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Online EU affairs communication: where are you, creative people


This article was first published on the Online EU Training blog


Where are the people who understand what “online communication” or “digital tools” mean in Brussels? It seems that EU institutions and the majority of lobby organisations are stuck with Web 1.0, or let’s be generous, Web 1.1.


Is the situation really that bad? After all, EU institutions do use Facebook and Eutube, Commissioners have blogs and the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) even uses Twitter from time to time and most public and private lobby bodies are present on the internet. A Brussels consultancy has released a Blogger Influence Index. The EU and its stakeholders do seem up to the challenges of modern communication!


Well, they are not. The average video view count on Eutube is 2000, which is what a bored teenager in rural India can easily achieve with a moderately funny recording. Commissioners’ blogs have an average view count of 500, which is far less than the number of people working in those Commissioners’ very own directorates (where are the”interested citizens”?). The number of EPSO followers on Twitter is 38 (!), that is, less than the followers of a local journalist in Warsaw. Moreover, the above blogger study isheavily criticized for its methodology and poor quality, not to mention that blogs themselves are only a tiny part of a professional online presence that should rather be looked at.


What about embassies, industry associations like that of sugar manufacturers or the pharmaceutical industry? Same diagnosis: though applying 21st century tools, their messages, content, layout, approach and mindset is way too 20th century. One-way, top-down, no-interaction, do-not-challenge-my-authority, no-targeting-by-visitor-groups type of pages. Sad.


There are, of course, promising exceptions such as Greenpeace or even EPSO’s very own Facebook page – far from perfect but a good start nevertheless. What are the key principles then? What should these companies, organisations, entities do to be successful with their online audience (who are, in fact, very real “offline” people)?


Very briefly: give value to the visitors (offer “infotainment” videos, easy-to-read downloadable E-books), start a conversation (Facebook dialogues, e-mail newsletters with valuable content), provide them useful data, charts, info (we all love charts, dont we?), interactive gadgets, widgets and applications (my personal favourite: the gobbledygook meter – time to create its EU version!), and talk “with” them instead of “to” them so they give their trust and attention, and maybe, just maybe, web surfers will not click away forever after getting lost and frustrated. There are hundreds of techniques to apply and principles to keep in mind – which will hopefully be the topic of an in-depth study or maybe even a book we plan for sometime next year.


Until then, let’s hope that EU affairs specialists start opening their eyes to the paradigm shift in communications. Remember: nobody is interested in dinosaurs any more.


[UPDATE: while #EPSO does have a very limited Twitter presence, the tag #EU_Careers has 2384 followers]


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