Mathew Lowry

Festival of Europe graphic

This is the sort of post which could get me into trouble for a number of reasons. Particularly as I’m going to comment on the celebrations to be enjoyed next month at the Festival of Europe, where one can do everything from “seeing the political groups at work inside the European Parliament” to “experiencing a festival of Europe¬īs regions and cities at the Committee of the Regions”.

Not my thing, perhaps, but OK. However, I must admit I was brought up short by the offer to “participate in our Giant Euro-Karaoke”. You can even vote on the song, as encouraged through this video:





There, that’ll make everyone feel nice and European, won’t it?

I don’t want to criticise, because this is probably just a question of taste. Most of the programme seems nice. And perhaps people can be taught to Love the EU Through Karaoke.

Not that the numbers work. Let’s say 10% of Brussels’ 1 million inhabitants turn up and sing along. That’s maybe 100000 people, or 0.02% of the EU population. And many will be from the Brussels Bubble anyway.

I guess this reminds me a little too much of the touchy feely comms we saw a lot of under Margot Wallstrom. I’m not convinced by this. Personally, I feel the EU does a lot of really good things, particularly when it doesn’t overextend. These should be the focus of attention.

Be Useful, Be Real

Take Your Europe – Business, a website designed, written and translated by the same comms outfit behind the above video, and promoted by my main client (disclaimer in postscript).

Now this site is just plain useful – it helps businesses looking to expand into another EU country to get to grips with that country’s administrative set-up.

From a comms perspective, this rocks: not only is this site useful in its own right, its existence demonstrates the Single Market achievement.

So it doesn’t need to sell the Single Market. In fact, this is not a comms exercise at all.

Less brochureware, more possibilities

The site helps people take advantage of the Single Market. In other words, it’s helping deliver the Single Market, not sell it. Any comms benefits are actually incidental.

This is what the Web actually changed for the EU: it allows the EU’s achievements to become real and actionable to any person with a PC. Similar possibilities exist throughout the EU’s various programmes, policies and activities.

Helping people exploit the opportunities which the EU has brought them probably beats trying to entertain them with free karaoke or clogging the Web with online brochureware.

But that’s just my opinion, and maybe I’m just a grumpy rationalist who can’t sing! What do you think?


PS Disclaimer: My main client was tasked with promoting Your Europe – Business across Europe from 2008-2010. I developed the communication strategy. It worked, but it would not have if the site itself was not useful. This was achieved by the Commission with the support of another agency. I therefore currently have no connection with Your Europe – Business. My main client is doing something similar for Your Europe – Citizens, but I am not involved.

PPS Why else would this post get me in trouble? Apart from appearing to criticise one and praise another potential client, I could also be seen to be criticising and praising another agency (a sometime partner, sometime competitor), and thus letting Work invade Blog. Fortunately, it’s the same agency in both projects, so hopefully it all cancels out! ūüėČ

PPPS Using the Web to actually implement and improve EU programmes, policies and activities will require interactive online publishing technologies which are flexible and cost-effective. A session on the use of Drupal by the EU Institutions at the recent DrupalGovDays in Brussels, attended by some 20 staff, sent a positive signal, even if it was a closed session to discuss open source technology.

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  1. Effective communication…

    Interesting Mathew. Next time you attach a sound file so we can assess you singing skills?

    I had not heard yet about Europe’s festival, so I’m not sure how they will draw 100 000 people (promote it on EurActiv? ūüôā )

    It would be great to have some debate about effectiveness of different communication initiatives (with some self restraint – mainly facts – from those involved and moderation to avoid ‘d√©rapage’). What do you think? Maybe not online?

    Let’s have lunch one of these days (not online this time!)



  2. I just feel like they are trying too hard and redoing what (at least the flash mob dance) others have done more genuinely before them. Also applying things that have nothing to do with their main business.

    Karaoke and Flash dance, could you imagine that in a national parliament as a means to auto promotion. I think they have a too much self esteem or too self important) to do something like that.

    The European Parliament is just still too insecure to rest in itself.

  3. @Christophe, thanks for dropping by. A debate regarding cost-effectiveness would be an excellent idea, but very hard to achieve in practice. Very few players – if any – would be both well-placed to judge effectiveness; the costs are often professional secrets; I can’t think of anyone who would be independent; and even fewer would exercise self-restraint. A shame.

    But you can always check out Hugh’s EuroPCons 2011 group on the IABC’s web2 Ning: dedicated to “sharing and discussing worst practices”, it is named (deliriously and deliciously) after EuroPCom 2011, “a lovefest for mutual admiration of best practices in government communications”.

    @Karen, you’re absolutely right to say that such activities would look ridiculous in a national parliament. On the one hand, of course, national parliaments don’t have that many people questioning their legitimacy or not understanding their role, so comparisons with national parliaments are not always fair.

    On the other hand, I don’t see a karaoke in the heart of the Brussels EU Quarter as reinforcing anyone’s legitimacy anytime soon. You may be right about self-esteem. Anyone from the EP care to comment? ūüėČ

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