Last week I spent two days at a conference in Brussels called EuroPCom2013. The conference brought together public communicators, i.e. communications specialists that work in the public sector (European institutions, national and local governments). But the 700 participants actually came also from different sectors - that is why I could attend after all...
Anyway, we were all there to share experiences and hear advice on how to communicate better. Mostly on how to communicate Europe better, but not just. So I was hoping to get some major insight on what Europe and comms people need to do to get the message across.
Here is what I got out of it.
A necessary explanatory digression beforehand though: I will make very bold statements below, not because I normally write in bold statements, although I do sometimes, but because this seems to be the thing to do. Simon Anholt - an independent policy advisor - was one of the speakers closing the conference. He missed the first day, but still had very strong opinions on how good and useful the conference was or was not; he decided to make some provocative remarks, summing up it all up in seven bold statements; and then left abruptly because he had a plane to catch. Now, if I thought that communications is all propaganda (statement number 2) and that the EU is behaving as a corporation (statement number 7) the least I would do at an EU communications conference is to allow the ones I am accusing of being redundant or even fascist (statement number 1: branding is fascism) to defend themselves and rebut my rather simplistic statements. The most amazing thing for me was that the participants, in some sort of self-flagellation, seem to be enthusiastic about what Anholt was saying and cheerfully tweeted these statements like there was no tomorrow. And perhaps, just perhaps, Anholt used short and bold statements exactly because they were so easily twittable. Which in turn slightly contradicts his own anti-branding, anti PR, anti-gimmicks preaching. But hey, it seemed to work for him so will try it out myself. End of explanatory digression...Here we go:
Bold statement 1: communicating Europe is a bitch.
Bold - well actually....more like, obvious - statement 2: when you are surrounded by comms people, there is no need to keep on stressing the importance of communications.
Bold (eh-mm..) statement 3: the great thing about this type of conferences is that you meet an incredible variety of people that work in your field; you feel energised after it and you have lots of things to think about.
Bold (eh-mm again...) statement 4: the terrible thing about this type of conferences is that you meet an incredible variety of people that work in your field; you feel slightly depressed after it and you think that probably you should consider another profession.
Bold statement 5: there should be more risk taking in public communications, as there is in corporate communications.
Bold statement 6: Evaluation in communications is great and important but not easy. What are the metrics and who is going to evaluate the evaluators?
Bold statement 7: communicating Europe is a bitch but somebody's got to do it because we have the European elections in less than 9 months.
PS: I apologise if I have not stuck to the stylistic requirements as specified in the fascinating Interinstitutional Style Guide on display at the conference (276 pages: how is that for Twitter-friendly communications?)