The Friendly Chat: Pierre-Antoine Rousseau, IE-Lobbying

The following is cross-posted on a new blog called PNeo. Watch out for more cross-posts as well as insights, observations and analysis from the digital team at Porter Novelli, my employer. 

Pierre-Antoine Rousseau is Online Marketing Manager at EurActiv, the independent media portal fully dedicated to EU affairs. He runs his blog at http://www.ie-lobbying.blogspot.com

What are the top three things you’d ask people to consider before they start a blog?

Never forget: blogging is not only about writing, it’s also about being read, and let’s not forget influence, visibility and networking. So, make sure you’ve got a real plan behind what you’re doing, ideally matched to a PR strategy.

With this in mind:

  • At a technical level, think about the blogging platform you are going to choose. Benchmark the available options, not forgetting you can often do this for free. Of course, this part also depends on your “geekiness”…
  • At an editorial level, think about your positioning. What are you going to write about? What will be your audience? Prepare some articles before launching the blog. And don’t forget that strategy.
  • At a community level, think about your environment. Map the webosphere and blogosphere so that you have an idea of who you’re trying to influence. Identify friends and foe and prepare to interact!

What is your favourite social media tool/site/technology?

I like StumbleUpon. It’s an online social bookmarking tool which complements Google PageRank in a much more efficient way than usual Digg-alikes.

Which blogger do you most admire?

Jean Quatremer, a journalist on Libération who blogs at Les coulisses de Bruxelles on European and Belgium affairs. Launched in December 2005, Jean Quatremer’s blog won the Louise Weiss in the category “European Journalism” in May 2006.

Why did you set up your own blog?

In France, there are a lot of preconceived ideas about lobbying. My first objective was to demonstrate that lobbying is not undemocratic and I thought a blog would be a good way to start spreading this message as blogs are themselves a very democratic, open medium.

What benefits has it given you professionally (for example, did it lead to your current job)?

Yes, it helped me to develop my professional network. I’ve been conducting a lot of interviews recently and meeting other lobbyists, and the community aspect of blogging was really useful. Setting up a blog – if it’s well done – can be an advantage in the very competitive public affairs job market. And indeed, it did help me to find my current job.

Is there a large lobbying blogging community across Europe? Which countries are most active?

My blog is about lobbying. This is different from a “lobby blog” which would be a PR tool to artificially complement a lobbying campaign. It’s not difficult to find them. However, I recently came across an interesting example of another political blog, this time maintained by a PR company (the Fleishman-Hillard team in Brussels). Its name is PA 2.0 and it carries quite a lot of interesting political content.

Can blogging really influence policy?

Blogs are much influential in the US than in Europe. However, I think blogs are starting to have an increasing influence on European politics. This is one of the reasons we launched Blogactiv – a blogging platform dedicated to European affairs developed by EurActiv which aims at becoming the premier platform for opinions, discussions and views on EU policies.

Do you see an important role for social media generally in European policy making?

Not yet, even if social media is growing in terms of influence. But certainly, there could be a role eventually. Social media could support the development of e-democracy platforms.

What is the most effective social media for lobbying?

Blogs are very useful in terms of communication. However, fake web portals – “neutral” websites launched by a lobby to influence the debate – are very efficient in terms of e-lobbying. For example, companies launch web portals to put across their biased arguments in seemingly neutral terms, without any explicit links to the parent companies.

Do you see cultural differences across Europe in approaches to blogging?

The big difference is between the US and Europe. In particular, the political blogosphere is much more influential in the US. This cool map of the US political blogosphere, made by the company LinkFluence, shows the political affiliations between sites in the US.

From the patterns you’ve seen emerging, how do you see blogging developing throughout Europe over the next year?

The EU blogosphere – European blogs focused on the EU – is already very active. Since 2005 – which coincided with the rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon by France – there has been an explosion of EU political blogs. In particular, you can read this excellent article on Nosemonkey which makes an interesting profile of the EU blogosphere.

Why did you decide to set up a wiki?

In France, there is not a lot of information available about lobbying. The main reason I decided to set it up was to create a free online database on lobbying. We have resources such as News, an Agenda, Jobs and Internships, Directories, etc. We are also running monthly interviews and editing a monthly newsletter.

How active is it?

Concerning our readership, it is constantly increasing. From May 2007 to May 2008, we multiplied our audience by 10. A dozen people help me to run this collaborative portal. By the way, we are looking for English-native speakers to help the translation of the Website. If anyone is interested, email me at info AT ie-lobbying DOT info.

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