Posts tagged ‘politics’

Interactive Medvedev

I’ve just watched President Medvedev’s first podcast. A picture speaks a thousand words and here’s a man who wants to demonstrate his importance. He has three computer screens, two mice (one for each hand?!) and more phones than I could count. Disappointingly there was no sign of the red telephone

Medvedev follows other leaders in bypassing mainstream media to talk directly to the nation and show their more cuddly side. Britain’s politicians have been running neck and neck in who’s more interactive. Tony Blair became the first PM to produce a podcast which he made with comedian Eddy Izzard and David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservatives, grabbed attention with his webcameron in 2006.

Britain’s royals, could perhaps be credited with starting this tradition thanks to their annual King or Queen’s speech which has become a much commented-on institution.

Good luck to President Medvedev, in future posts and in answering all those phones whilst keeping an eye on three screens and navigating his two mice…


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October 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

Obama and the iPhone

Image representing IPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

There is little doubt that if queues to vote for the Democrats on November 4 are comparable to queues on the release of the iPhone, then Obama will be a happy man.  Last week Obama’s team announced that the link between Obama and the iPhone ran deeper, with the creation of an application for the iPhone which encourages friends and families to vote.

The imaginatively-named ‘Obama 08 Phone App’ has a ‘Call Friends’ option that prioritizes contacts by key battleground states and asks users to call their friends in those states to vote for Obama. The software also enables users to receive updates about the campaign and set reminders to call friends on Election Day. Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign explained, “A contact has a lot more value when it is from someone you know than when it is from some random person,” said Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign.

Amid such talk, it is easy to forget that the subject of the conversation is political campaigning. Indeed, categories such as “Not Interested,” “Considering Obama” and “Already Voted,” are more suggestive of an online dating tool. Herein lies the ingenuity of ‘Obama 08 Phone App’: the obvious question as to why friends would want to sort their contacts into anything other than alphabetical lists is lost in the originality of the application.  The software plugs into the millions of American iPhone lovers and Obama supporters in the hope that the passion for the former might be mirrored in support for latter on November 4.

Obama’s use of digital tools provides interesting insight into political campaigning in the 21st Century. His website has links to no less than 16 social networking tools, as well as the now almost standard TV channel. Whilst not all of the platforms are likely to appeal to the European voter (indeed British iPhone lovers are unlikely to fall for a ‘Brown 08 Phone App’), the US election does offer innovative ideas for politicians on this side of the Atlantic.


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October 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm 1 comment

Politicians lie: it’s a fact

The wind blows, it rains in Brussels and politicians lie.  These are facts. While we remain powerless to do much about the first two, a US website has launched an attack on lying politicians. The St Petersburg Times of Florida and Congressional Quarterly of Washington, DC – two of America’s most trusted, independent newsrooms – created, a fact-checking website that helps voters separate fact from fiction in the claims made during the 2008 presidential campaign. The PolitiFact team checks the accuracy of speeches, TV ads, interviews and other candidate claims and communications, rating them on the ‘truth-o-meter.’ In the event that a politician should, shock-horror, make a u-turn on a particular policy, there is the ‘flip-o-meter,’ with increasing degrees of flipping leading to a ‘full-flop.’ A page dedicated to the candidates collates the data, showing the degree of truthfulness of the individual candidates.

Currently, Obama seems to be running away from McCain in the honesty rankings, with most of Obama’s statements underpinned by some grain of truth and only once were his ‘pants on fire.’ McCain, meanwhile, must be running out of pants to wear, with six fires to his pants and a roughly equal number of true and false statements. is an interesting addition to the cynical world of politics. Bringing political statements under scrutiny could not only increase public confidence but also make politicians more aware of the need for consistency and truthfulness. Lying politicians might be a fact, but it is certainly not a fact that we should accept as readily as the weather.


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October 1, 2008 at 5:44 pm 1 comment

Let them eat cake!

Given that the roof fell in on the Strasbourg Parliament building over the summer, MEPs supporting the one seat campaign have staged an event in the European Parliament to protest about the fact that they have to trek down to Strasbourg where they all don hard hats (see video above). Laughing at how they look aside, we have a feeling that despite the continued protest the French will be quite prepared to let them continue to eat cake.


