An interesting survey from the folks at Euractiv on the use of the internet by European trade associations was released late last week. While we weren’t present at the launch event, we are happy to note that FH was represented at least in spirit by Sylvain Lhote (who spent 8 years with us before moving to plastics company Borealis).
As with all these things, the survey’s sponsors have sought as far as possible to draw the conclusions they are looking for from the results. One example is the ‘fact’ that the proactive use of blogs by European trade association has tripled in the last 12 months (from 3 to 9 percent!). Speaking to a member of Euractiv’s blogactiv team recently, it seems that this reflects the issues that they have been in getting trade associations to go past the stage of initial interest to actually signing up to write regular and interesting blog content on their platform. As we know all too well, blogging can take a significant time investment. If this investment was stated up front it could put the frighteners on many of those who pay the bills (thankfully in our case FH CEO Dave Senay has a healthy enthusiasm for all things digital).
There of course could be other factors at play in the lack of proactive use of blogging by Brussels based associations. A natural inclination to rounds of necessary consultation and the lowest common denominator does not bode well for fast paced reactions in blog format. Nor does an tendency to focus on ‘the issues’ for the association and its members in an already hectic workload. For an association’s blog to build reputation is a long term process and one where the organisation will have to share expertise on a subject of interest to the policymaker (e.g. how best to communicate on chemicals to consumers) rather than the position of the association on a particular dossier (e.g. why labelling our chemical in the current legislation won’t move consumers). One blog post that’s a (hopefully shorter) rewrite of your position paper just won’t do.
In any case, despite the disclaimer about the research not being scientific, it also underlines a few other interesting ‘facts’. One on one meetings are seen to be the best way to get your message across; not surprising given the fact that this is a government relations town and there is a limited number of policymakers likely to be interested in any one issue. This is closely followed by a good website. Media work comes somewhat further down the list, perhaps reflecting the fragmented nature of the Brussels press corps.
On the institution’s communications, associations do not frequent the Council’s website as often as the Parliament or Commission’s; not surprising as a little bit like the Council as an institution, it is designed to confuse and obsfucate…Underlying a longstanding view that if one wanted to tackle transparency in the EU, one would start with the Council’s website.
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