Whatever the issue, Public Affairs professionals in Brussels will usually seek to do two things: obviously, communicate with policy-makers, whether directly or through what we in PR-speak call “influencers”; and build coalitions of support, ideally in both Member States and Brussels (note: how to manage the Member States and Brussels nexus – in particular how to identify and harness activity at national level to drive political developments in Brussels – is arguably the greatest bane of the Brussels-based PA professional).
With the advent of digital, PA professionals got rather excited about prospects for the latter: the online space would allow them to build pan-European coalitions with ease and speed, and on the cheap. These coalitions of people interested in very specific issues (web-speak: micro-communities) – so far often scattered and unaware of each other – would finally have a single place in which to unify and mobilise their activity, which when fed into the policy loop would help drive political developments far more effectively.
It didn’t happen, however:
People across the EU may have been active on issues online, but on different platforms (and communicating in different languages) i.e. like-minded people may have been producing lots of good material and doing stuff which policy-makers and influencers would have taken note of, but their activity remained as splintered as before.
When anyone did try to set up an online community to join the dots, it was hard to get people to join: raising awareness of a one-stop online community was difficult, and even if likeminded people were informed, getting them to join (and stay active) in a dedicated community was (and remains) nigh on impossible.
Enter LinkedIn Groups, and we finally have a community platform that ticks the following boxes:
It’s pan-European and has critical mass (or getting there.)
People are already on it so no one has to join something new and unfamiliar.
People check their LinkedIn regularly, so will likely check the community and be active on it more than they would on a dedicated platform.
It has all the required features (aggregation, discussion, sharing) to enable what’s required of an online coalition i.e. being a single unifying hub for good information scattered in lots of different places (blogs, sites, Twitter feeds, whatever), and allowing like-minded people to meet, engage, share, mobilise and – in particular – consolidate their activity.
Needless to say, a group has to be managed very efficiently if it’s to act as a single hub and drive cohesive action on an issue, but the potential’s there.
Short post. My colleague Aaron – who loves fish (policy, not eating it, he’s a devoted vegetarian) – sent a note around this week stating that he had found scores of groups on LinkedIn that discuss fish policy. He heartily recommended that everyone look up their issues on LinkedIn and see what sort of discussions were taking place, and who was involved in them, as it was a great way to follow developments and build relationships with people who matter.
I’d take it one step further. If there are no existing groups (or the existing groups are run by dim-wits), set up your own. It requires a fair bit of work to keep it going and to attract lots of likeminded people, but it may very well be worth it.