Posts tagged ‘MEPs’

Reviewing our MEP digital trends survey: fewer bloggers, more Facebook and Twitter users. Why (and so what?)

In our recently published survey on the online habits of Members of the European Parliament, we found that:

  • 69% of MEPs use social networks (mainly Facebook) up from 33% in 2009
  • 34% are on Twitter, up from 21%
  • 29% write a personal blog, compared to 40% in 2009

So we’re witnessing a shift towards the snappy interaction of social networks, and a move away from the more content driven blog.

I’ll look at two things here: i) what might account for this trend; and ii) some ideas on what the trends mean in practice.

Why the shift away from blogging towards social networks and the like?

It’s not hard to see why Facebook and Twitter appear more enticing than blogging:

  • They both have ready-made audiences which may likely include MEPs’ constituents. Why bother with blogging, which is more time-consuming and does not have a ready-made audience?
  • In that vein, Twitter and Facebook may just seem easier to maintain, given that there isn’t much content to produce. At first glance, writing 140 characters definitely seems a breeze compared to a full-on blog post.
  • Election frenzy is over. Back in 2009, MEPs running for re-election were presumably eager to do everything in their power to showcase themselves to their electorate. That incentive is obviously reduced beyond election time.
  • The EP’s social media team has been extremely successful on Facebook (their blog is also successful, to be fair). Presumably a shining example to MEPs?
  • Facebook is all the rage. 500 million and users and that. Everyone’s talking about Twitter too. So presumably a fair bit of bandwagon hopping has taken place.

What does it all mean?

This is the trickier question. What does all this mean in terms of MEPs’ communication with constituents and others?

On the surface, it seems like good news: MEPs are eagerly adopting tools that connect them to people at the click of a button and provide Europeans a channel to engage in the political process through dialogue with decision makers. Indeed, some MEPs like Marietje Schaake and Sophie in ’t Veld, or Commissioners like Neelie Kroes (no coincidence they’re all Dutch) are engaging in conversation and using Twitter to ask questions and learn, and presumably thus improve their ability to do their job.

However, in another sense, the figures are misleading. Another finding in the report shows that MEPs who blog and tweet think “expressing views directly” is more important than “engaging in dialogue” (by a margin of 60% and 30% in blogs and on Twitter respectively). Clearly, listening, learning and conversing play second fiddle, and you could ask: what’s the point of telling people stuff if you’re doing so in a Facebook feed or in 140 characters? Not much.

As for the drop in blogging, personally speaking I think it’s a shame, although understandable: I know from experience just how hard it is to maintain a blog. However, blogging is a fantastic medium to express views and opinions in more detail, and some MEPs reach large audiences through their blogs, like Dan Hannan and Holger Krahmer. Is the fall in blogging a trend? No, I suspect we’re in a consolidation phase, where the MEPs who appreciate the medium carry on and others who like the idea of blogging give it a go, but where fewer experiment because it’s in vogue.

Another thought is that blogging is a way to kick start conversations on Twitter or Facebook. Which begs the question: if MEPs are not blogging but are instead using Twitter and Facebook, yet many are not engaging in dialogue, what are they using the tools for? Probably to post press releases, or to state that they’ll speak an event and other such information.

In conclusion, although the findings indicate that a number of MEPs are using the channels to engage, we should take them with a slight pinch of salt. Having said that, the trend is for more MEPs to start using the tools “properly” and I have no doubt that the more they see others gaining from engagement, the greater the appropriate adoption rates will become.

Equally, I have no doubt that I’ve missed some observations, so – as ever – please feel free to add, expand, agree or disagree in the comments below. Thanks.


February 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm 7 comments

How do MEPs use the web? FH’s 2nd European Parliament Digital Trends Survey

Our survey of the digital habits of Members of the European Parliament is now live at

The findings show that MEPs are increasingly using digital channels to reach out and to inform themselves on issues of importance. In parallel, the survey also indicates that personal contact and traditional media remain essential, highlighting to anyone engaging in communications that digital is not replacing established modes of communication, but living alongside them.

Here are ten key findings:

  1. 69% of MEPs use social networks whereas previously only 33% used social networks extensively.
  2. 29% write a personal blog, compared to 40% in 2009.
  3. 34% are on Twitter, up from 21%.
  4. 57% of Twitter users say the greatest benefit is ‘expressing views directly’ while only 28% chose ‘engaging with people through dialogue’.
  5. 30% of those who blog and 33% who tweet use two or more languages (English being the predominant second language).
  6. 99% use search engines every week, 93% every day.
  7. 80% are looking for simple summaries of issues when searching online.
  8. 78% think specific issue websites are important when informing their opinion on policy, more than the organisation sites.
  9. 90% name coverage in national media as an important source of information, 51% of those very important.
  10. 86% state that position papers from stakeholders are important, while personal contact with stakeholders is still the most important channel for interaction at 93%.

