I wrote about the EP Digital Trends survey the other day – a godsend to people like me who often face the inevitable comment “yeah, but MEPs don’t use the web” – as it highlights that they in fact do indeed use it, primarily for search, but even to (shock horror) read blogs. James, whose team published the survey, has written a post describing what the results actually mean to PA practitioners, essentially detailing how they must make sure that they combine their advoacy and media relations with a sound online search and content strategy.
I wholeheartedly agree. I’d also add that beyond ensuring that their content is found, there’s a lot they can do to ensure that the content might actually influence an MEP’s view of an issue. MEPs are accountable to their constituents, so even if your content is top-tier and convincing, you still need to prove to them that voters are on your side (or at least a good portion of them.) To do so I think you need to match content and search strategies with a broader engagement strategy. Here’s a few first thoughts (not all applicable to all issues and organisations, but it’s a start):
- Adopt a portal approach: don’t just showcase your own content but bring in good-quality third-party material that backs up your case and gives you credibility by association. If you really trust your sources, you can automate the process via aggregation.
- Similar sort of thing: make stakeholders your “ambassadors” by showcasing them on your site directly, ideally using video. Bite-sized interviews and preferably basic production standards, and you’ve got something a lot more powerful than a written “key message.”
- Appeal to potential supporters (assuming you have some) by adopting a really personalised approach. Don’t just have good, sober content but also one or more personal blogs or vlogs which show the real you. This then becomes a mechanism for stakeholder dialogue, where people can comment and you can personally engage with them.
- Use multiple channels if you have the resources and feel your audiences are scattered – social networks, Twitter etc. – but stay on message and lead people back to your main site. The latter point is key: always ensure that everything you do is showcased in your main “hub” i.e. via one URL.
- Make your online platform a “community” rather than a mere site (you’re already half-way there if you’ve taken some of the steps above.) Not meaning that you recreate Facebook on your €20,000 site; but rather that you make it a place where plenty of people, within your organisation or not, are featured and engage in some way. These people will then be more likely to mobilise on your behalf and help spread your message; a sort of Obama effect in miniature.
And here’s the bonus. If done well, you haven’t just put mechanisms in motion that will help convince MEPs directly if they find your content online. You’ve also got yourself a fully fledged eCampaign that could spread online (again, scope really depends on the issue and organisation in question!) and influence the wider debate. And eventually your MEPs might not just hear about you via you own channels; they might even hear indirectly via their constituents or traditional media that’s picked up the story. It’s come full circle, and that should really be your end-goal.