On Friday 23rd 2021, European Generation hosted a new exciting event about communicative strategies in the EU. With our guests Valentina Parasecolo, Press agent at the European Parliament in Italy and Matilde Casamonti, Junior Economist at the Osservatorio sui Conti Pubblici Italiani, we engaged in a discussion about the communication strategies of the Union, focusing on several fields of interest. The debate was moderated by Professor Italo Colantone, Associate Professor Department of Social and Political Sciences at Bocconi University.
Fresh off the EYD, where Ms Parasecolo had been one of the speakers at the opening conference and our roundtable “Speaking European” had touched upon the issue of communicating the EU, we were excited for another insightful conversation on this important issue.
To begin with, the most ground-breaking moment for the communicative strategy of the EU, 2008 and 2018 were indicated, providing the participants with an overview over the state of communications in the EU today.
In 2008, social media prominence reached the point of no return and they were finally integrated within the more traditional methods such as press conferences and broadcasting. The EU as a whole had to step up to the challenge to not fall behind.
Secondly in 2018, with the European elections came the “This time I’m voting” engagement project which was able to enrol several volunteers all around Europe to inform and ensure active participation in the whole Union. The champion city considering the number of enrolled volunteers was Milano. During this peculiar moment for the Union, data analyst professional figures and social media managers joined national press agencies to ensure the news and voting informational material reached as many as possible. The “no production without distribution” motto guides the EU parliament press agency as they have to make the best of the limited funds to assure maximum coverage. In Italy, for example, the three press officers are located in Milano and Rome, with our guest Ms. Parasecolo being the representative in Milano.
Given that the European Parliament is the only organ voted directly via universal suffrage, participation at the polls is fundamental to ensure its representativeness. Notably, the last round of elections saw in most countries a substantial rise in turnout.
Source: © European Union,  – Source: European Parliament
Among the various points of the engaged conversation with our members and guests, we noted how the EU institutions might seem very distant from the citizens who may not always be able to fully appreciate the lengths of the measures adopted by the various organs. A very interesting project on this side was the what-europe-does-for-me.eu portal, sponsored by the EU parliament to allow citizens to have an overview of the projects and their consequences on their daily life.
Our guests’ contributions were fundamental to have first-hand knowledge from the field. Ms Casamonti insights guided us to have a grasp of the difficulties of communicating economic data to the population and assure that the information spread is as accurate as possible to avoid misinterpretation.
Ms Parasecolo stressed the complexity of dealing with the communication devices in a constantly evolving scenario of highly fragmented local media outlets. The press agency engages in direct communication with the newspaper via press briefings. This part of the communicative strategy allows non-native digital citizens such as retirees and older generations to be part of the conversation.
Fake news entered the conversation many times as they seem to plague all media outlets and not only those online. We discussed strategies to avoid misinformation and allow all citizens and allow all citizens and residents to evaluate the EU’s actions with a full set of information and strengthen European Identities across the continent.” All Union official websites are under the Europa.eu domain and on social media official accounts are always properly signalled. Especially within the mediatic scenario “despotically” in the hands of COVID, communicative strategy is fundamental to assure that reliable information are the one to be spread. With large-scale initiatives like the vaccination campaign and the NextGen EU fund on the way, allowing people, to have first-hand and reliable data is even a more complex challenge than before. IT attacks from external countries to the Union as well as straightforward fake news are shared every second in the Union, shaping continuously the views on the institutional framework of the EU. Especially after Brexit, the widening gap between public opinion and the European political and administrative bodies in Brussels is becoming painfully clear. Innovative institutional campaigns are designed for each occasion and targeted to the intended audience.
On their side the press agents of the Union have to ensure that the information shared regarding ordinary and extraordinary occurrences of the various organs are reported in the correct manner to stop misleading news from spreading. Particularly regarding the current scenario, the potential of the Next Generation EU cannot go wasted. Keeping the residents of the Union on the same page is extremely important to ensure participatory politics and tackle euro-scepticism. Social media projects and editorial such as #facciamochiarezza from the Italian local European Parliament Instagram page (@EP_Italy) is a fundamental tool to prevent misconceptions and allow citizens to have a transparent view of the Parliament. Moreover, FACTA a fact-checking project member of the International Fact-Checking Network, allows users to signal fake news from a WhatsApp number to drop suspicious news links.
The Osservatorio sui Conti Pubblici Italiani aims to provide financial and civic education via user friendly and updated data.
Within the remaining time, we also discussed technicalities of great importance such as authorisations to be obtained to have MEPs interviewed and the challenges posed by national TV broadcasters and newspapers. The dynamics within the entertainment industry sometimes are quite difficult to overcome and might even clash with the priorities of institutional communications. On a positive note, the last round of surveys regarding the appreciation of the Union have seen increasing share for positive reviews.
Every day, the EU takes decisions that shape the lives of its citizens. Providing accurate, unbiased and easily interpretable information is crucial to allow Europeans to form opinions and participate actively in the Union.In other words: Communication is key.
We thank our guests and Professor Colantone as well as all students who were in attendance very warmly for their participation and are looking forward to welcoming many of you at our next events!
Cover picture: Pixabay