When we last conducted the survey, we were at a pivotal moment: digital in politics seemed to have gone mainstream following the French presidential campaign in 2007 and, in particular, Barack Obama’s successful campaign in 2007-08. Eighteen months on, given that enthusiasm from across the pond had abated and the European Parliament was no longer in election frenzy, we were being asked if 2009 had just been a blip. It’s great to have the figures to confirm that the trends we first detailed in 2009 have persisted, and that MEPs are increasingly connected.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be analysing a few of the findings in more detail e.g. the rise of Facebook vs. the fall in blogging. I hope many of you will be involved in the ensuing discussions, and please, fire away with comments and questions.


January 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm 7 comments

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.


September 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm 1 comment

Mapping the Euroblogosphere: what are the must-read EU political blogs?

Difficult question, one to which we would be tempted to answer: all of them. But as that wouldn’t be of much help, we’ve had a go at making our own selection of the must-read EU political blogs, also known as Euroblogs.

Inspired by previous attempts such as those of NoseMonkey, Jon Worth, the Bloggingportal and Lobby Planet, we’ve created Fleishman-Hillard’s own selection of Euroblogs in our brand new Netvibes page here, for anyone to follow with ease if you don’t do so already. Netvibes is a time-saving tool that allows you to see on one single web page the headlines of all your favourite websites.

We have chosen to classify the blogs in the following categories: journalists, citizens -blogs whose authors write in their personal capacity-, EU officials, Commissioners, MEPs, corporate, and collectively written blogs – including NGOs, think tanks and political parties. As Steffen explained last week, in the current state of the EU blogosphere there are not yet quite enough EU political blogs to make a classification by policy sector, but hopefully this is changing and we’ll soon be able to develop a parallel policy dashboard.

Beyond the author categories we have selected 10 must-read Euroblogs. What are the must-read Euroblogs? The longest-standing? The most read? The most quoted? The most controversial? The most productive? The English-speaking ones? Well, there is no magic formula. Our selection is a combination of objective criteria and insider knowledge of the blogging community. It’s a selection of some of the most emblematic Euroblogs.

Finally, in our selection of top EU political blogs, we have added the feeds of Bloggingportal and Blogactiv. The Bloggingportal’s team of volunteer editors selects the best EU-related blog posts amongst over 600 blogs. You can also subscribe by email to Bloggingportal’s weekly digest here. Taking a look at the articles posted on the blogging platform Blogactiv can also give you an indication of what the trending topics in the EU blogosphere are.

This Euroblog selection will evolve with time for two main reasons:

In short, this is work in progress so feel free to suggest edits or additions! We hope you will find it useful and that it will help you get more familiar with the Euroblogging community.


July 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm 9 comments

What did Pottering really say?

Pottering’s calm voice may be able to hide his emotions, but we found a nifty digital tool to unmask his true sentiments.

Wordle creates “beautiful word clouds” (their words, not ours) based on a text or website that one inputs. It identifies the most often-used words and makes them larger to show their repetition.

What did Pottering talk to the European Parliament about?

Parliamentarians favourite conversation topic

Parliamentarian's favourite conversation topic.

Public Affairs 2.0 should also face up to it’s own obsession. We clearly like the European Parliament as much as Mr Pottering, but the words ‘European’, ‘digital’, ‘public affairs’ are about the same size as Fleishman-Hillard.

FH talks about MEPs, European, Parliament and FH

FH talks about MEPs, European, Parliament and FH

European Parliament, digital and public affairs will get another tick in the word count next week when we publish a report on the use of digital tools by MEPs.

May 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm 1 comment

EP survey fever hits us (and may be you)

For those who have missed it, we’re conducting a survey of MEPs and their digital behaviour. We shall be launching the results on a dedicated micro-site in mid-May. Lots of interesting data (we are currently swimming in pivot tables) from the responses we’ve collated in recent weeks for both MEPs and their staff and the PA community in Brussels and elsewhere.

