Posts tagged ‘London’

The UK’s first digital election campaign?

The following post is from Simon Benson of our London team

There has been much written in the UK media that this will be the first truly digital general election campaign. This is true to an extent, with the numbers of blogs and websites devoting themselves to politics and the election having increased widely since the last General Election in 2005 – it is hard to believe that neither Facebook nor Twitter existed the last time Britons went to the polls. So it was perhaps somewhat surprising that one of those bloggers, Iain Dale, told a packed Fleishman-Hillard London breakfast event last week that in his view, digital content and information will not dramatically influence the outcome on election day.

Dale’s analysis was that initiatives such as myconservatives.com (a tool which enables local campaigns to recruit volunteers and collect small donations) were launched too late by the Conservatives and should have been introduced earlier in the election cycle in order to have a real impact.  Labour strategists are keen to point out that their version –  membersnet has been operational for several years now, where initiatives such as the phone bank (where members can phone other members and voters using  an online database) have been successfully deployed.  However, such online phone banks are merely digitally advanced versions of more traditional campaign methods –  i.e, a compliment to the long established tactics of canvassing and cold calling rather than a digital step change.

Dale also suggested that the UK should look to political systems closer to its own parliamentary democracy such as those in Europe or Australia for inspiration, as opposed to the vast Presidential election campaigning in the USA.  He’s right, but not only because of the difference in style (and resources) but also because the digital elements of that election were built on a grassroots campaign for change – in the UK, there is no such instinct, with voters turned off from politics by the expenses scandal and no great desire shown for either Brown or Cameron.

Where the bloggers and political websites can be influential is in their attempts to create news agendas either as virals or in the traditional media. After some caution, journalists are beginning to report on stories created by bloggers, with Guido Fawkes having claimed senior scalps, including Peter Hain MP and Brown’s former press adviser Damian McBride.  However, it is worth remembering that the UK’s biggest political scandal this year – MPs expenses – was uncovered  not by the new media, but by a very old and traditional title – the Daily Telegraph.

Recent episodes such as spoof versions of David Cameron posters have perhaps best shown how virals can attempt influence. Its owner, Clifford Singer, posted spoofs of the Tories’ main billboard campaign on his website but realised the idea could grow when he almost immediately started receiving hundreds of similar versions from viewers. Within days, a simple website was created which allowed anyone to ‘invent’ their own professionally completed versions of the Tories’ campaign posters.  The Labour MP and blogger Tom Watson MP has said about the viral: “MyDavidCameron.com is an example of people taking an idea and reusing it to add to a discussion and make a point. Political party managers might not like it, but it has given election billboards new relevance and interest for the forthcoming general election. It is making electioneering interesting, unpredictable and, dare I say, more fun.”

So although the internet will not control this campaign entirely, it is already challenging political strategists, campaign advertising executives and candidates to think in new ways and to respond to challenges that they would never have envisaged just a few years ago.

Simon

You can check out more about the UK elections at the F-H London blog.

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March 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm 2 comments

Pontificating on the Pontiff

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JUNE 22:  Prime Minister T...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It’s been amazing fun watching the UK media ruminate on the now seemingly receeding chances of Tony Blair being the first President of the European Council.

Firstly, there is some pleasure to be had in counting the number of times some hack in London gets all mixed up over what the job is. Will he be President of Europe, President of the European Council, President of the Council or President of the Council of Europe? Who knows? Does the UK media care? As an aside, all this confusion could form the basis for some bizarre studentesque drinking game. Every time a UK daily gets it wrong some kind of alcoholic forfeit would be administered. In any case all those reporting on this (or wishing to avoid alcohol abuse through sheer frustration) would be well advised to check out this post from NoseMonkey.

