“If only they knew what we were really like they’d be nice to us”

June 2, 2011

This statement underlies a significant proportion of the comms briefs which agencies receive in Brussels. The thinking is as follows – “Pressure groups are more effective communicators and have shattered our reputation because we’ve never spoken up. Now, after 20 years of keeping quiet, we’re finally allowed to communicate. Excellent. Once we’ve said that our product is safe because the report we funded says so and/or that our industry employs X million people in Europe, we’ll be fine.”

No you won’t. The myth that misinformation amongst the elite drives policy that damages industry is one of Brussels’ biggest crocks of s***.

First, people – including MEPs or whoever – are entitled to a difference in opinion. Your product may be safe/beneficial, but the alternative is so too and is biodegradable to match. Or cheaper. Your industry may employ X million but the alternative industry employs Y million.

Second, believe it or not, public opinion matters. Sending your MEP a report won’t do if his/her constituents loathe you, even if they believe every word of your report. So the far bigger part of the puzzle becomes ensuring that whoever influences said MEP – constituents and whoever else – changes their mind. That calls for far-reaching reputation management programmes and a lot of perseverance. Daunting, but bury your head in the sand at your peril.

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One Response to ““If only they knew what we were really like they’d be nice to us””

  1. Nicholas Says:

    Very good post as usual.

    As you said, MEPs are entitled to a difference in opinion. I would also add that by nature, their position in the debate is more neutral. I have seen too many people on the same side of the debate for too long and having lost the necessary objectivity, even if they are still advocate sincerely.

    Especially when engaging online, it is very important to stay transparent and objective if you want get a good grip on the debate and demonstrate some leadership on the specific issue.


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