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Participative democracy and civil dialogue

European Movement Press and Media Relations Seminar

On 9 – 10 December 2016, the European Movement International and European Movement Germany organised a seminar on press and media relations, which was moderated by Adrian Taylor, Director at the Parmenides Foundation. During the two-day workshop, participants learned about improving communication with press, the challenges and possible solutions to communicating Europe via press and social media, as well as methods for countering the spread of ‘post-fact’ narratives online.

There were five points on the agenda, each introduced with an impulse by an expert on the issue. The European Movement Germany kicked off the session by sharing best practices in working with and writing for the press. The three points which were deemed most important were the timing of publishing articles, the importance of personal contacts with journalists and the principle of “less is more” in looking for media attention. Giving the second impulse, Elisa Simantke, political editor at and former reporter at Der Tagesspiegel, confirmed that the more targeted, well-structured and concrete any piece that is shared with a journalist can be, the more attention will be given to it, increasing the chance of receiving media attention.

On the issue of the challenges in communicating Europe, Claudia Guske, Deputy Head at the Press Section of the Commission Representation in Berlin, highlighted the importance of knowing your audience and adjusting your communications to them. Guske also held that it was important to communicate Europe from a regional angle and to show the human side to a story. Moreover, she added that where possible, the Commission Representation makes efforts to engage in the debate on Europe on social media platforms and to call out misleading or false information.

After a session in which challenges and solutions for communicating Europe were discussed in small groups, Carolin Glandorf, Programme manager at Transparency International Germany, gave insights into how her organisation deals with press requests. A clearly structured and defined work flow helps create a smooth and organised daily practice.

On the important issue of populism and countering ‘post-fact’ narratives in the media, Isabelle Hoffmann from the Bertelsmann Foundation held that it can help to spread factual and positive messages about the EU and to show that “we are all in this together”. To that end she reported that according to a study conducted by her organisation, Europe’s millennials are generally positive about the European Union. A high percentage of respondents supported the ‘principle and potential’ of the EU, but the general view on current developments in the EU and prospects for the near future is less positive. Populists tend to use this split in public opinion to their advantage. According to Hoffmann, the issue is that citizens do not experience democracy as a process that is worth engaging in. Instead, it is perceived as elitist and people feel left behind. Solutions thus lie in improving the situation at a regional level by providing the skills and instruments for people to believe and participate in democratic processes again.

The seminar was perceived as a great success by organisers and participants alike. Throughout the seminar it became clear that a great potential for improving press and media relations lies in making better use of the cross-border, European dimension of the European Movement network. Recognising the fact that we possess a wide “network of experts’, the European Movement network has the potential to work more efficiently and to reach a wider audience together.

The European Movement International and European Movement Germany organise similar events for members on a regular basis.

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