Thursday, March 14, 2013

PreviEUws, or why Ms Ahrenkilde Hansen prefers her dentist.

There is an interesting website that has been brought to my attention. And it has been brought to my attention because I am writing about videos and the EU. This website defines itself  as 'The EU policy broadcaster' and is called ViEUws.

Before you start thinking that I am about to launch into a massive destruction exercise, let me say that I am really happy such a website exists. I will always go on repeating that video is a great tool to use and that it is admirable that there is someone trying to illustrate policies visually, even if mostly through interviews. So, I will not comment on the general quality of what is there because that is not my aim. (Let me just mention in passing the strange mix of private sponsors - with their own videos -and institutional material, but I guess the money needs to come from somewhere).

What I want to focus on is the regular interview with the European Commission's spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen. The interview series is called PreviEUws and focuses on the weekly agenda of the European Commission, ie what the EU is working on this week. Very good idea. But looking at the two people sitting in the studio, you really want to bring them a handkerchief, pat them on the back and tell them 'cheer up a bit... it will be over soon!'

Have a look yourself at the one of this week.

If one excludes some rare moments where Ms Ahrenkilde Hansen looks like she is about to start laughing at the interviewer, for the most part, she gives you the feeling that she would rather be sitting in the dentist chair, having her wisdom tooth removed, without anaesthesia. The very experienced interviewer (I checked it up on the site) is a Finnish native speaker and asks question at a pace and with an enthusiasm that, not surprisingly, makes the spokeswoman want to run to her dentist! Which makes me, in turn, quite angry, because it is a lost opportunity. And I am not talking about reaching a huge pan-European audience, but rather an audience of Europeans interested in what the EU does. The fact that the spokeswoman of the Commission is available to do this and spends quite a bit of time is great. But how do you make it punchier (or should I say punchy)?  Four small suggestions.

1) For starters, it should absolutely be no longer than 5 minutes and I am already being generous.

2) The two people should be sitting closer to each other with cups of coffee or water on the table between them - the one that now is empty and sad.

3) Looking at the agenda for the week, one should select no more than 4 topics, possibly fewer (unless of course it's a week where there is just masses of things going on) but make sure that on those topics, three key questions are answered: what is the Commission doing? What does this mean in practice? And why should we care? There might be some additional questions, depending on the topic or as follow ups but more as the exception than the rule.

4) The answers should then be edited in a way that conveys relevance and momentum. For this, one could use a simple graphic, which could also give a visual break, highlighting the topics and some key words of the answers.

These are little inexpensive changes that could make a big difference and make what is now a good idea into a good product. And a useful one too; for the Commission, which would have a way to explain directly to the public what they do; for ViEUws which would hopefully attract more people - and possible sponsors - to the site, and for the public which would be able to recognise the real impact that the work of the EU has on their daily life.

Enthusiasm is contagious. Let's make PreviEUws a carrier.

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