In case you are feeling that you just can’t wait another couple of weeks and you need a EU survey fix today check out EU Profiler

The survey seeks to tell you where you fit on the political group spectrum -for this former MEP staffer it underlined some of the voting tensions I have experienced in all the elections I have voted in. For my colleagues, there was something of shock that I was still where I started out on the political spectrum.


April 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

Which MEPs are Twittering? I know a few…

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:

  1. Graham Watson
  2. Matthias Groote
  3. Katrin Saks
  4. Benoit Hamon
  5. Eoin Ryan
  6. Neena Gill
  7. Arlene McCarthy
  8. Peter Skinner
  9. Jim Nicholson
  10. Mary Honeyball
  11. Andrew Duff
  12. Daniel Caspary
  13. Jules Maaten
  14. Jeanine Hennis
  15. Sophie in ‘t Veld
  16. Daniel Cohn-Bendit
  17. Åsa Westlund
  18. Anna Hedh
  19. Kathalijne Buitenweg
  20. Helga Truepel
  21. Colm Burke
  22. Joost Lagendijk
  23. Gunnar Hökmark
  24. Dagmar Roth-Behrendt
  25. Alexander Alvaro
  26. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis
  27. Richard Corbett
  28. Ed McMillan-Scott
  29. Rodi Kratsa
  30. Vincent Peillon
  31. Urszula Gacek
  32. Jean luc Bennahmias
  33. Catherine Trautmann
  34. Bernadette Vergnaud

If you have come across any, please let us know. We shall update this list as we get new names.


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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.”

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March 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm 12 comments

Stubb invites open season on toys

Alex Stubb MEP’s post of yesterday invites blog readers to comment on his initial thoughts on the newly proposed revision of the toys safety directive. Will any industry actors take the challenge on this most engaging of issues?

Three challenges for industry actors spring to mind:

1) Who will take responsibility for posting the comments?

The audience, an MEP, is clearly a government relations one. Yet the channel (online) is often under the remit of the corp. comms team, who have a different set of priorities and often won’t see the audience as one that merits attention.

While enlightened companies are increasingly joined up in their thinking (see our post on this), there are those who still believe public affairs is just good old one-on-one meetings and only that. Shame, really.

2)What will industry actors choose to say?

Clearly a post that consists of your position paper is not likely to endear you to the MEP or the blog’s readership. Save the position paper for the one-on-one meeting or the overflowing inbox of Mr. Stubb. In order to really use this communications channel to its full potential, all actors need to be honest about the interest they represent (as always), provide commentary or reflection on the issues raised by the blog’s author and be ready to engage in an open online debate.

3) Will industry be too scared to engage in an open debate on an MEP blog? 

The fear of open debate may prove to be the biggest barrier. Just imagine, a nasty NGO may make a comment in response.

A few thoughts to balance this quite rational fear. As long as the original comment from industry follows our advice in point 2, we think that you will win brownie points from the MEP for being both open (see Brussels transparency debate) and for commenting (which blogger doesn’t like to see a comment of any sort on the blog?). The blogosphere also has a tendency to self-regulate, so outright attacks from Mr. Nasty on your organisation and its views are only likely to provoke indignation from the MEP blogger and potentially responses in your defence from other blog readers.  The rules that apply to contributions to any kind of debate apply, follow them and you should be win more than you lose from this engagement.

Will anyone take the challenge and see this as a way of getting its views to the top of Mr. Stubb’s intray? We shall of course watch what happens with interest.

In any case, what the post does show is that Brussels public affairs practitioners should be monitoring MEP blogs for their views on issues that affect their organisations. They may see new threats emerge or indeed identify allies that they did not know existed. Another example? New blogger on the block Bill Newton-Dunn MEP posted about aviation issues just last week. Not his natural stomping ground at all.

February 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm 1 comment

Ask silly questions in Brussels, get silly answers

An interesting article in this week’s Economist Charlemagne column on moves to increase the use of the public opinion polling comes to the opposite conclusion of our own thoughts on the same matter last year (when the move was mentioned in a Wallstrom communication). Perhaps journalists are more cynical than the bright eyed bushy tailed consultants round these parts? Or maybe we got misty eyed about the public affairs opportunities it could present , rather than distracted by the potentially opaque impact it may have on the EU’s often overplayed democratic deficit? (granted we were in DC at the time)

In any case, we too can suffer from a healthy dose of scepticism sometimes. We often get approached by organisations with regard to polling Brussels public affairs audiences for their views. Some want us to undertake a “perception audit” on their behalf, others want to sell us their own ability to poll MEPs through digital means no less. Some not too misty eyed thoughts follow.

