Via Twitter I came across this post in French by Michael Malherbe about a letter sent from Commissioner responsible for Communications, Viviane Reding, to Commission President Barroso. Euractiv managed to get hold of a copy of the letter that contains 14 points about how communications are to be improved. The irony is that it looks like a scan of a letter sent on paper to Barroso. So much for modern internal comms in the Commission!

But what’s actually in the 14 points?

Michael’s post looks at all the points, while I will instead focus on the 2 short points dedicated to web communications:

5. Websites of the President and Commissioners

A dedicated team of 8 persons has been set up in DG COMM to keep your website and that of fellow Commissioners up-to-date in real time (following the best practice already installed by me at DG INFSO during the previous mandate). The team forsees a permanence ensuring a 24 hour service. Furthermore the websites of all Commissioners are now harmonised following a common template developed by DG COMM.

10. Monitoring of blogs and social networking sites and instant rebuttal

Automated blog monitoring is now available via the new EMM “European Blog Monitoring” tool on the MyIntracomm News Portal. Users can subscribe to e-mail alerts based on key words. Fast and effective rebuttal is organised by the SPP with the help of the responsible services. In addition, I have asked DG COMM to set up a network of 10-15 social media experts across the Commission to ensure a targeted use of social media (such as Facebook or Twitter) for the Commission’s communications purposes.

First of all the tone of these points is very defensive – it’s as if the Commission feels its web communications are under attack.

On point 5 – round the clock updates of Commissioners’ websites? Really? It’s not as if Ollie Rehn or Janusz Lewandowski ever has that much of interest to say, let alone at 3.22am on a Sunday morning! The problem with the comms of Commissioners on the web is that too few of them show any sort of human face and are proactive in their own web comms (Potočnik and Cioloş are the notable exceptions). Strikes me that this point is Reding – with her journalist background – taking a mainstream media approach to the web.

Point 10 is more serious however. Monitoring of social media is all very well – loads of companies do it – but monitoring without engagement is a complete waste of time. Look at what happened to Domino’s Pizza, Eurostar and numerous others – I’m sure these firms were aware of the storm of protest that was engulfing them, but had no active presence in social media that would allow a coherent and trustworthy response – and quickly. Social media is two way – it’s a conversation, it’s about listening and broadcasting. Reding’s paragraph seems to completely ignore this. As for whether the Commission needs to develop its own portal for blogs and what sounds like its own version of Google Alerts is an open question. Anyway, happy reading to anyone who reads this through the catchily named MyIntracomm News Portal!

In short this document seems to confirm all us EU web nerds have suspected about Reding. She’s obsessed by traditional media, doesn’t really understand the web, and that with her in charge of comms things are going to take a step back in comparison to Wallström.

4 Comments

  1. With respect Dale, the Commission and Eurostar are rather different organisations when it comes to what they do and how they reply to crises. In the Eurostar situation passengers needed assistance to get home and the reputation of the firm was suffering when the information was not provided to passengers. I cannot work out how a similar instance would happen to the Commission – in comms terms. Sure, there will be crises, and for this the institutions have political staff, the Council has SitCen etc. but those are not round the clock comms responses.

  2. Hi Jon,

    If you look at your post on eurostar you mention that the social media company took 18 hours to respond. (it happenned on the weekend on the evening) In this post you deride the Commission for 24 hour presence.

    I just don’t see how organisations can react to breaking events. Listen yes, but reactIng quickly and appropriatly, with value added information, no. That is the role of the individual, not a Pr company.

  3. Jon,

    A short while ago, I looked at the websites of commissioner Viviane Reding and DG Communication and wondered if anyone was taking responsibility for communication policy in the Commission.

    This letter, in itself, is an improvement of sorts.

    Much of what you say is or can be true, depending on how the new measures are put into practice. Some of the actions could be used in a positive and proactive manner, depending on how people in the Commission services are given incentives and disincentives. Even now, a few enterprising individuals in the EU institutions are engaging with EU citizens through social media.

    Without really hovering in the august spheres of EU web nerds, I think that you are correct about the process. Just imagine, if Reding had addressed her initial thoughts to the wider public and asked for feed-back.

    The end result may have been both better and brighter, with a little less odour of manipulation. Only by taking constructive criticism on board can the EU institutions improve their practices and start earning the respect of citizens.

  4. So we get 15 EU trolls, did I understand that correctly;-)

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