Mathew Lowry

Following rapid and significant expansion into new markets and sectors of governance and policy, innovative union of nation states (“European Union”, or EU) seeks an experienced:

Online Community Manager

to gain buy-in at all levels throughout our 27 Members, as well as with external stakeholders on a global level.

Principal Duties

You will be responsible for engaging EU citizens via social media on EU policies, programmes, achievements and failures, as well as its possible future direction.

The first and principal aim is to help those involved in EU-level policy development and programmes to use social media to better achieve their goals: for example, by linking together national communities across linguistic barriers to achieve cross-EU exchanges of ideas and best practices; or by facilitating and stimulating meaningful dialogue between citizens, national and EU policymakers.

While this position may involve creating new online communities, you will wherever possible exploit existing platforms, or link existing communities on different platforms together through intermediate systems.

Your initial focus will be policymakers and EU programme participants who are already involved in online communities, as they constitute an existing, motivated network of people familiar with social media.

In the process, you will also reach other members of these communities – i.e., citizens not directly involved in EU programmes and/or policy development, but who are interested in the community’s theme of interest. You will therefore need to be able to explain the logic of ‘EU added value’ in various fields to people who, while not specialised in European affairs, are interested in areas affected by the EU.

If you are successful in either task, you will also be demonstrating ‘EU added value’, concretely, every day.

A secondary aim is to engage all community members in a wider debate about the EU’s programmes, achievements and future directions in their field of interest, and to be their advocate internally within the EU policy development process.

This is therefore not a marketing position – it is public relationships, not public relations. You will embody qualities such as openness, sincerity, transparency, honesty, generosity and the ability to admit mistakes.

In summary, this position therefore aims to simultaneously:

  • help EU programmes improve their participation rates and disseminate their results;
  • widen policy debates to include more voices outside of the ‘Brussels Bubble’;
  • improve awareness of ‘EU added value’ in all EU policy areas to the increasing number of citizens active in social media;
  • help turn the EU’s image from faceless and secretive to open and trustworthy.

Driving Change

To succeed in this position you will need to drive major internal cultural changes throughout the EU Institutions – for example:

  • stimulating, championing and then coordinating similar engagement by other EU Institution staff;
  • driving the reorganisation of the top level content of our current “Web1.0” online presence (particularly EUROPA) to support this engagement. Priorities here will be ensuring EUROPA explains EU added value in terms non-specialists can understand (e.g., thematically, geographically, by audience type, etc.), to better support the online conversations you will be undertaking;
  • advocating the community’s voice in internal debates (‘bringing the outside in‘), and opening internal debates to the wider community (‘taking the inside out‘).

All of the above activities will be strongly cross-Institutional in nature, spanning all Institutions and all Commission departments (DGs).

This is because social media users are not expected to learn the internal structures of the EU or the Commission. Moreover, worthwhile online conversations will need to be underpinned by clear, concise ‘discussion document’ materials relating all EU policies and programmes – not just those of one particular DG – to the subjects and themes addressed by the online communities you will be working with.

Your Profile

You will therefore need to show strong aptitude for change management in large, complex, multicultural organisations; the ability to create, stimulate and coordinate barrier-breaking cross-Institutional networks; strong interpersonal skills; and a high degree of commitment.

You will also be the face of the EU in these online communities, so you will need to be both thick-skinned and courteous in the face of trolls, self-appointed citizen journalists, closet xenophobes, accredited-journalists-with-no-respect-for-balance, and embarrassingly jingoistic ex-daytime-TV-hosts.

Experienced in social media and online communications in general, you are an excellent listener as well as writer, able to explain EU added value clearly to non-specialists in all areas of EU policy, in most if not all EU official languages, whilst avoiding propaganda, condescension or jargon. You will also be expected to solve the multilingualism challenge in both ‘Web1.0″ and user-generated content contexts.

Timing and Questions

You should be available to begin your duties on 1 July, 2014, shortly after the upcoming elections to the European Parliament.

