Posts tagged ‘Member of the European Parliament’
We recently published our 2nd survey on the online habits of Members of the European Parliament, looking at how MEPs use the Internet to communicate with constituents and other interested parties, and to inform themselves on policy matters. A few weeks back we analysed reasons for and consequences of MEPs’ use of social networks and blogging. This time, we’ll look at what the figures mean for the Public Affairs professional operating in Brussels.
1. Content strategy
It’s a given that MEPs use the web to conduct research and inform their thinking on issues e.g. 80% visit interest group sites every week. However, for the PA professional, it’s not just about sticking information on a site and assuming they’ll all come flooding.
There’s an overload of information available online and you’ll need to cut through the clutter. However, as PA professionals we’ve too often been so smug as to think that the tenets of good communications strategy – analysing audiences, testing messages, developing a content strategy – should be left to corporate communicators and marketers.
Absolutely not: provide dull content and assume MEPs will be interested at your peril. For instance, 80% of MEPs look for summaries online – more than those who look for position papers – so your content strategy may want to look at how to present key information in a more digestible manner, perhaps using video or info-graphics even. Likewise, what’s the public profile of your issue: is it a technical under-the-radar issue? In that case, technical argumentation works. Is your issue high-profile? In that case, you’ll need to show you’re aligned with broader opinion and make your content more “value” based i.e. more real stories, less facts and figures.
In terms of channels, more MEPs appreciate issue-specific websites than organisation websites (80% vs. 75%) so perhaps rather than looking at building a single site where you centralise all your content you might want to adopt a more scattered approach where you build issue-specific microsites and bring them together on your main site? Perhaps you might want to blog?
Then there’s Wikipedia, which needs to be incorporated in any content strategy (78% of MEPs visit Wikipedia every week.) Do you know what’s on all relevant Wikipedia pages? Are there Wikipedia pages which don’t yet exist which you could develop?
2. Driving traffic
99% of MEPs use search engines every week, 93% of them every day. Google especially is the gateway to content online. Step nr 1 to ensure that you have a presence when MEPs look up your issue is the content bit above. Next in line, you’ll need to think of search, which involves search engine marketing in the short term (e.g. Google AdWords) and Search Engine Optimisation in the longer term (i.e. making sure you appear high up in organic search.)
There are scores of other ways to drive traffic, from advertising on social networks (e.g. Facebook ads) to banner advertising on 3rd party sites (e.g. local news sites).
The best way is to produce compelling content which others are willing to spread for you (make it easy for them from the off e.g. send to a friend and Tweet functions next to your content.) Sometimes the content isn’t enough and you’ll need to develop campaigns, small and large, based around a campaign concept and a campaign “driver” (e.g. a competition?) which results in traffic if done well.
But always start with search.
3. Increasingly, you’ll want to engage and build relationships with MEPs (and others) online
The holy grail is direct interaction with MEPs (and their influencers) via channels such as Twitter, and this trend is on the up given that 69% of MEPs use social networks (mainly Facebook) and 34% are on Twitter. However, these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt. MEPs might use the tools, but that doesn’t mean they engage and listen to what anyone tells them. Likewise, they might listen to constituents but not others. But certainly, the trend is for more of them to engage and listen: in a recent interview we published on this blog, Ryan Heath, Neelie Kroes’ Social Media Manager, outlines how eager he and Neelie are eager to receive valuable input via Twitter and yet PA professionals are often absent from the conversations.
The best way to start is to map the players, MEPs and beyond, and determine how they use social media and networks. Based on that, develop an engagement approach. Most importantly, develop reciprocal relationships: in return for attention you should be providing insight and content, not just you blurting out messaging.
4. No it’s not all moved online: integration is key
Let’s not get too caught up in the excitement. By all means, the web is essential, and will only grow in prominence. However, traditional channels remain core e.g. 95% of MEPs visit online versions of traditional newspapers several times a week whilst personal contact is also valued by 95%.
