26 things to learn from day one of europcom

Every year hundreds of communicators gather in Brussels to listen, talk and share ideas. This year comms2point0 social reported from the event with a rolling Twitter, pictures and a storify to capture all the tweets.

by Dan Slee

So, there you go. Day one of Europcom and we end up trending in Belgium. Just goes to show that just talking about communications things can be popular.

What is Europcom? It's an event organised by the European Union held in Brussels for more than 800 comms and PR people and focussed on a theme. This year with elections in 2014 the focus was on elections.

There is much to be concerned about in fairness. There is the rise of extremism across Europe and a lobby to see the EU if not scrapped then reduced in power. There's plenty on their plates.

Here are 26 things that struck me from day one of europcom

1. A whole swathe of Brussels is taken up with EU offices. This may be a touristy thing to say. But it is worth reflecting whether London would have ever done the same thing.

2. EU comms is by definition high level. With 500 million residents and dozens of languages it maybe needs to be. But how well do big picture messages play out to people? As one delegate said, if you are American you take faith and inspiration not from the US government but from the street where you live, the baker, the grocer and the community you live in. 

3. There is polite frustration with Britain. "It makes me smile," one EU officer said "when I hear this idea of 'Britain and then the rest of Europe.'"

4. There are people who work at the EU who are absolutely as passionate about working for the EU. It's vocational and they're proud of what they do. One goes back to his community and makes a point of telling people about what they do.

5. Which doesn't happen in Britain. Maybe the EU needs to focus on people who work in a community as being a new generation of messenger. If, as Jim Garrow has pointed out, trust in politicians and senior people has dipped then trust in those towards the frontline has risen. So why not invest in social media to give those passionate people a voice? 

6. You will regularly see an informal meeting between half a dozen people all from different countries conducting a high-level meeting in English with none of them having it as a mother tongue.

7. The recent history of 60 years without a major war in Europe is because of the EU. This is fact. But how many people take this for granted?

8. Engagement fails because nothing happens afterwards.

9. If you don't know who you are talking to it won't matter what you say.

10. If you use technical language on Twitter you get a technical audience.

11. Success isn't having big numbers. It's having the right numbers. Twenty likes on a Facebook post about a new EU-funded bus stop in Wem, Shropshire is a success.

12. There are people in the EU who think that signing off a tweet and a three day process is the right thing to do. They are getting fewer.

13. Posting a picture of a nude artwork is art in a presentation. But it also gets people's attention.

14. Be authentic.

15. Be human.

16. If you do those things you stand a chance of being a success.

17. As a comms person you don't have to be the person who presses send to get the message out. Be an enabler.

18. LinkedIn isn't sexy. But you can speak to business people there.

19. Comms people have a vital role to play in convincing people that the EU is a good idea.

20. Social media is conversation. You can't control it. You can contribute to it.

21. Part of the EU maps how many people watch TV and how many people have watched James Bond.

22. There are cultural differences in using social media. In Greece, people don't like using social media if they have to give their real name.

23. Just because you can do digital doesn't mean you should.

24. Local government in the UK does social media well when trust and training is given to frontline staff. I wish, wish, wish the EU would take a leaf from this book.

25. Dave Worsell of govdelivery is a top bloke.

26. The organisers of europcom need a pat on the back. It would be great to see how they can keep those connections going throughout he rest of the year too.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.