Thursday, 2 September 2010

Communicating Europe: Reding’s revolution

How is the European Union responding to public opinion and media trends?

Conducted during the triple crisis – financial sector, economy and eurozone - Eurobarometer 73, Public opinion in the European Union (First results) recorded sinking support for what the EU has actually achieved, but possibly clear acceptance of future EU level action to sort out the economic mess and to promote job creation.

Europeans keep migrating to lively, chaotic and interactive social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

European Commission

One part of what the European Union does as a whole is supplied by the European Commission, also in the area of communication.

EurActiv reports that the Commission plans communication ‘revolution’. Commissioner Viviane Reding, who is responsible for communication, wants to bring about a "culture shock" and genuine "revolution" of existing Brussels communication methods.

Reding’s plan includes structural change in a re-branding centred on President José Manuel Barroso, increased centralisation of public communications, a new organisational chart and a key reshuffle of top officials.

Reding aims for stronger centralisation in the delivery of messages, although flexibility will be allowed with regard to the forms.

Val Duchesse

Yesterday and today, the College of Commissioners is meeting informally in the Castle Val Duchesse (1 to 2 September 2010). In substance, the notice on the ‘EC College Seminar’ tells us that the Commissioners are going to discuss the Commission programme for the rest of 2010. The rest of the webpage is pure filling.

According to EurActiv, Reding’s plan was going to be discussed, but we do not know how much acclaim the strategy for Barroso’s stardom and henchmen is getting from the rest of the Commissioners, who are among the possible losers together with the online and social media pioneers.

Outside reactions

The drive towards personalisation, centralisation, old media favouritism and pet journalists has resulted in a few early reactions outside the lofty Berlaymont chambers and the cosy chateau milieu.

We may ask if the Reding plan has "the atmosphere of a better age", as in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

Michael Malherbe on Lacomeuropéenne (Se former à la communication européenne) asked if it is correct to speak about a revolution: Faut il parler de « révolution » de la communication de l’UE comme Viviane Reding ?

Malherbe’s conclusion is that Reding offers a plan for a bygone age:

... une stratégie ante-web, oublieuse de l’intérêt d’un dialogue nourri avec les multiplicateurs d’opinion et de partenariats avec des relais institutionnels ou associatifs.

The Watts On blog dissects five false assumptions Reding’s plan rests on, in the entry: The Commission should be focussing on policies not personalities.

After undermining the foundations, “Watts” offers the following advice for a profound Commission rethink:

It needs to be more open, more focused on policy and delivery rather than personalities, more serious about tackling those ’causes’, more strategic in its approach to issues and, above all, more engaged in directly having a two way dialogue with the citizen.

In Rivoluzione d’autunno, Matizandrea has a hard time believing in a stunning revolution, asking ironically: Are they going to learn how to use SMS?

The Brussels Jungle pulls a virtual scoop on the Commission’s communication revolution by describing the Commission’s imaginative (and imaginary) plans for an animated TV series, in response to the virtual Citzalia world of the European Parliament. No prizes for guessing who the main characters – Redi and José – resemble in real life.

Sit up and take notice when those who wish the European Union well and ill seem to agree on the substance, even if not on the presentation.

In the spirit of the Albion Alliance, the Autonomous Mind blog describes the EU Commission plan as a vanity propaganda effort.

Next steps

My humble advice regarding the next steps:

What if the Commissioners in Val Duchesse started by locating the paper shredder and then decided to enter the fascinating world of 21st century communication?

Ralf Grahn

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