Mathew Lowry

Around a year ago I was browsing Jeremiah Omyang’s idea that one day the relationship between PR companies, consumers and brands would flip over, with PR Agencies representing communities, rather than brands. He takes this idea a long way into territory which he himself says seems far-fetched, with consumer groups banding together to pay PR companies to get companies to make the products they actually want, acting as intermediary and taking a percentage:

“… [using] Doc Searls vision for Vendor Relationship Management systems ... communities can define the spec of future products and therefore multiple brands will bid for their business …

… we should expect the agency model to flip over, where PR agencies start to represent communities of customers. These PR agencies would take the community defined spec to brands, bid for the top design, and even help negotiate the terms. As a result, they could skim profits off the transaction
– Jeremiah Omyang, Future of PR: When Agencies Represent Communities –Not Brands

The whole idea is aimed mainly at consumers and product manufacturers, so I tagged it “odd, entertaining, probably irrelevant” and didn’t think much more about it.

Until I toured the reactions to the Commission’s ECI proposal, particularly when I saw, on Jon’s post, this quote:

“This initiative should give power to the people, not to lobbyists and interest groups” – Syed Kamall, Tory MEP, Vice Chair of the European Parliament Constitutional Affairs Committee

My thoughts inexplicably returned to Omyang’s post- or, rather, many of his (many) commenters, who saw potential in the idea but saw the role of ‘community champion’ taken more by lobbyist-like organisations and trade associations than by PR firms.

Now these are the organisations most likely to use the ECIs, along with pan-EU political parties. All, of course, use PR agencies to get their message across anyway. Hmm.

Too much sun?

To be honest, I don’t know where I’m going with this post – I’ve probably had too much sun and am free-associating too much as a result.

It just seems to me that – if these eurobloggers are right – ECIs will be limited to organisations with pan-EU networks and/or budget. Which wasn’t the original idea, I seem to remember. After all, such organisations already have access to power in Brussels.

So is something in Omyang’s and Searl’s ideas – created for consumer product markets – which could be adapted here, or am I just suffering from heatstroke? It’s probably just as far-fetched as the original idea, but could we one day see citizen movements set out what they want, and organisations – PR firms? political parties? trade associations? others? a combination? – vie to set up and push through the appropriate ECI?

And would that be a bad thing, or positive? After all, cui bono (and where’s the percentage)?

Hopefully, of course, self-organisation via social media will be enough to ensure that ECIs do not remain the preserve of cross-EU organisations like political parties, trade associations and the like, who will in all probability call on the Edelmans and Saatchis of this world to get their million signatures anyway. But it won’t be easy.

And, even if you do tick all the ECI Regulation’s boxes, there’s no guarantee anything will happen anyway.

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  1. Hi Mathew Lowry,

    there is no guarantee anything will happen, right. however, there is no guarantee either that a lot happens. We have worked at the Citizens´Initiative Summit 2010 in Salzburg last weekend (Europe day), to address a Manifesto to Council, Parliament and Commission for a better Regulation model. The chances are not that bad, to get some points through – and every point of our Manifesto is appropriate to turn ECI things towards the better.

    Yesterday Mehr-Demokratie has held an outstandig conference in Berlin, proposing ideas to get a Regulation approach relaunch.

    Sometimes its time to worry. Now it is time to negotiate, as the Comm has stated in the Drafts preamble. Let us negotiate, on any obtainable channel.

    Thanks for uniting,
    Johannes W. Pichler

  2. Hi Johannes, and thanks for commenting on this post, which has been feeling quite unloved since I published it.

    I wish you the very best with your ECI Manifesto. I remember seeing another one when I was drawing up my ECI blogtour post… which leads me to suggest that someone, somewhere, should set up a centralised list?

    It would be a shame to see many unconnected initiatives fail due to an inability to connect the dots. In any case, whatever happens, I’m sure in 2011 we’ll see an ECI launched to make it easy to launch ECIs …

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