The whole ethos behind comms2point0 is a belief in sharing, learning and helping. But why limit this to the UK? We just went European and made some new friends along the way.
I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to talk at the European Union Committe of the Regions EuroPComevent in Brussels, a presitgious conference for European communicators. As always, learning opportunities were aplenty.
Here is a run-down of 20 things I learnt on the flying visit to beautiful Brussels...
- 1. The number one issue - by far - concerning residents across Europe is unemployment*. Other issues which have previously scored highly - such as the environment - have nose-dived sharply on the back of the on-going recession. There is learning here for comms folk - (*Eurobarometer survey results can be found here )
- It's all about spoons. Choosing which social media platforms to use is just like choosing spoons, says Sean Clarke of The Guardian website (Soup spoons for soup, dessert spoons for dessert, serving spoons for serving etc, etc... )
- Helder Goncalves is a one-man social media machine. This chap runs multiple (and I mean multiple) social media accounts for his organisation, Matosinhos Council in Portugal. He is passionate about digital engagement with residents. One of his big lessons: Residents don't visit council websites at night. So, instead, engage with them on social media on the platforms they choose to use.
- It turns out that Germans don't like twitter. Well, not many of them. It's Facebook all the way as the preferred platform to engage.
- They have wine at lunchtime EU comms events. How lovely. Could you just imagine the carnage at a British comms event if this was a common occurrence?
- I discovered the concept of 'Donut brands', thanks to Christian Bluemelhuber (a professor in marketing) "You can put as much sugar as you like on top of a ring donut but it still has no core." That really got me thinking...
- Belgium is the cartoon capital of the world. Who doesn't love Tin Tin and The Smurfs. And artist Laurent Verron's cartoons feature on the sides of buildings around the town centre. They look brilliant.
- Political organisations and institutions need a face, a human face, if they are to be believed, trusted and respected.
- Brussels has the best coffee I have had in a long, long time. And I'm missing it.
- Zeebox is a tool for joining in real time debates on live TV shows or events. If your organisation or area of communications is being featured on a TV programme you might just want to take a look at this as it offers a wealth of opportunities for the communicator (thanks to Sean Clarke of the Guardian)
- Branding a region has nothing to do with brand managers or politicans. It's about the region's residents and their take, their role, their love (or not) for their own region (Christian Blumelhuber)
- MySpace is going to make a comeback. You heard it here first (well, second) It's the Justin Beiber effect (I know, I know... )
- If you have the job of place-marketing a region, the advice during these austere times is "don't expect too much."
- A reminder: Follow your publics, don't just go off creating sites and platforms which they will not be interested in.
- As always, Finland is at the cutting edge of all things social and ditial. Mia Marttiinni heads the citizen and participatory media platform, Stadi.TV If you think you have digital and social media cracked then take a look at Mia's presentation and then ask yourself the question again.
- At the close of Day One at 6pm, only one person had left the worshop I was involved in (from a room of about 200 attendees) There was no sloping off after the break at 4pm...
- The picture is king. Comms people all over Europe seem to have realised that customers often prefer pictures - either moving or still - to words. The Bavarian local government website homepage has very few words but is full of photographs and video clips. And they load around 250 videos per year to their site.
- Effective evaluation of social media is an issue in the rest of Europe just as it is in the UK. Someone, somewhere, will get rich very quickly if they crack this social media chestnut.
- Europe-wide, young people are switched off by local authority and public sector websites. And they are not that thrilled with email as a channel either.
- Finally, and perhaps the biggest revelation, Brussels still has C&A stores. Wow. I wasn't sure, though, what the French was for 'Man at Avanti'.
So, great to get an insight into the work and thinking of colleagues from across Europe. I really hope that a couple of them may pop across and see us in Birmingham for CommsCamp13.
Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and vice chair of LGComms
photo by me