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FH Brussels goes digital over lunch
Sometimes even Brussels public affairs consultants let their hair down and forget about comitology, co-decision and Commission communications.
After a hectic but hugely successful autumn, our weekly staff meeting today saw the unveiling of our latest digital project over some fine Indian food from a local Brussels takeaway. (Apologies if you were in line at the same place as our rather large order was bagged up and delivered.)
Wii has arrived in our office. You have to feel that life may never be the same again. Some of us may be looking for additional excuses to be late home or be here early. We may also see a sharp increase across all consultants in timesheet entries under the “digital practice group” activity code.
One key learning from today’s initiation was that the digital and real worlds connect but are not necessarily always aligned. In the virtual world, I am all muscle, play a vicious backhand return and have a habit of jumping ten foot into the air at the most inopportune moments. Our former real world UK junior tennis champ possesses none of these virtual skills.
October 24, 2008
Some of the weightiest legislative dossiers of the current Commission may still be under discussion in Parliament and Council, but another Commissioner jumped ship today in the shape of UK Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
According to reports, Mandelson was unable to hide his joy at returning to the UK Cabinet. You may recall that Mandelson’s first stint as the UK’s industry minister was cut short in 1998 when he resigned following the disclosure that he accepted a home loan from a cabinet colleague to buy a house. His position in Cabinet did not afford one of the grace and favour homes available to others in government.
One wonders therefore whether he’d chuckle at what Google through up in its ads at the end of the Guardian’s online article on his return to Cabinet. Apparently, Mandelson should have no problem finding “Government Homes With Zero Money Down”.
October 3, 2008
Leading up to last week’s vote in the European Parliament of the Telecoms Package, it was striking to see the myriad of digital advocacy tools that were used by a group of NGOs called ‘La Quadrature du Net/Squaring the Net’. To safeguard the openness of internet and to prevent the insertion of the so called graduated response (or 3 strikes and you’re out) ‘La Quadrature du Net” put together an impressive online campaign that included:
- A campaign wiki allows you to collaborate in the campaign – all the information related to the campaign was put on a wiki on their website that allows you to see their recommended voting list, download tools to help you contact MEPs, standard letter templates, information about the campaign and MEPs and the ability of course to add your own user generated content
- A simple but effective website includes a blog, newsletter subscription, RSS feeds and a press review to keep you coming back
- Search engine – if you searched for Telecoms Package on Google last week, La Quadrature du Net came up first
- Online banners and blogs – the blog posts in favor of amendments supported by La Quadrature du Net exploded – again all downloadable from their website
All in all, if you were the assistant responsible for briefing your MEP ahead of the vote and looking for information online you would have probably found their information. If you were a supporter, there’s all you need to get you started on advocating on the issue. Although one does not necessarily has to agree with their point of view, La Quadrature du Net did manage to create a lot of noise in very short period of time and their campaign is an excellent example about how to use digital.
Perhaps an example that digital industries can learn from?
October 2, 2008
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.
September 25, 2008
Expanding our reading beyond our traditional EN sources, we note that the use of Google Adwords for political campaigns has caught the attention of our Italian friends at left leaning daily la Repubblica. Surely our MEPs, Italian or otherwise, should be looking into this tactic with elections in mind to reach out to voters interested in the issues they deal with here in Brussels? With this in mind, perhaps that’s why we hear rumour of an e-campaigning event being hosted by Google here in Brussels (p.s. we’d love an invite if Google people are listening/reading). Not sure MEPs have Obama’s budget but still, every click counts (both for MEP and Google I expect).
For those MEPs thinking about it, this article from much earlier in the US primary season contains some hints from experts from Google and elsewhere on what to do and not to do. Tips iinclude advertising on your opponents name and advertising around those issues that poll top of voters concerns.
In any case, we’ve also been noticing a veritable increase in interest in using the tool to reach out to get messages out here in Brussels. Can you spot any of our current ads I wonder?
Jimmy (still searching for suitable word beginning with J for new trend of signing posts on this blog)
September 24, 2008
You may have noted that we’ve been a bit quiet lately. Blogging is, as they say, a fulltime occupation. As we already have at least one of them, it’s been a challenge recently to keep you up to date as we hit a real wall of work.
We promise to do better in the coming weeks as we build up to a European public affairs event in early December hosted by our friends at European Agenda magazine. We shall be running one of the workshops on digital public affairs, and sharing some of the insights we’ve been gathering in recent months. We hope to have a lively discussion with some of you. Details to follow as we get them.
Thankfully, in the current credit crunched world, our little office on the square is doing a bit more than fine. In fact, some of us could do with another summer vacation already. Those poor unfortunate souls who kept the office ticking over during the summer certainly did a good job. One fruit of this summer labour is the launch of a new website for one of our clients in the chemicals/plastics field. It is supported some SEM. You can check it out here. Comments more than welcome.
September 21, 2008
Health warning – this is a self-indulgent end of school term post.
It’s about time that some of us left the unseasonal sunshine of Brussels for southern climes. As we put the out of office on, set the voicemail up and send long to-do lists to those colleagues unlucky enough to remain here over the August lull/madness period, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the first year of this blog.
