Posts tagged ‘European Parliament’

European Parliament goes mobile – when to choose a mobile website over a native app

Earlier this month the European Parliament launched the mobile version of its ever popular (at least in the Brussels bubble) website. Hooray! Forgot the room number of the MEP you are meeting? Well now you can go on your mobile device and find it with ease.

In seeing the new site, we asked ourselves why an organisation would choose a mobile website rather than one of those trendy apps we spend far too much time (and money) downloading for our iPad/iPhones? Well, call us curious, but we decided to phone a friend far more knowledgeable than ourselves to find the answer. Gwen Foutz, SVP and Director of Mobile and Social Platforms in our Washington D.C. office and global co-chair of FH Mobile practice group happily picked up the phone. Here’s what she had to say.

What’s the difference between a native app and a mobile website?

A native application is an application designed and built for a specific operating system, e.g. iPhone iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, etc., that users download and install to their devices. A mobile website (or mobile web application) is essentially a mobile optimized website – a site designed specifically for the smaller screen and mobile context. Mobile websites are accessed through a URL and work across all web-enabled mobile devices.

Is there anything you can do with one that you can’t do with the other?

Mobile websites provide the best opportunity for a single platform to reach a majority of mobile devices with an enhanced experience, including lower-end devices not considered smartphones. Mobile websites can vary in complexity from static, information-based experiences to more robust, feature-based experiences similar to those of native applications.

Mobile apps provide the most feature-rich approach for mobile as they offer access to native device features such as GPS functionality and cameras. An app generates the highest level of engagement through an ideal mobile user experience that is tailored to the specific device it was built for. However, with the advancements that HTML5 has brought to the mobile space, the line between what is possible with mobile web vs. native apps continues to blur. More and more developers are building application-like experiences via the mobile web that can be accessed through the browser.

When would FH’s Digital Practice counsel an organisation to use one rather than the other?

We first ask the organization three critical questions before recommending a mobile solution:
1) Who is your target audience?
2) What are you trying to achieve with mobile and how does that fit with your overall business objectives?
3) How will you tell people about it?

Based on the organization’s goals and resources as well as audience research and insights, we may recommend an optimized mobile website, a native app, a text message campaign or all of the above.

Mobile optimized websites really should be seen as a starting point for most organizations before jumping into the mobile app space. Main company “.com” websites should be viewable and usable from any device, especially as mobile browsers become users’ primary browsers. Furthermore, mobile web provides the largest reach, regardless of the type of phone people are using and allows you to be found the same ways users find you on the desktop web (via direct URLs or search).

Native apps are recommended (as an addition to a mobile website) to serve a focused purpose that addresses a user need – usually in the form of providing utility or entertainment. Apps are chosen over mobile web when there is a need to offer robust functionality and features, such as those that are transactional in nature (e.g. shopping, banking), highly customizable or account-based services (e.g. photo tools, cooking/recipe assistants, travel tools), entertainment focused (e.g. streaming video and music, games) and those that are used frequently (e.g. social networking, mapping/navigation services).

What’s the easiest to develop, mobile website or app? Is the process very different?

Mobile websites typically require less overall effort to design and develop, and have a much larger reach than native apps alone. They are also easier to update and maintain once released, as updates can be pushed to all users at once and accessed via the browser, rather than a user having to download and install a new version.

Native apps have to be built platform by platform (i.e. iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc.) – there is no one size fits all – which requires a significant investment. Each version of the app across platforms can and should share similar user experience and design aspects, but ultimately will be built independently. Another factor is that apps have to be selected by the user, usually from an app store, which requires a significant investment in promotion and awareness-building to make people aware that it exists.

Is it common practice for public institutions to use mobile websites rather than apps?

Yes, it is fairly common for public institutions to provide mobile websites rather than apps. This is due to usually having limited development and promotional budgets and a desire to reach the widest audience possible. If the public institution desires to provide a more robust experience, they may go the native app route, but at the cost of reaching less people with their content.

Where can we find out more?

