Survey: National angle and new media tools key to EU communication

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Finding the right balance between the Brussels and national perspectives is crucial when communicating on EU policies, while blogs and video clips are becoming an increasingly popular means of communicating online, indicates a EURACTIV survey.

The survey was presented at a conference organised by Kellen Europe on 28 February entitled ‘Euroconference: Taking your association to the next level’. It revealed that an increasing proportion of stakeholders at EU level are employing innovative means of communication – including online video, blogs and RSS feeds – to complement their traditional methods. 

Notably, federations believe online videos offer more added value (45%) than blogs or content syndication options like automated text inclusion or RSS feeds. Despite this, while over three quarters (80%) of the respondents claimed to be familiar with online videos, just 12% use them for external communication purposes. However, a further 28% revealed their intention to use them “this year or later”. 

The results also reveal a surge in the popularity of blogs. Their use by federations tripled in just one year between 2006 and 2007 and 32% now believe blogs give added value to their communication strategies (see EURACTIV Links Dossier). Not only were 60% of the respondents familiar with blogs, but almost half (47%) read them occasionally and a further 8% do so frequently (another 5% write their own). 

Content syndication options are less widely employed by federations, with just 16% of those asked indicating that they already use automated text inclusion or RSS feeds. This may change in future as revealingly, a fifth intends to use them “this year or later”. Just over a third believes that RSS offers added value to their strategies. 

Most federations (72%) prefer to develop a balanced focus between Brussels and national capitals when raising awareness of the policy issues that concern them, the research shows. Participants overwhelmingly emphasised (93%) the vital importance of having an updated website in communicating with stakeholders, and half of the respondents employ consultants to help them get their positions across. 

Though the websites of the Commission and Parliament are an important source of EU policy information for federations, the results also revealed that national newspapers and websites still have a huge role to play in disseminating such information. Excluding EURACTIV, BBC Online is the single most viewed website on EU affairs, while the popularity of Google News is growing fast. 

Finally, the results stressed the importance of multilingual coverage, with over half of the federations contacted identifying the choice of languages as the most valuable feature of EURACTIV’s multi-country network. 

EURACTIV PR Director Dan Luca said "approximately one third of federations consider new media tools an added value to their external communication". 

Nele Devolder of Kellen Europe said that associations are aware that "issues are more and more global and migrate from one continent to another," adding "this applies to regulatory and legislative issues as well as innovation." Thus members of an association "need to be aware of developments in global issues, even though they might act at local level". 

Goranka Krošelj, responsible for relations with the European Parliament at the Permanent Representation of Slovenia to the EU, told the Euroconference that "challenges to representation in a permanent representation are completely different" to those of industry associations or companies. "Trying to influence national authorities is vital," because as the use of the co-decision procedure grows, so does the "need to get your voice heard in the member states," she said. 

Daniel Karam, director of EICTA, which represents ICT and consumer electronics industries in Europe, said "the need for broad industry consensus can lead to watered down positions," which is "a serious problem" as "Brussels is not going to get simpler any time soon". He warned "it is easy to be mistaken for another association in Brussels" as "there are hundreds of them, often with the same or similar acronyms". 

Bill Duncan, conference moderator and managing partner at Advizors.eu, said it is crucial to provide data "if you want to go beyond an opinion" and "prove your point" when compiling a policy position, adding that organisations such as Business Europe are "too broad" and "don't tell the Commission anything it doesn't already know". 

Delia Villagrossa, a senior advisor at WWF's European office, stressed the importance of providing "clear information and not just opinions." She said the challenge at EU level is "getting the right legislation," while at national level it is "making sure it is implemented". 

Sylvain Lhôte, EU affairs director at Borealis, a plastics (polyolefin) company, said "the challenge for a medium-sized company is to chart a route through the cloud of actors" at EU level. "Brussels is not the EU," he added, outlining changes to representation at EU level which mean "Brussels is the sum of agreements that are being implemented at national level".

The 'Federation Survey 2008', conducted by EURACTIV in conjunction with Kellen Europe, was carried out online in summer 2007. While it was open to all 27 EU member states, it should be noted that the survey's results are only indicative and a majority of the 294 respondents were nationals of the EU 15. 

The EU institutions are often perceived as being too remote from the lives of the citizens they serve, and the internet is considered by all stakeholders as a valuable tool to bring the activities of the bloc closer to its residents (EURACTIV 27/02/08). 

The Commission published its new internet strategy, which seeks to engage citizens by communicating EU activities over the Web, in December 2007. It also launched a 'Communicating Europe in Partnership' initiative in October 2007 aimed at boosting cooperation between the EU institutions and national governments in communicating EU policies. 

  • EURACTIV will continue to carry out surveys on a variety of topics throughout the year. To consult our previous surveys, please click here

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