Perhaps it’s a little more complex than the headline, but not much – this is a post about how to make people in the blogosphere write about the things you want them to write about. Frankly it’s not that complex.
I’ve been wondering about what I would do were I in Marianne Mikko’s shoes, the Estonian MEP who has been roundly criticised for some of her plans for blogs in a EP resolution that I’ve posted about. Let’s leave the major issue to one side – I probably don’t have the right character traits to become a MEP. But were I doing her job what would I do?
First of all I would try to speak to some people who would be impacted by my proposals, and also inform myself about how blogs work. Mikko has at least started her own blog (first entry 18th July) since all the furore kicked off but some engagement with people in the field might be handy. Has she spoken to web companies that offer blogs? Spoken to any prominent bloggers in Europe? (no contact with Jon Worth Euroblog for sure, and this is one of the few blogs that might have backed Mikko) Plus if I could not do this myself, then I would ask someone that works for me or for the EP Secretariat should do so. In short: am I doing the right thing?
Secondly I would do my best to guess the reaction to the report, and do my best to negate the critique. If lessons had been learnt from the experience in Sweden and the UK (see my previous post) then it would be a good start to get my own side of the argument out in the open, and also get other people to do that for me. This is where Mikko’s approach (or lack of approach) has been a disaster. For all I know she might have sound arguments for the things she has included in her report, but how is anyone supposed to know?
So the crucial part is treating bloggers as individuals, as citizens, as people it’s important to build a relationship with.
Let me give an example of how to do this. The people doing the comms for QDOS, and online reputation website, used the contact form on this website to send me news of some research and asked me if I would post about it. I did not fully understand their methodology and wrote a sceptical but interested post. They followed up and asked me if they could do any research to help convince me, and they produced me a list of MEPs’ QDOS. In short they realised that they needed a relationship with me if I was to give their product some coverage. Same for the Treaty of Lisbon – Jason O’Mahony took the time to e-mail me his Spoofer’s Guide so I made it available. On the other hand no-one in the Commission has made the vaguest effort to explain their messy ‘strategy’ regarding the referendum as a whole, so I’ll criticise them.
So, Marianne Mikko (and any other politician or cause for that matter): it’s not good enough to just do something and not work out how to communicate it. If you do that and I think you’re foolish then I’ll attack you for it. Even if you try to build a relationship with me there’s no guarantee I’ll be positive, but at least you’ll be in with a shot of getting something positive. It’s all common sense, surely? But maybe that’s not one of the skills you necessarily need in order to be selected as a MEP.