Posts made in February, 2010

I speak French in all languages!

…only one of the many ooh so funny lines in the Annual Press Revue Performance put together by some of the most renown journos at Albert Hall, driven by the well-known Geoff Meade. The title this year – “Up Rompuy” – says it all. It was all about Barroso II, the red Baroness and the not German Herman, aka “the man with the Van”: truly the EU Brussels bubble at its best.

I’m not sure if you could do a roadshow with this revue, as it is so very much an insiders’ thing, and a lot of the references will be particularly striking (and funny) to those working and/or living within a 10 km radius of Rond Point Schuman. But what was certainly positive about it, was the number of European Commission officials (up to Director-General level and including those most criticised, i.e. the spokespeople) that were amongst the cheering crowd, having a good laugh…well, at themselves, I guess.

The lobbyists were not forgotten, as the monkeys swinging from a Decision to a Regulation in the EuroAvatar world (and I will have  to live for the rest of my life with that picture of a respectable journo dressed in EU blue t-shirt with stars, blue thighs and “blue underpants over his pants” for the rest of my life) and the Casablanca moment between Herman and Cathy was, well let’s just say unique (“We’ll always have Brussels, Cathy”).

Roseland Room, Albert Hall, Brussels, Belgium

Roseland Room, Albert Hall, Brussels, Belgium

Thinking back about my post on creating a face for the institutions on top of  a voice, here was a show pointing out many of the shortcomings of Brussels, Europe and its ever-so complicated institutions and representatives…but you know what, you could feel that these guys are fond of the beast, and the way they made fun of it, made me think yet again: there’s something to be said and felt about Europe…but it would imply accepting to be witty and human about it!

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SitCen, Mossad and other shady handlings: is EU becoming exciting?

My name is Rhino, Lino the Rhino

My name is Rhino, Lino the Rhino

I found it funny that suddenly a lot of tweets I saw passing by were mentioning the fact that the EU has its own “secret service”…let’s admit it, if it’s in the press, it’s not really secret ;) But then, that is true of MI-5, MI-6, the CIA, etc…and still there, the romantic vision of James Bondesque spooks comes to mind…except in Europe, we call it SitCen, which sounds more like a bacteria you could pick up in a Belgian hospital than a body of “licensed-to-kill” multi-lingual jet-setting secret agents…Even when it comes to spooks, we can’t make it sound exciting, or even very convincing for that matter!

As a word of background, and I am no specialist on this, I discovered SitCen in 2005 in a Euractiv interview of Gijs de Vries, where he described SitCen as “an integrated group of analysts from our external intelligence services and the internal security services to jointly assess the terrorist threat as it develops both inside Europe and outside”. A funnily vague answer (with explicit reference to WMD, i.e. Weapons of mass destruction) by the then UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke can also be found here and equally dates back to 2005. And if you look at the Wikipedia page on SitCen it seems it’s been around since 2001, albeit under the initial name Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG).

But anyway, the interesting part is that suddenly, a level of excitement reached the EU bubble with simultaneously the SitCen buzz (EUObserver stating a specific cell of secret service agents will be created within SitCen, including “undercover operatives”)  and the EU passports issue regarding potential Mossad activities in Dubai (see coverage by Euractiv here and by EUObserver  here )…and somehow, Europe still manages to look as sexy and efficient as Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86) from the Get Smart series, rather than invoking the cool of Mr Bond. For those not familiar with the series, Agent 86 worked for the CONTROL organisation, in a perpetual fight against the evil KAOS (now who would that represent at EU level?). Next question if you draw the full parallel is obviously: who could embody the mysterious and beautiful Agent 99, will there only be one Chief, and should SitCen’s subdivision of spooks maybe be called PITS, standing for Provisional Intelligence Tactical Service? Or will they be the men from A.U.N.T.I.E (Ashton’s United Network against Terrorism In Europe)?

So much work to do and so little time to convince we can! So to come back to the title of this post: no excitement yet, I’m afraid.

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When Institutions communicate: difference between a Voice and a Face

Work pressure being what it is, this post will be much shorter than I would like, but I still needed to throw it out: there is a huge difference for an institution communicating externally between embodying the VOICE of the institution and the FACE.

Wtf? are you thinking? Has the rhino gone mad (well actually, he’s been mad from the start, so any changes can only be attributed to recovery).

When too much VOICE hides the FACE

When too much VOICE hides the FACE

Let me try to explain what I am referring to:

  • to me, the VOICE of an institution is the communication channel that provides easily accessible information about what that institution is up to and hy it matters to Mr or Mrs Smith in the street. It’s a tweet by @eu_eeas, a press briefing by the spokesperson, a press release on Rapid, etc.
  • the FACE of the institution is made up of those individuals that make you “relate” to the institution. That make you think you want to engage not ’cause it’s your job to do so, but as a citizen, a human being, a mom, an angry teenager…It’s a blog like the one put up by the European Parliament webeditors (Writing for (y)EU)  that describes their challenges and dreams, it’s the tweets of @dicknieuwenhuis @euonymblog or @jeaninehennis that tell you they are working on this dossier, are shocked by this press coverage, talked to Ambassador X, or are excited about this project…

Everytime I read something about EU Communications, the tagline seems to be : we need to have a story to sell. To me, if you don’t think Europe is a good story in itself and feel this constant urge to create a zillion other stories on top of it, be my guest. I think however that the important bit is to create a FACE for Europe, and not just stick to the VOICE bit. I realise it’s a challenge, but some seem to get it so why not rely on them to help the others in the institutions to make the shift? I just want to be able to cut off the noise, close my eyes and start seeing FACES…

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