The Rise of Digital Advocacy in the EU

October 8, 2015
The Rise of Digital Advocacy in the EU

“I don’t see myself as a lobbyist on EU regulations. I consider my job as a corporate diplomat, someone who needs to shape the discussion on the big environmental topics”, said a senior Brussels representative of an energy technology company the other day.

Those who work in sales have a fairly specific goal: sell more products.

In public affairs, however, there is a tougher challenge:
the “product” being sold is concepts, technologies and strategic plans.
In short: ideas, to gain influence.

The question most commonly asked here is, “how do I know if my communication efforts are going to pay off, in terms of time and effort invested?”

The tech world loves to boast of its data-driven mindset by saying “data beats opinion”.

Politics, and its corollary, public affairs, has for too long been a soft art where subjective impressions, small sample sizes and personal contacts drove the analysis. It was hard to imagine, until very recently, how public social networks and information analytics could apply to European affairs or politics.

No more: with the rise of software apps that aid understanding of mass-scale online discussions, communication experts can easily find the most influential journalists, bloggers or activists to pitch their story to, rather than distributing a one-size-fits-all press release.

Experts can now target their activities,
such as looking at data from the European Parliament and the Council
to decide which politician and MEP they want to engage with,
based on their voting patterns.

Political intelligence is a fascinating use case, but is far from the only one in the digital advocacy toolkit.

“I started using Twitter almost exclusively for advocacy purposes, and our efforts didn’t stop there. We’ve produced a few video interviews and discussions with MEPs and Commissioners, which gained traction with the right audience. That led to us being taken more seriously, getting invited to background briefings, and advancing our access and influence”, said the expert quoted above.

According to the Digital Advocacy Trends in 2015 survey, the top two goals of the mainly Brussels, London and Paris-based respondents was to promote their organisation’s views and to engage better with policy makers.

They claimed to achieve this by using social media and strategies like sharing infographics, sending out newsletters or producing videos. Over three quarters of the respondents expect their digital advocacy spending to increase in 2016.

There is no denying that the biggest change in advocacy practices
in the past 5-10 years has arisen from the growth
in the importance and pervasiveness of digital communications.

New skills need to be learned. New measuring techniques and analysis tools need to be developed. To recognise this growing interest, the Public Affairs Council is organising the 2nd edition of the Digital Advocacy Summit in Brussels on 21 October.

(the original of this article appeared on on 7 Oct 2015)