Monday 29 June 2009

Blogging, self-referentiality, and Hill & Knowlton

This morning I used a minute to write a post on Hill & Knowlton's communication outlook for the new European Parliament.

In a reaction to the post, Elaine - that's probably the H&K CEO Elaine Cruikshanks - wrote:
"Thanks for picking up on the EurActiv interview, Julien. Hill & Knowlton is more than happy to join the conversation!

We’ve watched the growth in the use of social media – by EU policymakers and the wider stakeholder community – with professional and personal interest. Professional as we naturally follow online discussions of interest to our clients; personal as our passion is EU politics and the digital age has clearly arrived in Brussels. After all, we can now follow the tweets of Swedish presidency staff as well as those of increasing numbers of MEPs.

So of course we will follow your blog and others like it. Digital communication is about two-way engagement and when we have something to contribute we will seek to join the conversation. At H&K we believe – and advise our clients as such – that by engaging with online communities in an open way, we can promote informed discussion and transparency. This shouldn’t be anything that MEPs – or the wider blogging community – should be afraid of.
The first thing one has to understand is that the reason why I took up the interview was pure self-referentiality.

It was an easy catch, because blogs were mentioned as part of strategies to influence European politics.

Since I find it funny to be considered part of a strategy (even if this doesn't actually mean me) - it brought up memories about this story during the EP election campaign - it was worthwhile to blog the quote with a small ironic comment.

At the same time, it gave me an opportunity to remind readers that there are companies like H&K in Brussels (and all around) who try to understand us - bloggers and citizens - to sell messages, no matter whether these message are for the good or bad.

As Toby said in reaction to Elaine's comment: If PR companies have to sell a war, they sell a war. The task of the informed public is to disguise those efforts, to spin against the spin. Make sure that intentions become transparent - kindest regards to GPlus.

This would have been the whole story, nobody would have noticed it for long, not even me. Without a "professional" reaction it would have been nothing but a short remark in the infinite vastness of the internets. But by getting a reaction from H&K, the blog post became more relevant than it was intended to be.

In this sense, the relevance of blogs is created not by ourselves, but by those who take us more seriously than we actually want to be - and afterwards all the PR people have to explain to their clients why they need to spend their time to interact with bloggers...