The editors and webmasters who work on the various internet presences of the European Community have written an open letter to the re-elected President, José Manuel Barroso, and the incoming Commissioners on “Harnessing the power of the internet for better communication.” As you might expect there’s some good advice here from people who know first hand what’s happening to communication systems currently. After all, the EU website has some six million pages — which makes it larger than Slaw.
The audience for on-line news continues to grow; informal forums and blogs are increasingly influential on public opinion. Meanwhile the written press is in free fall, and companies are bypassing traditional media channels to communicate directly with their customers.
It recommends in general “an open, decentralized way of communication, engaging in constant dialogue, rather than communicating via press releases.” Some other points about restructuring the EU web presence made in the letter are:
- be user-centric rather than driven by Commission “priorities, organisational structures and vocabulary”
- “strip Europa sites and pages of obscure jargon and less relevant content”
- require director generals to “peer-review each other’s websites”
- encourage / empower Commission staff to use social networks to communicate also about their work via blogs, social networks etc.
- make intelligent use of social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc…)
All of which, as the letter recognizes, will require appropriate resources and continuous research and training and, in sum:
a major shift in attitude to break away from the one-way, top-down communication culture, still prevalent in many parts of the organisation, and develop an in-house communication culture that encourages and empowers staff across the organisation to use the internet to interact with people.
This is advice that could — and should — be directed firmly at all levels of government in Canada. It’s not at all clear than any of them actually “gets it” as yet.