Direct advocacy and media relations won’t be replaced any time soon and remain key to any communication strategy in the Public Affairs realm. Having said that, the manner in which MEPs and their influencers take in information is so varied that ubiquity becomes essential: being present not in one or two channels, but five or six.
5. Beyond the bubble
Yes, events beyond the bubble have always mattered, especially at constituency level, but information transfer and exchange is so quick that an organisation’s broader reputation matters in the Public Affairs space more so than has ever been the case before. When 99% of MEPs look up your issue online, they may find good content you’ve produced, but if the other content all addresses a recent crisis half way across the world, it won’t matter. Meaning what? Get out of your PA comfort zone and think reputation; speak to the marketers, your brand people and the corporate communicators, because the disciplines are increasingly intertwined.
As ever, if there’s anything you’d like to add or remark on, please speak up in the comments below. Thanks.
Conference season is upon us once again. And boy does our workshop at last year’s Public Affairs Agenda two day extravaganza seem like an age ago. This year we’re partnering with the good folks at Dods on their European Public Affairs Action Day to be held on the 30 November at the Renaissance Hotel (it is a day rather than a summit this year, but the hotel remains the same).
We shall be hosting one of the workshop sessions, which will be structured in the form of a panel discussion complete with Q&A. Our panel is entitled “To Twitter or not to Twitter: the use of digital tools in public affairs” and will run in the second morning slot from approximately 11.30 until lunch. Appearing on our panel will be:
- Alexander Alvaro MEP talking about the use of the internet by Members of the European Parliament in and after the election campaign earlier this year.
- Pat Cleary our SVP of digital public affairs from our Washington DC office talking about the use of twitter in advocacy campaigns on the basis of a recent piece of work he did for the Fix Housing First coalition.
- Mark Redgrove. Mark heads up communication at manufacturing industry association Orgalime. He shall speak about how his organisation is using the internet to support advocacy in a Brussels based context
Registrations are not yet open, but should be soon here. We hope you can join us.
The European institutions rarely do party politics well, but this week was a rare exception as the current European Commission (EU executive) President Jose Barroso fought for the approval of the European Parliament (lower house one part of our bicameral legislature) for a second five year term in office. The verbal jousting between the Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Barroso was a delight; proof that the Punch and Judy politics regularly seen at Westminster can take place in a chamber hampered by simultaneous intepretation, stilted debates and differing national traditions.
In the end Barroso scraped together enough votes for approval by an absolute majority (not required but politically important). Portuguese and Spanish Socialists ignored their own group and joined the centre-right, liberal centre and looney right in voting for a renewal of his term of office.
There may be some scepticism as to whether Barroso will shake lose the shackles of the 27 Member State governments or whether his policies have contributed rather than dealt with the recent financial and economic crisis but he was in effect the only candidate and everyone knew it. The negotiations in recent weeks between Barroso and the political groups were as much about the structure and programme of the Commission as anything else.
While the programme (Political Guidelines for the next Commission) includes sweeties for all deserving children – promises for financial services regulation, a decarbonisation of transport and electricity etc – I’d like to concentrate on two new structural changes announced in Tuesday’s debate that interest me:
– A Commissioner for Climate Action
One of the 26 other Commissioners in Barroso’s yet to be formed team will get the climate change brief. Green members I met down in the Parliament this week remain concerned rather than overjoyed. While Barroso once again pointed out the EU’s leadership globally on climate change issues, they fear that a new Climate action Commissioner will get the climate change part of the department for environment (DG Environment) and put it together with the large energy department (DG Transport and Energy). For Greens, this is disaster time. Energy cares about market liberalisation, energy security and has an unhealthy like for nuclear they would say. The climate change activists at DG Environment will be drowned out by the energy obsessed hoardes, or so goes the theory. In reality, climate change is not going away and the debates that currently occur between the different departments are now likely simply to take place within the department. The issue of ambition is probably more about which politician gets the portfolio. Do they come from a big Member State and carry the political clout to push the agenda on Member States, who like to talk good game but then shy away from hard legislation (see the current debate on the energy performance of buildings as an example). We shall watch with interest as Member State’s lobby for their own nominees. It would not be a surprise if the UK went for the brief.
