June 30, 2010
Some people will tell you there are scores of influential policy bloggers in Brussels. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. There’s an active throng of smart and passionate Eurobloggers who write about the EU and a number of issues surrounding it. Most are aggregated on bloggingportal.eu and many of them are influential: some are being treated in line with members of the press and even being mentioned by Commissioners. But most influential Eurobloggers are individual citizens who write to raise awareness of issues they care about. They occasionally write about policies, but their primary aim is not to influence a policy area.
That’s the dividing line. An influential policy blogger is an authority on a policy area who has a professional interest in it. They represent an organisation – be it a single issue pressure group or a global corporation – that is one of many stakeholders on a set of policy areas and present that organisation’s positions in blog format. The level of expertise and relevance of the blog is such that it is read by all or at least most other relevant stakeholders including policy makers and key influencers. At this point, the blog can arguably be called an “influential policy blog” (although I’m not going to define influence scientifically.) How many are there in Brussels? Far fewer than I can count on one hand.
Why not? The old “policy makers don’t use the web” chestnut certainly won’t hold any longer. What’s more, it’s advocacy of the most open and transparent kind; and it allows organisations to move beyond purely focusing on key policy areas to engaging on broader issues and build relationships in the process. Plus the flexibility of the medium allows them to enhance their advocacy by producing an ongoing narrative in line with events rather than the “all your eggs in one basket” approach which face-to-face meetings or a one-off position paper demand.
So why the poor uptake? Three broad reasons, I’d say:
- Sometimes, the sensitive nature of their industry may force PA professionals’ hand. Fair enough, although I suspect they won’t be able to keep quiet forever.
- Other times, it’s just a question of sticking to what they know best – and frankly, who can blame them? It’s worked for years and blogging is both time-consuming and a little frightening. Presenting your views to the world rather than a narrow set of key stakeholders: why bother unless someone is twisting your arm?
- Communicators (internal and agency) haven’t done enough to help organisations make the shift. The basic sell is: this is not a fancy add-on but a basic publication tool which, used well, has the potential to improve your reach and influence. Too often, the sell has been tactical i.e. selling “blogging” per se as something near-revolutionary rather than what it can do. We for one are doing our best to change that, but it won’t happen overnight.
Over to you. Do you agree with the premise: are influential policy bloggers indeed far and few between in Brussels? Is that perhaps a good thing?! And the reasons I cite for the scarcity? Keen to hear your thoughts.