January 9, 2015
Guest blogpost by By Adam Mouchtar, Managing Director of the EU40 project in the European Parliament.
We live in a world in which experts are constantly trying to tell us what is in and what is out. „Don’t write too long texts, nobody has the patience to read them anymore. Instead use pictures to exemplify.“ “Forget the old media, social, digital media is en vogue“. In reality these are simplifications. True: Nobody is willing to read long, boring, technical texts, which are solely advertising a politician or a political message. But people are more than keen to read long OpEds, if they are well written and transport a novel idea. Politico has long proven this in Washington and we are looking forward to seeing what they will be able to do on the Brussels scene in this context. Yes, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are good and direct ways of getting a message across to the masses if you have something quick and witty to say and if you have enough followers, which is more than often not the case. But a quote in the 8o’clock news of a country’s main news channel is still the maximum communication achievement for a politician. For that reason, when I write a speech, I place the central message in a main clause without a relative clause, so that it has the chance to be picked up and screened in the 5 seconds a national news channel will reserve for EU politicians.
Therefore, like so often in life, it is the balance of elements that makes the difference. The new media has not replaced the old but has rather enriched it and can be seen as an addition. TV often reports about a certain social media phenomenon, like the “Ice Bucket Challenge” for example, while you can find certain TV events going viral on Twitter or Facebook. If you are planning apolitical event/happening the old school approach of hosting big names and with them the obligatory camera teams, still does not fail to miss its objective. If you however do not have access to such stars and dignitaries, then the fresh ideas and digital communication methods can do the trick. When, for example, EU40aimed at increasing the youth-vote Europe wide, we decided to host a rap battle between the four main political groups of the European Parliament (EP) inside the EP. We brought MTV and Facebook on board as communicators and created four teams consisting of two young MEPs of each of the political groups together with one professional battle rapper. Those teams of three went on stage and word-battled their political beliefs in front of a crowd of 1000 young people, who had flocked into the EP for the evening and celebrated the event with the help of our beer sponsor. That night we succeeded to reach 1,6 million people on Facebook and 1,4 million people on Twitter, thanks to a thunderclap, which we initiated half way through. By coincidence, the first Spitzenkandidaten debate between Martin Schulz and Jean Claude Juncker took place inside the EP simultaneously. It did not succeed to generate anything close to these numbers. So this is an example where a fresh, good idea, beats large names and big titles. The rap battle was the second part of a trilogy, which was conceptualised under the title of “EU-Unplugged” by Jim Cheng, Matteo Pederzoli and myself. The idea was to bring politics close the people. The first round of EU-unplugged happened in the Hard Rock Café on Grand Place, where we tried to relive the town hall feeling of politics, with politicians crammed in amongst the crowd in a confined place, vivaciously discussing their ideas with young CEOs and the public. However, when EU40 set out to host Dominique Strauss Kahn, Jean Claude Juncker and Jean Claude Trichet a few years back, in order to discuss the reasons of the current European debt crisis, the attention of the mainstream media was huge. We had invited the right names to discuss a topic, which was of huge public interest. Even after DSK had to cancel his participation, because he was ordered to speak in court, the remaining two speakers still generated tremendous public interest.
Selling an idea or concept is a fresh challenge every time. Just recently I was invited by a good friend of mine, Leslie Paldon, who is a 91 years old Hungarian Jew, who survived the Shoah by a hair’s breath, fought in the Hagana in the 48’ war of Israeli independence and had discussed strategy with Ben Gurion, while saving the life of Ariel Sharon. After having urged him for many years, he has now finally brought his fascinating life to paper with the help of a ghost writer and has published a beautiful book titles “The Survival of an Incorrigible Optimist”, published by the renowned Andreae publishing house. He had invited me to his place, in order to honour me with a hand signed copy of this magnificent piece of 20th century European history and get my two cents on how best to promote the book. The concept came easily while listening to him talk about is tumultuous past. The idea is to twin him with MEPs in an intimate surrounding and film the dialogue between the two. The product, which is a touching oral narration of one of the few remaining eye witnesses, will be uploaded to the respective websites of the politicians and distributed in their constituencies Europe wide. It will be touching and tangible and I am sure, interesting to write and report about.
Communication by definition is a dialogue. It is not enough to send a message out into the world. You also need to be willing to receive and react. Therefore well planned communication inherently includes action and re-action and a motivation for both parties to engage in a dialogue. Sometimes, of course, an evoked emotional reaction can be sufficient if the message hit close to home. This is where modern digital communication is superior to TV or radio. If used correctly, there is an added value for both ends of the communication. Badly planned communication misses to seek the win-win of a situation. It is focused on getting the message across, irrespective from how technical, complex, long and dry the message may be. The above mentioned examples have done better. They allow both sides to engage, albeit in different manners. There is a return of investment for all and they are inherently fun. And that, I guess, remains the essential point. You need to enjoy and be interested in what you are doing, in order to do it well.Blogactiv Team