Taking the first case, “perception audits” of Brussels public affairs can of course be extremely useful as a benchmarking exercise in measuring how effective your communication activities have been. Unfortunately, in many cases the “perception audit” is sought for all the wrong reasons. The objective is often unclear. Sometimes it is merely something to do for a lack of a clear direction. On other occasions because someone needs management “buy-in” for a course of action they already know to be correct.

If objectives are unclear so are the questions. When the perception of your organisation begins with how you conduct your perception audit this can be disastrous. Polling irrelevant MEPs on subjects that don’t interest them is only likely to lead to your reputation diving to new depths rather than ascending to dizzy new heights. Of course, unclear objectives and opaque questions lead only to confusing answers that move you along not one jot. We would advise against.

In the second case, polling MEPs sounds like a great idea. Especially if one had a panel of 100 MEPs all ready and willing to answer any questions asked, as one vendor has promised us recently. However, here our scepticism kicks in. Perhaps it’s just the issues we work on but in most cases our client’s issues are likely to be top of mind for anywhere between 5-15 MEPs. For the other 770-odd, it’s largely a matter of following the voting list. As Parliament is reliant on MEPs that specialise, do we need to know what a representative sample of MEPs think? The same holds true for corporate reputation raising. Do we care if we raise the reputation of our clients with decision-makers who are unlikely to ever take decisions affecting them? Probably not.

Interestingly for a company that does consumer PR as well as public affairs, MEPs do of course provide an interesting pan-European if somewhat unrepresentative sample of “opinion formers” or “elite consumers”. Perhaps our colleagues would like to survey them over their preference of washing powder? We can recommend a vendor who does it digitally at a reasonable price.

February 26, 2008 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Should we all be going local? Focusing on public affairs’ triple bottom line as elections approach

Whether you are an MEP or a public affairs practitioner, after a while in the Brussels Bubble, there is a tendency to go native. Arcane, albeit clearly interesting, discussions about the boiling point of paint, the details of inter-institutional agreements or the latest spat between Commission services can take over from what real people (i.e. not us) care about.

Thankfully, elections are the pin-prick that our bubble occasionally requires. And while there are those who lament a lack of turnover in certain national delegations, we think it’s worthwhile considering what the upcoming elections in 2009 could mean for public affairs tactics in Brussels and how digital may help us be better advocates in the next year or two.

Firstly, there is of course the need to take into account in your current outreach that there may be members of the European Parliament or Commission that don’t intend to return come late 2009. If your issue is not likely to see its conclusion until post-elections, do you wish to spend your limited resources on people that won’t be around when the decision is taken?

Secondly, the elections are likely to see MEPs thinking more and more of their home base, as they worry about their own jobs as much as those of their constituents. This will not only shape their behavior here in Brussels (especially vis-a-vis their national confrères) but increase the likelihood that they spend their weekends gallivanting around god-forsaken parts of their home region.

As such, PA practitioners would be advised to think about recalibrating their own activities to take this into account. We’ve come up with what we may call PA’s triple bottom line for making your arguments have an impact:

  1. Principles – you should act in this way because it supports your stated political principles
  2. Policy – you should act in this way because it will get you to your stated policy objective
  3. People – you should act in this way because it will benefit the people that matter to you (your party, the people who select you or of course the people who elect you)

All successful arguments in Brussels tend to hit a sweet point somewhere between the three. But perhaps in an election year, the X on the map moves a little more toward the third?

Google Maps and MEPs

So where does digital fit into all this? Well, how about Google Maps. Ok, it’s been around a while. But it could be a useful little tool to help us visualise the local connections of Brussels based actors with MEPs. We’ve started to use it to give a visualisation (pictures always speak louder than Excel sheets) of those members, on the right committees with the right interests, who could be supportive not only because they happen to come from the right country but also the right region or town for a particular industry or company. Sometimes one forgets that industry has a local impact on local communities as well. Even MEPs come from somewhere and it’s surprising how often they come from somewhere near you.

It’s amazing what a simple tool such as this can do. Once you get down to this level of granularity, you can start thinking about targeted communications at a local level in support of your Brussels advocacy. How about getting that MEP to meet your workers (read voters), helping to get him some local media coverage in the run up to the elections, motivating local influencers to express an opinion or indeed getting a few hundred people from where he lives to write him letters.

As MEPs’ attentions return home, so should ours. Digital can help us think about it.

February 18, 2008 at 4:53 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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