PressMonday, 18 May 2009
New study reveals extent of MEPs digital communication with voters
Whilst many MEPs still underuse the powerful potential of the internet, a few early adopters point the way to the digital future.
A survey published today, lifts the lid on how MEPs use the internet to help their work and engage with the electorate. At a time when the average European spends 9 hours a week online and 66.8% of those on the internet are using social networks, the MEPs who engage effectively in these areas may benefit from their efforts when Europeans go to the polls in early June.
Fleishman-Hillard, one of Brussels' leading public affairs and communication agencies, analysed data from 110 MEPs representing 26 Member States to create the first ever study on the digital habits of MEPs. The full results and analysis of the survey can be read online at www.epdigitaltrends.eu
One of the key findings of the far-ranging study is that whilst three quarters of MEPs use their personal websites to reach the electorate, a majority also still believe that digital tools are less effective than traditional forms of communication such as television and newspapers.
With less than a month to go before the European Parliament elections, the Party of European Socialists (PES) will be pleased to discover that it leads both the European People's Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) in utilising online technology. Fleishman-Hillard's research shows that from using Facebook to Flickr, Twitter to Digg, PES members are more likely to be an ‘early adopters' than members of either of the other two major parties. This will come as welcome news to the Party which currently trails the EPP in pan-European polls.
Despite some early adopters, the data shows that only a minority of MEPs have fully grasped the potential of using online technologies to help them engage meaningfully with their electorate. The vast majority of politicians in the European Parliament still use mass media techniques rather than the personal and participatory media of the future. However the direction of travel is clear from the data and when new MEPs take their seats later this year, it is likely that many more will start using online communication techniques which provide inexpensive and limitless ways to reach voters at relevant moments in the right context at the right time.
Fleishman-Hillard's conclusion that MEPs will increasingly move their research and communications online is added weight by evidence from the America. In the USA, online tools have been credited with the success of Barack Obama's election campaign and members of Congress now have highly targeted web campaigns incorporating the latest Web 2.0 tools.
Other headline facts revealed by the study are:
- 75% of MEPs use a personal website extensively.
- 93% of MEPs use search engines on a daily basis to understand legislative issues.
- 51% of MEPs visit blogs once a week or more.
- 62% of MEPs have never heard of Twitter or have no plans to use it.
- MEPs who are active online are more inclined to rate the internet as crucial to helping them form policy positions than those who are less active.
- 33% of MEPs believe online advertising to be either very effective or effective way to communicate to voters compared to 57% for television advertising.
- MEPs have low recognition of the strengths of search engine marketing.
James Stevens, Senior Vice President of Fleishman-Hillard Brussels and head of Digital Services, said: ‘Our survey demonstrates a clear direction of travel for MEPs in respect of digital communication. We can see for the first time the green shoots of what will be a digital revolution allowing elected and elector to interact on a more meaningful level. I predict that by the time of the next election we will see a transformation of these results with MEPs having woken up to the true benefits of the internet.'
Bill Black, Head of Public Affairs for Fleishman-Hillard in Washington D.C., said: The behavior of the ‘early adopters' is similar to that of Howard Dean in his 2004 campaign to gain the Democratic nomination. His campaign planted the seeds that bloomed in the subsequent successful campaign by Barack Obama. Similarly, these early adopters represent the future. By mastering these tools now, they stand to gain at the ballot box in the not-too-distant future.'
Notes to editors
1. ‘9 hours per week spent on the web in 2008, up 27% from 2004 - more time than
people spent reading print media, watching movies or playing video games' - Current European growth trends: http://lab.77agency.com/display-advertising/europe-online-the-three-screens-that-will-dominate-according-to-microsoft-2080
2. 66.8% is the percentage of people who said they use social networks, according to a Nielsen Online poll.
3. Web 2.0 is a term coined to loosely describe Web-based services such as wiki sites and social networks that emphasize online collaboration and content-sharing among users.
4. The survey which can be viewed in full at www.epdigitaltrends.eu, measured a wide range of MEPs' online communication activities.
5. For every survey filled in a donation of 10 Euro was made by Fleishman-Hillard to one of the following charities: One Laptop per Child: www.laptop.org/en or the Fulda-Mosocho Project: www.weibliche-genitalverstuemmelung-ueberwinden.com
6. Fleishman-Hillard EU is one of Brussels' leading public affairs and communications consultancies. Our staff of over 45 multinational and multilingual consultants has first-hand experience of the European Union institutions, national governments, business and journalism across all industry sectors and areas of EU policy.
We offer a full range of public affairs and communications services from direct advocacy to media relations. We lead the way in integrating digital tools in Brussels into a wide range of campaigns. Public Affairs 2.0 [http://pagoesdigital.wordpress.com] is our blog on the use of digital in politics, public affairs and communications in Europe. You can also follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/Eurotwittering
For more information visit our Brussels website, http://eu.fleishmaneurope.com
For more information please contact Tim Nuthall on or call +32 478 98 74 79
Tim Nuthall - Account Director Brussels
Tel: +32 2 230 05 45