Check out these two posts from other FHers in the mobile space:

“Are You Really Ready for a Mobile App?” by Erick McNett, FH Kansas City

“There’s An App for That! Cutting Through the Clutter to Find the Best Branded Mobile Apps” by Radu Iancu, FH Cleveland

James

July 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm 2 comments

The Power of Reding

I’m a big fan of the FT Brussels Blog. Today’s headline in particular caught my eye: “Women take over the Berlaymont.”

It outlines the growing attention around European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding’s latest crusade: increasing quotas for the percentage of women in the executive boardroom.

The European Parliament advised EU businesses last week to increase numbers of women in their boardrooms by next year or face a mandatory quota of 40% by 2020. While their recommendation is still non-binding at the moment, should voluntary efforts to increase female representation at the highest levels of EU businesses fail by next year, they encourage the European Commission to table legislation to make it binding. And here is where Commissioner Reding steps in.

As the FT points out, she has a tough job ahead. While some countries such as France, the Netherlands and Spain support binding quotas – Norway already has them – some expect the UK and others to resist. Social legislation has always been an uphill battle in Europe and this will be no exception. Yet if anyone can do it (I’m agreeing with the FT here), Viviane Reding can. You can keep track of the pledges she is collecting here.

As a colleague and I just discussed, were we policymakers, we’d be more eager for the social benefits that enable women in the workplace to come through (wide spread access to good childcare, proper maternity & paternity leave, etc). But obviously this isn’t enough.

Bottom line is, I have a general mistrust of quotas – but I more or less support any initiatives that try to even out the playing field…

But let’s open it up: what do you think?

Jess

PS – Looking forward to following what groups that regularly talk about such issues in Brussels think about the initiative, including the European Women’s Lobby and WIIS Brussels.

July 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm 1 comment

Everyone loves a good story

The other day I attended an event on the Future of Mobility and Transport in Europe and a quote from an MEP, who was on one of the panels, got me thinking about ‘storytelling’ in public affairs. While discussing Intelligent Transport Systems, the MEP asked fellow participants whether they have ever thought – while having breakfast – where each of the items on the breakfast table comes from, and what journey they have made. What’s the supply chain of a jar of marmelade, where has it been and by which modes of transport? Were there any regulatory barriers on the way or were its travels facilitated by the existing legislative framework? Such a simple example or story can bring a discussion on transport to life, as it links the world of the audience to the issue.

In fact, one of the many challenges we face as public affairs consultants is talking about inherently technical (and dare I say, sometimes unexciting) topics to policy-makers. However, usually they have anything on their mind but the very detailed requirements of products A, B and C that can potentially have far-reaching effects on a client’s business – and ultimately, citizens. And when you’re looking for someone to advocate on your behalf, there are certain issues that will always gain support and others that, well, don’t. As an MEP, would you, for example, want to be the champion of a ‘single administrative electronic document for the im- and export of goods to/from the EU?’ Not a very imaginative topic perhaps, but incredibly important for anyone who supports the completion of the single market.

Following up to James’ post regarding the use of position papers (see: Time to throw away the trusty old position paper?) and the need to tailor material to what your audience cares about, rather than drafting everything from your organization’s perspective – I’d like to add the need to tell more stories. (Note: stories, not fairytales ;)). There has been a lot of buzz on this particular point in the PR realm and it is equally applicable to PA, see some excellent posts on this topic by our colleague Steffen on his personal blog (Get off your high horse – tell a decent story and Develop a content strategy to succeed in public affairs). Some of the perks of storytelling include:

  • It’s an easy way to avoid using overly technical or business jargon .
  • The exercise will force your organization to think out of the box.
  • Stories can create emotional involvement in an issue.
  • Stories provide the opportunity for a more personal and targeted approach.
  •  The method is refreshing and allows you to be creative – and your material will be more appealing as it stands out from the crowd.

Obviously with the usual caveat that on most occassions – straight up technical information, facts and figures are still desirable, but it is worth bearing in mind that real-life examples and stories can make your ‘characters’ come alive.

