Alex Stubb MEP’s post of yesterday invites blog readers to comment on his initial thoughts on the newly proposed revision of the toys safety directive. Will any industry actors take the challenge on this most engaging of issues?
Three challenges for industry actors spring to mind:
1) Who will take responsibility for posting the comments?
The audience, an MEP, is clearly a government relations one. Yet the channel (online) is often under the remit of the corp. comms team, who have a different set of priorities and often won’t see the audience as one that merits attention.
While enlightened companies are increasingly joined up in their thinking (see our post on this), there are those who still believe public affairs is just good old one-on-one meetings and only that. Shame, really.
2)What will industry actors choose to say?
Clearly a post that consists of your position paper is not likely to endear you to the MEP or the blog’s readership. Save the position paper for the one-on-one meeting or the overflowing inbox of Mr. Stubb. In order to really use this communications channel to its full potential, all actors need to be honest about the interest they represent (as always), provide commentary or reflection on the issues raised by the blog’s author and be ready to engage in an open online debate.
3) Will industry be too scared to engage in an open debate on an MEP blog?
The fear of open debate may prove to be the biggest barrier. Just imagine, a nasty NGO may make a comment in response.
A few thoughts to balance this quite rational fear. As long as the original comment from industry follows our advice in point 2, we think that you will win brownie points from the MEP for being both open (see Brussels transparency debate) and for commenting (which blogger doesn’t like to see a comment of any sort on the blog?). The blogosphere also has a tendency to self-regulate, so outright attacks from Mr. Nasty on your organisation and its views are only likely to provoke indignation from the MEP blogger and potentially responses in your defence from other blog readers. The rules that apply to contributions to any kind of debate apply, follow them and you should be win more than you lose from this engagement.
Will anyone take the challenge and see this as a way of getting its views to the top of Mr. Stubb’s intray? We shall of course watch what happens with interest.
In any case, what the post does show is that Brussels public affairs practitioners should be monitoring MEP blogs for their views on issues that affect their organisations. They may see new threats emerge or indeed identify allies that they did not know existed. Another example? New blogger on the block Bill Newton-Dunn MEP posted about aviation issues just last week. Not his natural stomping ground at all.