By Johnell Woody
Some blogs are just plain easy to write, some are not. Such is the case with our visit to the European Union, Council of Ministers, which is not the same as the European Commission, while both relate to the Parliament – three bodies, checks and balances – sound familiar? Let me assure you that that is where the similarity ends. Belgium is an extremely complex country, however its complexity pales when contrasted with the EU.
Fortunately for us, our mission is communication related; public diplomacy, public relations, press centers (or hubs), and advertising – not politics. That being said, I must admit that I cannot remove the politics from my interests or my questions. However, in keeping with our purpose, we met with the head of the Council of Ministries Press Office, Nicolas Kerleroux for a view of creating political news and press events from the inside out. He began with an overview of the European Union, the challenges of dealing with its twenty-seven member nations, and the twenty-two languages spoken by member nations. Although meetings are conducted in English, each member has the opportunity for an interpreter. The press office is charged with being certain that each press release, in all twenty-two languages, agree completely. Lack of consistency in the transcripts and documents is settled in the Judiciary.
The press office is responsible for official communication of the business of the Council and for arranging press coverage for the three, four, or more, summits per year. The huge, open atrium inside the main entrance seems like a waste of space, until seeing the pictures of the area transformed into a press room. Over 1,000 journalists, news agents, and camera crews fill the space. Producing and distributing official news releases and communications from the Council is the primary task of the press office, along with making arrangement for press coverage for events. With the growth in popularity of social media, its use has become more strategic. Because it cannot be ignored, it must be engaged, therefore a social media expert has been added to the Press Office staff.
My take-aways from this meeting: 1) if your aim is international communications, become multi-linguistic; 2) plan to be an event planner as well as a press secretary for an organization; and 3) become a student of world etiquette. Oh, and one last thing, become very good at answering questions without giving an answer.
The Press Office feeds the media hubs, the media hubs feed news agencies around the world. Digital technology provides immediacy; a rapidly changing world provides the data; and the complexity of the EU provides food for thought. With all the tools available, I wonder how many Europeans really understand the European Union? The questions provides food for further thought and a future blog series.
Next stop: Ogilvy, public relations group, and Saatchi & Saatchi, adverting group.