Some stats first of all. Since our soft launch last July we’ve made 95 posts of varying quality and interest. 115 comments have been made – all welcomed. WordPress has registered approaching 12,000 views in total. July was our busiest month yet with 1,567 views until today (see graph above showing nice trend). Quantcast now tells us that 641 different people reading our blog a month and that 159 of them are from Belgium (or at least based here). The number 1 country is of course the US, but then the Europeans together of course add up to more – ah, is it not always the case! If only we were all one (hang on is that the reason we are all here?).
In any case, as global domination was not our goal, we are kind of happy. We are doing what we said we would do over a year ago – sharing our experience of this digital PA world, learning by doing, commenting on stuff – and you know what, we are enjoying it. And boy has a lot changed since then (not just the British PM).
Increasingly, we are implementing digital communications in Brussels for our clients. The enthusiasm of our Brussels team to “Switch On” has not yet dimmed. Indeed, it’s growing. So thanks to all those who have posted from the team in the last year (yep, it’s not just little old me) – Rob, Carey, Ed, Jez, (both undergrad interns this year) Rebecca, Simone, Nick, Mike, Fred and Liliana (and the folks at FH Paris in recent days). More to come. Others promise to join our merry band over the summer.
On that note, some of my own personal highlights from this year.
- A personal note (copied to no-one) from our CEO in St. Louis to one of our number thanking him for an interesting blog post. Now that’s good internal comms.
- The ECPA post. Helen showed us all what this is all about. Sharing our experiences of digital in what we do. It also continues to hold the record for the most views in one day – 130.
- The fact that all those subscribing to our email updates via Feedburner are from competing firms! (ok, with the exception of my missus) Yep, we can see who you are…Thoughtleadership at work perhaps.
On that thought – I slip away from the desk and leave those colleagues to keep the blog ticking over the summer.
July 31, 2008
Clocked up some institutional experience (read internships)? Hold far too many Masters degrees in things that your mates back home can’t understand? About ready for gainful employment after far too long gaining nothing but experience? Well, you are not alone.
As with most of the large agencies in Brussels, we get sack fulls of CVs and covering letters – mostly spontaneous, some otherwise – looking for that first step up on the career ladder. Given the mountains of mail, how can you make sure that you get an interview?
Well, it just so happens our Talent Development people in the US write a regular blog on how to get your career off the blocks in the world of “p.r.” Albeit from a US perspective, the blog contains some pretty cool posts with a range of tips for anyone seeking to leap into the world of “pr”. Now beware our office likes to think of itself as “p.a.” – a subset of “p.r.” some of us would argue – but in any case the tips are still pretty useful for anyone thinking of crashing into our world.
While we’re on the subject, my own personal top three (self-explanatory) tips would be the following:
- Do your research. Speak to FHers (we like to talk) or people that know us, read this blog, surf our plethora of corporate sites, understand our services and our client base, what we think it takes to be good at what we do, what are the areas of our business are growing etc.
- Tailor your application. Your CV and covering letter should reflect how you are likely to bring value to our organisation and our clients. Here think about agency life and FH as an agency – in essence use the results of point 1.
- Get the little things right. Make sure you address the application to the right person (we had an applicant recently who addressed an application to FH to the MD of a competitor who sits across the street from us…not good) Check the spelling of F-H. Don’t use Times New Roman or make your CV look like it was written on a 1940s typewriter. Little things matter in our business and for our clients.
In any case, if you got this far, you probably are all wondering whether this post is completely off topic. Well if you’d been paying attention, doing your research so to speak, you’d probably have concluded that if you are (a) interested in EU public affairs/politics and (b) have skills/experience in the digital communications field in some way shape or form, you should be letting us know about your existence. We’ll leave that thought with you.
July 23, 2008
Our eagled eyed ICT team member Magnus Norman spots that EICTA, “the voice of digital technology in Europe” has decided to join the growing ranks of the Brussels trade association blogging community. Given their sector; about time some may say.
Announced on the EICTA website, Digital Advocacy Europe was launched earlier today. Unlike the pesticides information blog, it appears that the blog’s purpose is has an internal objective of cutting down on the large number of emails Director General Mark MacGann generates. In any case, it may have been wise to get into the groove of making a few posts before heraldling it to the prying eyes of Brussels’ ever vigilant consultants.
Having said this, we like Mark’s tone and the fact that in one day and one post he’s already managed to gather a number of comments from his membership. In itself, not a bad start to any blog – we are still trying to get our own posts/comments strike rate up – please comment readers, please….just say anything…it need not be intelligent (look at our posts…)
We look forward to seeing the Digital Advocacy Europe blog grow. It seems a natural place for an association such as EICTA to drive their message on all issues affecting their industry. As the blog grows, we hope Magnus and team will do the decent thing and update their top 7 blogs from the sector to include it. Perhaps with a few more from the sector, they could make it to ten.
July 15, 2008
Mark keeps his well trained eye(s) on FDA
A note drops in the inbox from Mark Senak of our D.C. office to tell us that we are not the only FHers to have churned out thinkpieces on the use of new media in public affairs.
Mark is the man behind the blog “Eye on FDA“, his US based blog about “trends and observations regarding the FDA regulatory environment and its impact on the marketing, communications and strategic planning of the firms producing drugs, biologics and devices.”
We are told (not by Mark) that the Eye on FDA blog is a must read for all those in the pharma industry. One thing is for sure, technorati gives it a higher authority rank than our own humble efforts on public affairs in Europe.
Check out the following post on Mark’s blog today, which includes a thinkpiece of his own on new media, public affairs and political campaigning.
July 14, 2008