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September 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm 2 comments

Internet has 8 times the influence of newspapers on Europeans

Our digital practice in Europe has recently launched the results of a piece of research conducted in France, Germany and the UK with consumers on the impact of the use of the internet on their decisions. The Digital Influence Index that results uses both the time spent on different media and the influence consumers say it has on the decisions they take to come to an index that we shall be using to track the growing power of the internet over time. The study was undertaken by FH with Harris Interactive.

Unsurprisingly, the study comes to the conclusion that the internet trumps both print and broadcast media in terms of the influence it has on consumer decisions. Clearly, there is a lot more to the study than that, so click here for the social media release with lots of further info, pics, speeches, exec. summaries and media coverage.

While the study focuses for the most part on decisions consumers take, rather than political decisions, it does address the latter. Interestingly our bods come to the conclusion that political decisions by citizens are less likely to be influenced by the internet than other consumer related decisions.

Having said this, it is clear, at least for me, that the study underlines the potential impact of digital on public affairs and politics.

1. The influence of the internet scores highly (61%) in terms of citizen behaviour of campaigning on an issue. This compares favourably to campaiging for a political party (45%) and voting in an election and way above voting in an election (18%). Speculating wildly, one might argue that this confirms the issue driven nature of the internet rather than the party political. This underlines the fact that on our issues, Brussels public affairs people might find rich pickings in finding and mobilising people around issues online. It should be our natural hunting ground for third party advocates. (see p. 11 executive summary)

2. Political parties/candidates need to be on the net. While the influence of the net on votes in elections may be lower than on other forms of political activity (see point 1. above), in terms of influence different kinds of sites have content from “sponsored sites” (i.e. party/candidates) scores highest of all 61% and non-sponsored sites score second highest 42%. (see p.12 executive summary). This suggests that the politically interested are going online to get their information and that more candidates/parties should invest online to get their message out to their core support – more work for Jon perhaps?

We hope to have some more comments from the people behind the research on here soon, in the meantime your views on the findings are most welcome.

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June 30, 2008 at 11:39 am 2 comments

Newton-Dunn proves trips to the EP in Strasbourg aren’t all bad

Sometimes we have to come down to Strasbourg for the European Parliament. And this month its unfortunately our turn on the FH roster. Thankfully there are some things that make it all worthwhile, other than revisiting pubs we passed far too much time in during our ERASMUS year. In between sitting through debates on the alleged evils of bio, sorry Claude, agro-fuels, we managed to have an interesting chinwag with one of the latest MEPs to enter the blogosphere for a chat about e-campaiging and the forthcoming elections; Bill Newton-Dunn of the UK’s Liberal Democrats.

There are lots of things to like about Bill. For one, he seems to be as addicted to his CrackBerry as we are. He also has started to post about the things that catch his attention and does so from a personal perspective. Today he was enthused by a bunch of doctors who wanted to inform him over lunch about organ harvesting in China (Bill, we await the promised post) and exudes a boyish enthusiasm for “issues” that restores one’s sometimes diminished faith in MEPs.

More importantly for this blog, Bill believes that the internet is the future for political campaigining at a European level. Hence the beginnings of his blog. Ok, so he admits that his biggest challenge is the ability to ignore his assistant’s demands to deal with urgent Committee issues and write the post that is buzzing around his head. But he does allow comments, unlike some on the PES side, and would clearly be stoked should anyone, including industry, want to engage in a debate with him online. (We can attest to his willingness in this regard, as the only reason we met him was because of a random email exchange about his blog). He also admits that he has a lot to learn about using the internet to reach out to voters, while recognising that the medium is perfect for cashstrapped and issue heavy European elections.

In any case, Bill’s clearly on the right path. A new website is being developed by a US based developer that he met through colleagues on the Hill. He promises that it’s going to take the best aspects from some of the presidential nominees sites in this primary season, while admitting that somewhat unfortunately for a LibDem he likes Republican Mike Huckabee’s site best. It’s great to find an MEP who has seen what’s happening on politics on the internet and is willing to give it a go. Even better that he wants to encourage others to follow him online.