Kirsten

July 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

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

It’s not normal that Europeans go looking for serious debate and see MEP’s cucumber

Image courtesy of European Parliament

From our bent bananas to nutritious and safe Spanish cucumbers we love our fruit and vegetables here in the Brussels bubble. So much so it seems that our elected representatives are intent on waving them at us in the European Parliament, as Francisco Sosa Wagner MEP (non-aligned, Spain) showed yesterday. Well, it makes for a good photo doesn’t it.

But what’s the best thing to be waved in a debate in the European Parliament? Here’s some of the other things we remember being brandished by our elected representatives over the years:

  • A bunch of carrots
  • A tin of tomato puree
  • Scoobie strings
  • Safety helmets
  • A pornographic magazine
  • A box of pizza
  • A birthday cake

It’s not quite a top ten list as yet. Perhaps you have favorites to add? 

James

June 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm 3 comments

Twitter turns five

Last night – at 8:50pm GMT – Twitter turned five years old and it got me thinking.

I openly admit to boycotting Twitter when it was launched (echos of protesting “I don’t care what Betty ate for breakfast” spring to mind). But I equally admit to being a convert five years later.

Some thoughts on why

1. Twitter can help sort the headlines from the fun stuff, and the urgent news from the background material.

A useful tool in tracking the latest news out of Libya or Japan, Twitter can also draw your attention to an article you might otherwise have missed by browsing a webpage. Case in point: I only came across the Financial Times’ rave review of EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva through their tweet of it:

@ftbrusselsblog: “The Accidental Commissioner http://on.ft.com/hAk8fG”  (She is also on Twitter @k_georgieva)

(Fun stuff: It also alerts you to the fact that Robert Redford is coming out with a new biography and perhaps the most hilarious review of a Parisian restaurant I have ever read: @Vanity Fair

2. Twitter brings together people with similar interests and can be a tool for identifying key communicators on a given issue.

Twitter is great for communicators. But it is also great for listeners. While searching for who was tweeting on Twitter’s birthday, I came across this from European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek:

@jerzybuzek: “Happy 5th birthday to #Twitter – one year+ for my account, essential way for me to communicate”

Buzek –or the person who manages his Twitter account- averages some five tweets a day and talks about everything from current events to internal Parliament decisions. But he also takes an obvious interest in anyone who responds to his tweets and regularly responds. True to the 2011 EP Digital Trends study, the EP is waking up to social media.

3. Twitter can bring on the funny – but more importantly, the creative.

Reducing a message to 140 characters can be challenging, but it also encourages communicators to have a clear and attention-grabbing message. It is a great tool for creativity in sectors that might not immediately be considered creative – just ask mutual fans of logistics and Salt-N-Pepa:

@cwarroom RT@makower: “Ship it. Ship it good: RT@EDFbiz: Carbon Data Driving Freight Decisions

Funny. Informative. And a reference to a 80s music “classic”.

Point is, as Tris Hussey of the Vancouver Observer keenly observed, “For something that was so geeky when it started out that even geeks didn’t know what to do with it, Twitter sure has taken off like a rocket.” And I find it useful, both professionally and for the fun stuff.

Where will Twitter go from here? The Guardian gives a few interesting indications: “40% of tweets originate on a mobile device […] with 5.3 billion mobile phone users in the world, and 90% of the world’s population in reach of a mobile phone network, Twitter has a far better chance of reaching everyone first…”

Jess

[Just starting out on Twitter? Here are some tips on how to get started.]

 

March 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment

Coming soon: Fleishman-Hillard’s European Parliament Digital Trends Survey

A short note to announce that we will be launching our second study on MEPs’ use of the Internet on January 25th. In the study, we explore their use of digital channels to communicate with constituents and others, as well as how they use the web and other channels to inform themselves on policy matters.

After the success of our previous study in 2009, we wanted to repeat the exercise to see how much the new parliament differs from the old, and how the MEPs’ usage has changed now they are no longer in an election year. What’s more, it is interesting to note how much impact the last 18 months of social media publicity has made on MEP habits.