Secondly, is it me or did the UK media become obsessed with Tony Blair as President of the European Council? Even if they didn’t understand what it meant, that he hadn’t yet actually got the job or that with the exception of his successor (Gordon) no-one in the UK gets a vote on it. It was almost like the rest of Europe didn’t exist in this debate. The Brits seemed to take no account of the fact that many pretty well informed Europeans were wandering around Brussels saying ‘not on your life’ to Tony for a whole host of very valid reasons. No doubt whoever does get the job will be painted as an unknown and unelected bureaucrat – even if he happens to be the former Prime Minister of a European country who were founding members of the organisation the British begrudingly joined a couple of decades later.

Thirdly, even in Brussels one gets the sense that everyone is guessing. Ok, there’s some commonly accepted wisdom flying around the place. Front runners never get it. Small states prefer smaller men etc. etc. But really, other than a close cabral of PMs, Presidents and Chancellors, does anyone really know what’s going to happen? However, if your name is Angela and you do know, well, you could always leave a comment.

Finally, I know you’re going to tell me not to spoil everyone’s fun. The analysis of the runners and riders is likely to be far more interesting than what the new man/woman at the top will actually do at the end of the day. To show we’re not all spoilsports here at FH, here’s Nick Williams our MD of Public Affairs in London giving his thoughts on Tony Blair’s ‘covert’ campaign in PR Week this morning.

James

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November 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment

What is Public Affairs? Some thoughts from a global perspective

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

Image via Wikipedia

This last week saw our latest Global Public Affairs Leadership meeting here in Brussels. In attendance were public affairs practitioners from global centres like Beijing and DC, major European capitals such as London, Berlin and Paris and a host of other places from Latin America to Canada. It just goes to show that wherever you are,  the public policy agenda is likely to have an impact on your business.

It was great to participate in some informed debate on hot issues; the regulation of financial service markets, energy security and climate change and consumer product safety amongst them. It would appear that increasingly issues are global and markets interconnected, even if the issues play out locally.

Much the same observation can be said for public affairs itself. While the objective may be the same the world over, the tactics used may change depending on the market, the regulation in place (in terms of direct contact between stakeholders and government) and the issue and its lifecycle.  The discussions led me to the observation that it was worth putting down somewhere my own understanding of some of the terms discussed – from communications to public affairs and finally government relations.

I’ve tried to do so in the attached file below.

Public affairs and government relations diagram

I’d be interested in people’s reaction especially in Brussels where the terms government relations and public affairs tend to be used interchangeably. At the same time communications tends to be looked down upon by those who only do the strict lobbying piece, as if decision-makers are only informed by views expressed in one-on-one meetings. Our recent digital MEP survey suggest otherwise.

One final thought. Our session on this subject matter appeared to me to suggest that the conditioning of the environment in which decisions are taken (i.e. the public affairs as opposed to government relations piece) is increasingly important for actors irrespective of the market they are in. It is in this context of course that digital tools fit in…

James

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June 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Public affairs in a global world – a new internet resource

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Over recent years, our work here at FH Brussels has become increasingly international in nature. The internet has of course contributed to this. In this globally connected age, the issues and policies that our clients care about often transcend both national and regional borders.

Internally, this has meant that our Global Public Affairs Practice has seen annual get togethers in the last three years in our global public affairs hubs of Beijing, Washington and Brussels to discuss how global public affairs plays out at a local level. Happily, we now have a solid global network in public affairs supported by strong local capabilities in key cities across Europe, North America and Asia.

As such, it is great to see an new initiative with a truly global public affairs perspective in the shape of publicaffairsworld.com The website, created by Ben Atfield of London based public affairs recruitment specialists Ellwood and Atfield, brings together news and views from the global public affairs community. Its editorial board has members of the public affairs community from three regions of the world, including Andrew Johnson of Euro RSCG and Tom Spencer of the European Centre for Public Affairs from Brussels.

We’re looking to seeing this platform develop as the public affairs sector (both inhouse and agency) increasingly professionalises across the globe. One small suggestion for the platform’s own development; RSS feeds of the three news columns would be useful for all of us using our own aggregation tools.

James

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April 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm 1 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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