elections leaflet through letterboxes on the opening day of your campaign.

Two questions remain. 1. How far will national parties allow the PES manifesto to be the one that is communicated to voters in 2009? 2. Can the PES avoid falling into the trap of Segolene Royal in France?

October 10, 2007 at 4:54 pm 1 comment

Should public opinion play a greater role in EU policymaking?

Last week saw two developments in the European Commisson’s Communications activities. Firstly, Commissioner Dimas joined the blogosphere. Secondly, Commissioner Wallstrom produced the latest in a series of policy documents about the way in which the Commission and indeed the Union communicates to the outside world. Both developments have much to commend them.

Margot’s document has a lot of good things in it. Amongst the suggestions are more cooperation between the different institutions, a greater focus on getting the message out locally through representations and working in collaboration with national administrations. All of which is likely to help make what the EU communicates more coherent and potentially more effective. However, one has to wonder about how successful the efforts will be. Member States clearly will still have an interest in blaming the EU for the bad things and taking credit for the good, especially in the run up to elections or when painful policy choices need to be made. In addition, the tendency to forget the benefits strategy and slip back into European institutional jargon is still present, even for Margot. Just witness the first bullet point of her citizens’ version of the text, which talks of “inter-institutional agreements”.

More interesting from a public affairs perspective are a few sentences on the development of the Eurobarometer into a real policymaking tool. The Communication states that “the goal is to use surveys more strategically in relevant phases of the policy process such as policy formulation and impact assessment…”. To be fair, the Commission has been testing public opinion for a while now (1973?) and has increasingly been looking at public opinion on specific policy issues as well as how the citizen sees him or herself vis-a-vis our lovely European project.

Still it actually surprises us how little polling is used at a European level by both the policymakers and public affairs practitioners in support of their arguments. It is more or less standard practice in D.C. for both politicians and lobbyists to turn to polls to test what the public thinks and how they respond when more information is provided. Even at a national level in Europe, political parties use it. Yet it has not really caught on in Brussels. Perhaps now with this effort to engage the citizen this may change.

And if the EU institutions start to use polling more effectively, one wonders how long it will be before the corporate world follows suit? After all this is politics and at the end of the day public opinion should be a pretty big motivator for elected officials (even if it is not). The more it is used by our politicians at a European level, the harder it may be for stakeholders’ normal arguments to find traction in the College, Council or the Parliament.

On the flipside, more polling could have some significant upsides for public affairs as well as democracy. Its use by industry stakeholders would allow them to regain some of the ground lost to others who are more ready to make emotional arguments in the policy arena. Many an industry will bemoan the vote they argued on fact and lost on emotion. And the cost is not prohibitive, especially if one uses regular omnibus surveys as a starting point. If public affairs practitioners in Brussels were to start polling and combine it with a more widespread use of grassroots activism (both digital and traditional), in an ideal world we could democratize the EU process and at the same time revolutionize how industry advocates on issues in Brussels. Now that would be an achievement.

October 10, 2007 at 2:35 am 1 comment

The summer may be over but Italy continues to shout Vaffa

In the early summer we mentioned Italian comic turned online political activist Beppe Grillo and his efforts to gather the signatures needed to introduce a popular law in Italy. From all the attention he has been getting in recent days in the Italian media, it seems Beppe is causing a few sleepless nights for the elected politicians as he continues his campaign to rock the political establishment of the country. Especially as it has been reported that his V-day campaign netted around 300,000 signatories.

Last night’s Rai Uno (Italian public broadcaster) evening news, which some of us are compelled to watch, dedicated a substantial part of their broadcast to his activities. The same channel’s pseudo political chat show, Porta Porta, also debated the campaign, with the likes of Prof. Prodi commenting on Vaffa-Day. Whether you are a showgirl (velina), tv presenter or politician, you know when you’ve made it in Italy when Porta Porta presenter Bruno Vespa gives you a call. It seems therefore that online grassroots campaigning has truly arrived in Italy.


September 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm 1 comment

Why it is better that public affairs is public

Amidst the continuing discussions over transparency here in Brussels, a blog entry on the advocacy activities of eBay on the European Parliament Blog  reminds us that whatever position an organisation advocates towards policymakers, they should be prepared for it to become public.

Brussels is, so the cliche goes, a small town. You’d be amazed how willing people are to talk about who is saying what on any given issue. Its part of the unwritten rules of the game. And that goes for institutional actors as well as lobbyists (consultants, corporates, trade associations, NGOs et al). The position paper that you just emailed to the MEP’s office could be forwarded to anyone at the touch of a button, more than that it probably will be.

As such, it is not just an organisation’s lawyers who should be checking what you write in your position paper. The public affairs team should also ensure that whatever is advocated fits in with corporate messages and the core values of the organisation. Such an approach seems like common sense, but in our experience is not always followed when an organisation’s bottom line is at stake.

Such an approach also makes a lot of sense in terms of ensuring that an organisation’s advocacy is effective. Decision-makers in Brussels need information and are happy to  listen as long as you have something to say that is relevant to them and what they are trying to achieve. The result of Brussels openness, despite what some may say, is better legislation and a vibrant public affairs culture that stresses professionalism rather than personal contacts.

