Public Affairs and LinkedIn: big potential

October 23, 2011

Whatever the issue, Public Affairs professionals in Brussels will usually seek to do two things: obviously, communicate with policy-makers, whether directly or through what we in PR-speak call “influencers”; and build coalitions of support, ideally in both Member States and Brussels (note: how to manage the Member States and Brussels nexus – in particular how to identify and harness activity at national level to drive political developments in Brussels – is arguably the greatest bane of the Brussels-based PA professional).

With the advent of digital, PA professionals got rather excited about prospects for the latter: the online space would allow them to build pan-European coalitions with ease and speed, and on the cheap. These coalitions of people interested in very specific issues (web-speak: micro-communities) – so far often scattered and unaware of each other – would finally have a single place in which to unify and mobilise their activity, which when fed into the policy loop would help drive political developments far more effectively.

It didn’t happen, however:

  • People across the EU may have been active on issues online, but on different platforms (and communicating in different languages) i.e. like-minded people may have been producing lots of good material and doing stuff which policy-makers and influencers would have taken note of, but their activity remained as splintered as before.
  • When anyone did try to set up an online community to join the dots, it was hard to get people to join: raising awareness of a one-stop online community was difficult, and even if likeminded people were informed, getting them to join (and stay active) in a dedicated community was (and remains) nigh on impossible.

Enter LinkedIn Groups, and we finally have a community platform that ticks the following boxes:

  • It’s pan-European and has critical mass (or getting there.)
  • It’s credible.
  • People are already on it so no one has to join something new and unfamiliar.
  • People check their LinkedIn regularly, so will likely check the community and be active on it more than they would on a dedicated platform.
  • It has all the required features (aggregation, discussion, sharing) to enable what’s required of an online coalition i.e. being a single unifying hub for good information scattered in lots of different places (blogs, sites, Twitter feeds, whatever), and allowing like-minded people to meet, engage, share, mobilise and – in particular – consolidate their activity.

Needless to say, a group has to be managed very efficiently if it’s to act as a single hub and drive cohesive action on an issue, but the potential’s there.

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One Response to “Public Affairs and LinkedIn: big potential”


  1. Steffen,

    Good post and I’d agree that out of all the social media platforms that LinkedIn has the most legs for public affairs in Brussels. I think the main reasons for this is the type of people who use it and what they use it for.

    In essence it’s a network for professionals to connect to professionals. Not only can these folks generally speak a common language (both in terms of jargon – nod to Ron Patz’s comment on my last post on Public Affairs 2.0 – and well, English) but also they are more likely to engage on EU public policy because it does have a real discernible impact on the thing they care about (at least to some extent) their business in my view. Regulating markets is what the EU does for a living. It may be a little bit too quirky/boring for most citizens to get excited about, but for people who’s job markets is, it’s well essential.

    Yes, we all (including yours truly) got excited about the public affairs and frankly democratic opportunity that social media afforded for engaging folks on EU public policy from outside of our bubble. But perhaps we got a little too carried away by Obama ’08 and thinking about grassroots. LinkedIn (some of the stuff we’re doing at FH 😉 ) underlines to me that the best use of social media platforms in a Brussels context may be around stakeholder engagement (both in Brussels and at the EU/national nexus), something which is much more bread and butter for most PA professionals in this town than engaging with long lost school friends (who you’d rather stay lost) on Facebook.

    James


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