P.S. Is it us or does the Strasbourg Hilton resemble a motorway service station?

April 23, 2008 at 12:36 am 2 comments

Bombing for dummies on Facebook, Gaza limited edition

Shai and Batya Mesisenberg from Petah Tikva are the founders of one of the groups which support the city of Sderot, in the Gaza Strip. Sderot is daily bombed by Qassam rockets from Hamas and assists to the massive Israeli army’s raids. Weary by the non-intervention of their politicians, Shai and Batya decided to show on their group, with the involuntary help of the NASA, how to make rockets*. Instructions are available through a link to the Nasa Rocket Science 101.
We have recently seen how Facebook can become a parallel field for electoral campaigns – see post “Return to work (or Facebook as it’s now called”) – and in a democratic environment this is just an evidence of how politicians need to undertake new paths to communicate with their audience. No worries, if the message is, with the due variation, something common like “Vote for me and my party”. One may think that this new kind of communication could represent a new way for a closer relationship between politicians and common people. Especially in some areas where the political debate is polluted by a distorted information and a rough social environment.

What Shai and Batya Mesisenberg are indirectly saying is that there’s an extreme need for real and concrete responses from politicians and when they don’t give them, they create an empty space that people try to fulfill by themselves, which is something already happening also in some democratic and developped countries like Italy – see post “Italy’s comic turn”.
This sort of “Bombing for dummies” digital handbook** should not only alarm for its content itself (which could also be read as a self-defence attempt), but it should lead to a deeper consideration about what takes people to bypass politics and politicians. It would be insane if the bridge between reality and the political debate was built by strong but blind and angry forces.

*See The Jerusalem Post of 11th February.

**The group’s description says “It cannot be so difficult: if those retards from the Gaza Strip can do it then so can you”.

March 3, 2008 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

Why is their politics cooler than ours?

Barack Obama definitely has the wind in his sails as he heads towards a possible (probable?) Democratic nomination. And an increasingly cool wind it is too. The latest foray of pop into politics sees hip-hop grandee,, front man for the Black Eyed Peas and producer of the Pussycat Dolls, lend his voice in support of Obama in the way he knows best; a pop video. The combination of Obama’s spoken words and singing raises the hairs on the back of the neck, recalling the great black-and-white orators of yesteryear, King and Kennedy, and bringing Obama a mantle of cool to which European politicians can only aspire. 13 million people have already seen this video, with one million a day logging on. What MEP would not give his or her eye teeth for that level of exposure?

For cool, also read sexy. Obama-Girl’s song “I have a crush on Obama” also gained six million hits or so on YouTube. Perhaps we will see “I have a crush on Barroso” by Barroso-Girl sometime soon, but somehow I doubt it.

As we head towards the dog-end of the second Bush administration, and as the US election battle becomes the greatest show on earth, there is no doubt that their politics is much cooler than ours. Annoying, but true.

February 15, 2008 at 3:23 pm 1 comment

Does blogging matter? The world has it say and we have ours

Earlier this week BBC World’s Have Your Say Forum chaired an interesting radio and online debate entitled; “Do political bloggers make a difference?” Certainly the comments in the forum represent a mixed bag. On the one hand we find the likes of Lamii Kpargoi, Coordinator for Initiative for Mobile Training of Community Radio in Liberia, who feel that blogs played an important role in drawing the attention of the world to “the situation in [Liberia] during the tyranny of Charles Taylor.” But on the other hand we come across Dwight, who explains that “As much as I hate to admit it, political bloggers rarely make a difference. I have no illusions that my blog is changing any opinions. The people who agree with me occasionally write and tell me, “I agree”. The people who don’t agree, rarely get past the opening paragraph before they move on.”

