Posts tagged ‘member of european parliament’
In our recent survey of the online habits of Members of the European Parliament there were a number of statistics that stood out. None more than the fact that 65% of MEPs consult Wikipedia at least twice a week for legislative work. Reactions from readers to this particular stat varied from “LOL” through to “scary”.Yet the more grounded amongst you simply asked “so what?”
This post seeks to provide some initial answers to this question from the narrow viewpoint of someone conducting public affairs in Brussels. Below I have set out three conclusions focused on the “so what” from our survey results for those seeking to inform MEPs (i.e. public affairs practitioners/lobbyists).
So what for digital public affairs in Brussels?
- Digital tools are a must for conducting effective Brussels public affairs
Since the start of this blog nearly 2 years ago we have worked on the assumption that our elected European Parliamentarians are using the internet to inform their thinking much in the same way that all of us do. When we don’t know something, or want to find background information, we google it, we go to wikipedia. Our survey supports this assumption. We now have data. 93% of MEPs use search engines on a daily basis in their legislative work and you already know how often they turn to wikipedia. When MEPs are turning to the internet so often to find information, it is pretty obvious that public affairs practitioners should consider digital tools as part of any effective public affairs strategy.
- Digital tools in public affairs in Brussels may become more important in the future
In terms of their relative importance in informing policy decisions it is clear that traditional forms of interaction (personal contact, written contact, media, events) with MEPs still rate highly. This is not surprising. Such interactions tend to come in the form of personal contact with identifiable actors and would, I venture, be more likely to be about specific dossiers/legislative proposals. Their importance for influencing decisions may be more readily perceived than the impact of information found on websites.
However, our survey suggests that MEPs will increasingly use social media in their own communications towards voters. As they do so they will begin to realise that the internet offers an opportunity to personally connect with interested voters/constituents, rather than simply broadcast at them. Increased familiarity and a recognition that the personal nature of the contact may make online interaction on policy issues more important in years to come. Such an outlook is supported, albeit anecdotally, by the fact that MEPs who blog are more likely to think that blogs are important in informing their decision-making.
- Digital tools should be an integrated part of implementing your overall public affairs strategy
The two points above do not in anyway seek to downplay the fact that our survey continues to suggest that traditional forms of contact with MEPs are very important in informing the way MEPs think about policy issues. Indeed our survey shows that personal contact (i.e. a meeting, a phone call) is still the number one way to get your message across, closely followed by media and then written communication and events. Our survey supports the view that we all still need to have public affairs strategies rather than digital strategies. These public affairs strategies should be supported and implemented by a combination of tools, including digital ones. Some would call this integration. I am more inclined to call it Public Affairs; communications aimed at informing the course of policy. We simply need to ensure that our Public Affairs toolbox has expanded to contain a full set of tools.
While this may not come as a shock to some, our survey does at least provide some data to back up our thinking. Later this week we’ll reflect on three things our survey has to say about the use of traditional tools in public affairs.
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- Do MEPs tweet, blog and Facebook? We find out. (pagoesdigital.wordpress.com)
- A look back at turn of the century Brussels (pagoesdigital.wordpress.com)
- Understanding the digital lives of MEPs (pagoesdigital.wordpress.com)
- The European Union Twitter Elections (textually.org)
Thanks to Aart van Iterson, a former colleague now at Cambre Associates, who points out by email that our current survey of the use of the internet by Members of the European Parliament is not the first time we have undertaken to research how digital tools are being used in Brussels.
Back in 2000 the then GPC (even then an Omnicom company, but at that stage still to become part of ) teamed up once again with Simon Leysen of Morris & Chapman to conduct “a first of its kind survey investigating primarily how the Brussels based international community use email and internet in their work.”
The highlights of the 2000 survey included the following:
- The Brussels based international (EU political) community generally prefer first contact to be established via e-mail rather than by letter.
Over 90% of respondents directly receive and process their own e-mails.
- For almost half of those surveyed, the Internet has become their main source of information.
- Before dealing with an organisation, over 70% of respondents say they will visit the organisations’ web-site first to obtain background information.
- Close to 50% of survey participants prefer to download large amounts of data as opposed to receiving it in its original format.
Despite being less than ten years old, our findings from 2000 have an air of a different era about them. Almost like finding that more than half of us prefer the car to the horse to get to work.
In looking at the online communication activities of our MEPs, we should therefore not be too harsh. Much has changed in the tools we all use to communicate in a very short time. At the last European elections the likes of YouTube and Twitter did not exist, google was not a verb and Facebook was only accessible to students at Ivy League schools. With this in mind, the use of any of these tools by MEPs, even just a third of them, is truly impressive. What’s more, I am sure that in another nine years our findings from 2009 will seem so beginning of the century.
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- The European Union Twitter Elections (textually.org)
- European Elections to Be YouTubed (businessweek.com)
Today we launch the results of our European Parliament Digital Trends Survey – www.epdigitaltrends.eu It examines how Members of the European Parliament are using the internet to communicate with their voters as well as how the same MEPs use the internet to inform their daily legislative work. As such, we hope that the results are interesting both for MEPs and for Brussels public affairs practitioners.
In summary MEPs are using the internet to communicate to voters but are not yet for the most part using all the tools available. No doubt MEPs have come a long way since the last elections, but there is still a road to travel.
For public affairs practitioners we believe that our results support the view we espoused when we started this blog 2 years ago. Like all of us MEPs are going online for information to inform their decisions. To be effective, our public affairs strategies need to integrate digital communications into their toolbox of tactics. Digital can not replace traditional tools such as contact programmes and media relations it complements them, rendering our activities more effective.
On the microsite www.epdigitaltrends.eu you will find the following:
- Our main results with supporting statistics
- An e-brochure
- A full report
- A library of downloads, including graphs and the raw data for you to make your own analysis and graphs
- Commentary from MEPs
- An opportunity for you to post your own thoughts
- The charities we supported in conducting the research
- The methodology we used – sample size etc.
In the coming days we shall be taking time to reflect on what the different parts of our results mean for public affairs practitioners in Brussels on this blog.
Thanks to all MEPs who participated and to the hardworking FH team who made it all possible (everyone in the office played some role but in particular I’d like to thank Mike, Reg, Veronique, Liliana, Julie, Carey, Aurelie, Tim, Michele, Jay, Clara and Rosie)
We look forward to your reactions to the results on the microsite and to having a debate on this blog about what our survey says about digital public affairs.
In Sweden it’s also interesting to note the proliferation of the use of social media. All main candidates, irrespective of their political belonging, are using blogs, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to interact with potential voters on the Internet. The US presidential election campaign in 2008 is a source of inspiration and all Swedish candidates are eager to imitate Obama’s success in campaigning through social media.
Swedish MEPs’ willingness to embrace digital communication channels is a factor well worth bearing in mind for anyone wanting to engage with these MEPs in the next European Parliament. More about these trends soon in an FH report about how MEPs use digital tools.