If you have any suggestions, questions or recommendations regarding this vacancy, please use the comments function below.

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Comments

  1. Not sure 5 years is long enough for Trillian to make it back from Magrathea with a Babel Fish…

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Mathew,

    This was something that stood out for me. A lack of leadership. I believe that the Obama campaign and it’s incredible online power worked for three relatively simple but hard to implement ideas:

    1. The leadership of Obama
    2. The ability of the public to feel connected to Obama – achieved in part by the social site they used
    3. The members of that site being able and encouraged to connect to others inside the campaign and other ‘floating voters’ outside. This was achieved via social networking technology, mobile technology and lots of hard work.

    In contrast, the EU seemed to fund a number of online platforms that appeared to be almost in competition with each other. Rather than throwing their resources behind one behemoth online presence and promoting that, they divided their resources and none of the platforms seemed to make much headway.

    For my money, the DG Comm ‘Debate Europe’ forum was the best of the bunch – and most active – but that was simply a forum and because it was operated by the EU, it was meant to be apolitical.

    It might be worth noting though that the resources of individual MEPs almost certainly makes Obama’s approach impossible to replicate. In addition the national political parties do not (did not) seem to commit the resources to the European Parliament elections that would have been required.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts…

    Best wishes,

    Stuart

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  3. @Hugh: thanks for commenting here, and for picking up the multilingual issue. For other readers, Hugh and I are continuing this conversation on the excellent site he put together for the IABC: http://be-iabc.ning.com/profiles/blogs/vacancy-eu-online-community

    @Stuart: agreed re: the competition between various sites and platforms. While it’s probably partly due to a lack of coordination, it’s also a time where the EU needs to experiment, which means trying stuff out and seeing what works. See the Parliament webteam’s excellent unofficial blog for more on this: http://www.ep-webeditors.eu/2009/06/now-what/

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  4. I only see this now. When reading the headline I thought that it would be a rather fun post but actually it is written so realistically and seriously that DG COMM could just copy/paste the job description 🙂

    What I miss: info on salary

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  5. Well, as you know, I’m really a terribly serious person, no fun at all … 😉

    I wanted to strike a balance between taking the piss out of HR-consultant-speak (believe me, the number of times I’ve changed jobs means I’ve perused worse than above, more than once); having a bit of fun; and making a serious point. Which is why is gets silly slowly.

    As I pointed out to Hugh in greater detail on his IABC site (see link, comment III), there are a couple of problems with making this point using a job ad: it implies that the shift can be applied top-down, for starters, and by extension makes it look like it has to be EU-driven, particularly Commission-driven.

    It needn’t be. Chances are there’ll be a lot of such people before the Commission ever decides on a salary, and they’ll be doing their work via EC-funded programmes.

    In the meantime, it’d help if the Commission could get EUROPA into shape to support the conversation, rather than blaming everyone else (see http://julienfrisch.blogspot.com/2009/06/commissioner-wallstrom-blames-others.html).

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  6. It’d be nice if we could have more than just one but rather several community managers per DG and per language. I agree with Mathew ‘Chances are there’ll be a lot of such people before the Commission ever decides on a salary, and they’ll be doing their work via EC-funded programmes.’ We can only hope…

  7. Thanks for your comment, but you don’t need to hope – it’s happening now.

    In fact, I was an online community manager for an EC programme, operating on an EC website my colleagues and I developed, in 2002. And practically all of the websites my team have (re)launched recently are community-oriented, and picking up members.

    However, these communities are oriented towards EU programmes and are hence very specialised: ICT researchers, education and development experts, technology foresight analysts, etc. The point of (my somewhat tongue-in-cheek) post was that – now that everyone and his dog are in online communities – these techniques would also work for wider audiences than EU programme participants.

    It requires tackling multilingualism in a world of user-generated content, but this is probably more worthwhile than a new series of brochures that never see the light of day outside of Euro Info Centres.

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