Relating this to Brussels, the influence of blogs is one question we are increasingly having amongst ourselves and with others. There are a number of points that we keep coming back to that we thought might be worth sharing:

1. Blogs are helping to shape the communications environment in which work

Data from the likes of Ipsos MORI suggests that 1 in 5 Europeans are indeed reading blogs (Italy apparently comes top with 27% of Italians having read blogs). And while we have (currently) no data to quantify the numbers of policymakers, stakeholders and political media in Brussels reading blogs on a daily basis, if such actors reflect the population then blogs as a form of communication could be influential in shaping the debate around issues in the future. The number of journalists, Commissioners and MEPs that are blogging themselves would suggest that there at least some of the same are reading blogs. (Yes, we know, we need “facts, only facts” in terms of the levels of such readership. We are working on it.)

2. Blogs can be used to amplify your message

Monitoring blogs will of course only tell you what’s going on, not what to do about it. However, it has already struck us (and thankfully some of the people we work with) that in some cases bloggers focused on specific issues of relevance to the policy debate may be fertile ground for what is known as “Online Editorial Outreach” for public affairs purposes. It’s the online equivalent of media relations with some subtle but important differences. Bloggers of course are not journalists…and there are some best practices we have developed as a company that take this into account.

In any case, seeking out expert bloggers, often with decent day jobs, that can amplify an organisation’s message online could prove useful in a public affairs context where policymakers and those that influence them go online to find information and insights. Noise in the blogosphere may become as much a part of the mood music to policy debates in Brussels as articles in the FT. Is it going to change a vote, probably no. Is it going to help make people more receptive to a message, perhaps yes.

3. Blogger influence is more likely to be about quality rather than quantity

When thinking about monitoring or indeed outreach, it’s the quality of the bloggers and their posts that is important rather than the sheer numbers of readers. Who are they, what do they know, how often do they post, who comments and who links to them? All questions to ask. On some of the obscure EU issues we love, the numbers are not likely to be great but the influence may be.

To conclude on the BBC World piece, the advent of the blog does not mean the end of BBC correspondents like John Simpson covertly walking the streets of Africa canvassing opinion. However, his back story may equally come from what has been written by Africans on their own blogs. This of course happened in the case of Burma recently, where the only outlet for many of the individuals involved in the crisis was their blogs. News came out through people involved on the ground and was relayed through the long tail of social media.

In all communications activities, whether you are the Director General of the BBC or the public affairs practitioner in Brussels, the online environment (blogs included) have an important role to play in how people are communicating with each other. It would be remiss of us not to take them into account in what we do.

January 16, 2008 at 5:25 pm 1 comment

Essex CC, Facebook and all politics being local

After reading the story in every publication we looked at this week (well, PA Newsletter and PR Week to be precise), we thought it was about time we gave a nod towards the folks at Essex County Council in the UK. Their comms team have enlisted the power of social networking site Facebook in their quest to oppose the closure of the county’s post offices. We can only wish the two hundred odd supporters of the group well in their campaign. Although the tone of some of their comments suggests that they are not optimistic of success.

Whilst browsing the group’s page, we noticed that a related group is “I don’t live in London, I live in Essex” (13,000 members as opposed to the London network’s 1.7 million). Despite the fact that the UK boasts the highest number of members of Facebook after the US and Canada, we wonder how far the ability of members to join a geographical network with which they identify inhibits the use of the platform for political activism and companies marketing to consumers in Europe. In both cases, the ability to tap into Facebook users in a specific locality may be of great interest. For example, MEPs from Yorkshire may like to tap into the whole county in the run up to 2009, while local networks would have a greater allure to businesses wishing to provide local services or goods. It strikes us that the other tools such as the MeetUp site used by Beppe Grillo in Italy earlier this year may have certain advantages for certain types of local action.

Facebook is also clearly aware of some of the needs out there that are currently not addressed. Facebook groups that anyone can set up, such as the “we live in Essex” mob, may help and you can of course request that geographical networks be created. The site now also allows you to create pages for local businesses, products and indeed politicians. In addition, the Facebook blog promises new language versions, which presumably will also encourage non-native English speakers to request networks for their part of the world.

In Europe, currently the UK has 14 different regional networks, while users in other European countries can only belong to national networks such as “Belgium”. For now, it seems Belgians can at least live together in the virtual world.

November 14, 2007 at 2:53 pm 1 comment

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