The report will be published at www.epdigitaltrends.eu. Sign up now if you wish to be notified on the day or watch this space!

Rosalyn

January 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm 1 comment

Tweet Your MEP: a new direct democracy tool is in town

Yesterday I was privileged to attend a meeting about the Citizens’ Consultations with a keynote speech from Viviane Reding, Vice President of the Commission. As a discussion about citizen interaction within Brussels policymaking, it was the perfect venue for the announcement by Toute l’Europe of their new website Tweet Your MEP, a tool they developed in cooperation with Europatweets.

Even now there are still some Twitter skeptics around in public affairs. ‘What is the point?’ they ask, ‘surely it’s not as if the MEPs ever reply?’ Well actually some do… But Tweet Your MEP is here to encourage and open up dialogue even more. Each MEP has a profile through which they can be directly tweeted and then reply. It aims to be a host for direct dialogue between MEPs and citizens. The website has an interactive map and thematic search. So new Euro-commenters can find their MEP geographically or the more experienced by which policy area they are interested in.

With its bright and clear design the website should be very accessible. It will be launched in French, German, English and Dutch and a translation feature will make sure that all 27 languages are able to use the site. So far so good, you never know, maybe this tool will help change the way MEPs communicate and show people that they are listening? Either way we will be following with much interest. Log on for the launch at 2pm on 22nd September and see if Tweet Your MEP will live up to our expectations.

Rosalyn

September 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm 1 comment

We’re tickled pink by Julien’s fish and mash-ups

An interesting post over on Julien Frisch’s blog who shows yet again how online tools out there for free can help all of us seeking to understand and explain the EU’s legislative processes – whether to clients or just because we are tickled pink by fishing regulations like  Julien.

It’s a pity that the Council’s website doesn’t allow one to follow the discussions from WP to COREPER to Council with links to documents attached as Julien has done. Alas, we’ve complained about the Council’s website before and no doubt will do so again. We also had a go at thinking on this blog about how these kind of tools can be put to use in public affairs to bring the local to Brussels. Worth a read if you’ve not already.

James

April 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

They just don’t understand me!

As a consultant in the public affairs sector here in Brussels I am beginning to sound a lot like many representatives of other industries I meet. The recent furor in the UK over ex-ministers allegedly seeking lobbying jobs with journalists posing as fake companies made me let out a cry of desperation and exclaim “they just don’t understand what we do!”

Before I start don’t get me wrong, the ministers concerned may or may not have broken any rules but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe that they were just a little bit naive. Rather unhappily, they are not alone. I can’t speak for Westminster (having only ever worked here), but I would venture that any organisation that seeks to employ a public affairs professional in Brussels on the basis of their “access” is as misguided as our retiring former ministers. Alas, experience suggests that such organisations do exist.

Most policymakers in this town are reasonable people, who understand that they need input from the outside world on what they are discussing if they are to make good policy. Given the correct approach, most people of all levels will take the time to meet with you and give you a fair hearing. It is after all in their interests to hear your views. They are also intelligent people who will weigh what you say up with what they’ve heard from representatives of five other organisations that day, their own political stance and the people they represent. Securing a meeting with policymakers is as much about knowing who is working on a dossier, having something that is of interest to them to talk about and ensuring that you pick the right time to go speak to them as anything else. A good public affairs person in Brussels is going to be able to guide you on this through their knowledge of political  process and their expertise in political communication.

Existing relationships are of course useful and if you’ve been doing this any time you shall have them, but experience of working on some of the most bizarre dossiers in our legislative process suggests that they can be built relatively easily as long as you are giving useful insights. Indeed, sometimes having relationships work the other way round. As a former staffer of an MEP who I regarded as a friend, I have to admit on being harder on clients wanting to go see him than I would be on the same clients wanting to go see other MEPs. After all my friendship was at stake. Come along with people who wasted his time and our friendship may not have lasted very long.

James

April 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

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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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