– Chief Scientific Adviser
Barroso also announced the creation of a Chief Scientific Officer who has “has the power to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery.” The EU institutions, mainly Parliament to be fair to the Commission, are hampered by a lack of access to scientific advice at appropriate stages in the policymaking process. The Commission’s scientific committees and agencies such as EFSA (food) and ECHA (chemicals) provide a good service upon request but suffer from work programmes and the need for both consensus and time. It shall be interesting to see what role such an adviser takes, how political or independent they will become, how proactive they can be and how they fit into the current structure of scientific advice. How would BSE, phthalates in toys, melamine in milk have played out should such a figure have existed at those times? Would some of our more reactive Members of the European Parliament have been slapped down or encouraged by this person’s presence? We await the details and of course the person.
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- Barroso wins EU commission second term (guardian.co.uk)
- Barroso faces vote on new mandate (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Europe’s institutions and what they do (telegraph.co.uk)
European lawmakers underuse the internet according to new research. The findings show that while three quarters of MEPs use their personal websites to reach the electorate, only a minority understands the potential of using online technologies to help them interract with people. Only half visit blogs once a week or more, and two thirds have never heard of the social networking tool Twitter.
Eagle-eyed colleagues have spotted that French daily Le Monde cited this blog as a source in its profile of MEPs and what they do.
Well, some good news for those of you who want to know more about the digital lives of our European Parliamentarians. Fleishman-Hillard Brussels is currently engaged in surveying the digital lives of Members of the European Parliament. The audit is seeking to establish how far, and to what effect, MEPs in this Parliament are using the internet in communicating to the outside world in the run up to the elections and in informing their own views on policy issues in their daily working lives.
We shall be looking at everything from how many of them intend to use Twitter to reach out to voters, to how often their offices say they use Wikipedia to look stuff up. We are hoping that the results will be of interest both to MEPs themselves and to all those who are interested by MEPs – like us.
We hope to have the results of our research ready for public consumption in mid-May, at which stage they shall be made available on a dedicated micro-site.
If you are interested in learning more in advance of the official launch, drop us a line at the address below:
epdigitaltrends at fleishmaneurope dot com
We shall be keeping everyone informed through this blog and our twitter feed over the next couple of weeks.
Following on from our digital audit of MEPS last year, we now want to know which MEPs have caught the Twitter bug…
These are just a few we’ve found so far:
- Graham Watson
- Matthias Groote
- Katrin Saks
- Benoit Hamon
- Eoin Ryan
- Neena Gill
- Arlene McCarthy
- Peter Skinner
- Jim Nicholson
- Mary Honeyball
- Andrew Duff
- Daniel Caspary
- Jules Maaten
- Jeanine Hennis
- Sophie in ‘t Veld
- Daniel Cohn-Bendit
- Åsa Westlund
- Anna Hedh
- Kathalijne Buitenweg
- Helga Truepel
- Colm Burke
- Joost Lagendijk
- Gunnar Hökmark
- Dagmar Roth-Behrendt
- Alexander Alvaro
- Jorgo Chatzimarkakis
- Richard Corbett
- Ed McMillan-Scott
- Rodi Kratsa
- Vincent Peillon
- Urszula Gacek
- Jean luc Bennahmias
- Catherine Trautmann
- Bernadette Vergnaud
If you have come across any, please let us know. We shall update this list as we get new names.
P.S. As we mentioned in a previous post, the utility of Twitter is still not clear to us. We do find Daily Show host John Stewart’s opinion about Twitter quite humorous: “They’re struggling because they confused new with good.”