jigsaw_puzzleThere’s too much fragmentation going on in Brussels. First there’s internal fragmentation of communications within organisations. Marketing are doing this, product guys doing that, issue specialists saying X, PR saying Y. Surely companies need to be better integrated. In particular, marketing and PA especially need to be telling the same story far more. Why? Because selling to consumers and legislators is a lot more similar than it was a few years ago. Marketing back then would have said: we’re cheaper and/or we’re better. PA would have said: we’re providing jobs and innovation. Now? They’re still saying that, but they’re both also saying “our company is a model citizen because of X, Y, and Z” and in this respect, there needs to be a lot more collaboration.

Beyond that, there’s what I’d call external fragmentation on issues, which is totally different, but is still about fragmentation, so I’ll put it in the same post. Call me lazy. What do I mean? That when looking at an issue for a client or prospect, everyone is always struck by the mess: multiple players at national level and pan-European level, public and private entities, associations and pressure groups, old media and bloggers. Even within the Commission say, DGs can have totally different priorities on an issue. People are talking about pharma this week: it’s now largely under DG Enterprise, but DG Sanco want it because surely Pharma is about health, they say. Whatever the outcome, fact of the matter is that their approach would be quite different.

In communications terms, what this fragmentation of players results is in turn a fragmentation of content and story which frankly makes an issue appear far more complex than you as an organisation want it to be. It’s hard to thrive within complexity because your story is one of a thousand; legislators might not have the time, the nous nor the willingness to really understand it well.

So what should you do about it? You create your own story that is tangible and relatively easy to digest of course. In addition, and more importantly, you should be the one player that makes sense of the fragmented landscape, and you can do it online. How? You become your issue’s portal by aggregating and hyperlinking content from all stakeholders in one online HQ available on your site – whether they’re private, public, competitors, pressure groups, media or bloggers.

What’s the point?

  • You’re doing people a favour by making things easier. They’ll appreciate it.
  • Making things easier will also enable people to understand your take on an issue more clearly, as well as understand it within the context of other stakeholders.
  • The base assumption is that your argument is valid and that most of the content you bring in backs up your story. Assuming that’s the case, the outside content you bring in will give you the 3rd party credibility you crave.
  • Becoming the focal point for web content will enable you to own the discussion online, naturally making you a key stakeholder rather than just one of many. Search comes into it too. By becoming an online hub, others will link to you and you’ll get better a search ranking on your key issues.
  • You’ll showcase both sides of the argument (again, assuming your side is strong) and thus prove that you’re a fair and open player.
  • You’ll have taken step one of the the four-step approach to online engagement. I’ll be building on this in the coming weeks, so watch this space.
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I’m always writing about aggreration and aggregators i.e. “a web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easy viewing (Wikipedia)”

Aggregation can be extremely valuable in two respects in particular:

  • As a learning tool: you’re being fed content from a wide array of sources – issue, market, sector or personal interest news – constantly and with little effort; great for keeping on top of developments
  • As part of your content strategy: add third party content to your own sites, enriching your content without actually producing any yourself and increasing credibility via third-party association

At ZN, we’ve created what we call “issues dashboards” on energy, food and environment, bringing in feeds from a number of sources as well as via keywords from search engines. Here they are:

If you have other sources to recommend please let us know.