In such a system, what you say, how it resonates with policymakers’ objectives and when you say it are going to play a large role in how successful you are in persuading people. But underpinning this is how credible you are as an organisation in making that case. How much the decision-maker sees you as authoritative on the issue and how far your position echoes what they think you stand for are therefore important factors in how likely you are to be believed.

We think many organisations are getting this, as we have seen many more investing time in building their reputation with decision-makers in recent years. It is for a large part about ensuring that Corporate Communications and PA work together hand in glove. They are after all both communications functions. Such investments are sometimes difficult to justify internally, but PA functions in enlightened companies seem to be winning the argument.

One example of this is Sun Microsystems, an open source company that takes its approach to business over to how it communicates its stance on policy issues. You can find their policy positions on their website. Other examples that we have come across are consumer goods manufacturer P&G and of course Google’s (US focused) Public Policy blog.

Now there’s transparency at work.

September 7, 2007 at 9:57 am 2 comments

How will MEPs use the internet in 2009?

It is of course with interest that we follow developments in the current US Presidential election primaries. We love gun toting YouTube questioners and rejoice at the plethora of blogs, websites and social media that our US friends use to build their databases, motivate supporters and of course harvest small individual donations for campaign coffers. The question we keep asking ourselves is will our MEPs follow suit and adopt some of these tactics in 2009? Signs are looking good, even at this early stage.

It is a matter of some rejoicing (and pride) that one of our FH colleagues and potential UK ALDE (Lib Dem) candidate, Rebecca Taylor, has taken up the digital political challenge and this week launched her own website in her bid for selection on the party’s list for 2009 in the UK’s Yorkshire region. A sentiment shared, amongst others, by Socialist MEP blogger Mary Honeyball who recently praised the internet as a potential campaign tool and calls on the age of the internet election to “roll on”. Some of us who in past lives have leafleted in god-forsaken parts of middle England on rainy summer days would tend to agree.

Interestingly, the use of social media sites such as Facebook is gathering pace here too. The PES are preparing well in advance and have set up an open Facebook group to disseminate campaign material to supporters and exchange best practice. However, unlike Hillary, Obama et al we are yet to find an MEP with an open Facebook profile set up to gather supporters and motivate them to action online. Perhaps it is just a matter of time.

We’d agree with those who argue that the likes of Facebook and MySpace are only one tool in internet election campaigns, where a focus on fund raising and building a great supporters database still plays a key role. However, where European elections are not exactly top of the media agenda and even the most election-hardened local constituency party can be difficult to motivate, we have to believe that such tools could be a cheap and effective method for gathering supporters together, keeping them up to speed on the campaign diary and motivating them to act online and offline.

September 5, 2007 at 7:21 pm


The increasing use of social media in political campaigning in Europe became especially visible in France’s last elections (Royal vs. Sarkozy), but in the US they really have it down to a fine art. Right now in the US, with the race on for the 2008 presidential elections, everyone seems to be using social technology, such as YouTube, as part of their campaigns. The reason behind this is that the internet has created a platform for ‘openess’, enabling people to ‘get to know’ candidates before voting for them, exemplified by the Senator John Edwards podcast run on Pod Tech.

My search to find examples of social media at work in European politics wasn’t that fruitful – a blog here, a video there – except maybe for David Cameron and his ‘WebCameron’. Instead I stumbled across an interesting US example from entitled Netroots activism arrives.


August 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Is Facebook useful for public affairs?

It seems to be Facebook’s moment at present. Everywhere we look people are talking about it – whether its our own FH Digital London colleagues debating whether MySpace is better or the Economist profiling Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg this week, it can not be long before Facebook becomes a verb and pays out to its founder (and perhaps his friends). However, we keep asking ourselves whether any of this is of relevance to what we do (see What is Public Affairs).

Undoubtedly, the 30 million people on Facebook could be a powerful network of people if they actually did anything together other than share photos from last night, poke each other and set up groups such as “If I were an enzyme i would be DNA helicase so i could unzip your genes” (at time of writing current membership of 110,880 with 3680 posts).

Happily the applications function of Facebook seems to make using Facebook to do stuff interesting stuff a distinct possibility. There is a petitions application and the US sites such as have jumped onboard.

As such, we thought we would test it out on our own little pet project – getting WiFi installed in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It is not admittedly a noble aim, but a good trial of potential in any case. The Italian Parliament has recently announced it will install WiFi, we think the European Parliament should do the same; allowing assistants and others without offices the ability to work from the communal areas of the Strasbourg building, such as the infamous flower bar.

Taking our lead from the millions signed up by, we have launched a petition. You can sign up here (though if you are not on Facebook you shall need to sign up to that first). While you are at it we have also created a Facebook group “We’ve been to Strasbourg once too often” to share comments, dinner recommendations, events and chat about the monthly decamp to the Alsatian capital. It is an open group, so please join and contribute your meanderings.

We would also be happy to hear from you about the best PA tools available on Facebook’s applications – or indeed the tool you’d most like to see.

July 23, 2007 at 4:07 pm 2 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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