When EUSuperGirl came to Brussels

One of the nicer little projects I’ve been involved with recently nearly blew up in my face last week. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

This is another Medium post about how Trying Stuff Out brings benefits one cannot possibly predict beforehand. There are thousands of such posts, but this is the only one featuring not one, but two real-life superheroes. (Update: join us in Brussels this December)

Let’s start with how my week started — a Facebook Live video:

I recorded this on Sunday October 8, as part of the Mobile Journalism training course I organised for the #EUinmyRegion blogging competition, which brought Madeleina and four other winners to Brussels to cover the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), which ran for the next three days.

Happy to learn mobile journalism but afraid to embarrass myself publicly, I FB-Lived from my company’s Like-Free Facebook Page, created solely to host my chatbot experiments (posts).

Three days later, I glanced at the EU Commission’s YouTube channel (left).

Note: this was before she got into the Brexit press conference, post-EWRC:

For the record: her EWRC press accreditation was a day old, but someone let her in, possibly because she was a 23 year old in a superhero costume carrying crowdfunded children’s books?

Since then, of course, she’s been more on the BBC than off it.

For the record: for those who think this ‘made’ her, she was on Channel 4 news before coming to Brussels

Including getting the EC-funded project she originally covered for the competition on the BBC:

So if the blogging competition was an experiment, what can we conclude?

Just some first thoughts for now. Some risk becoming posts in their own right.

I first suggested a blogging competition in 2007–08

  • I had just launched a blogging platform on EU affairs and needed more people in the Brussels Bubble to be comfortable with blogging
  • but a blogging competition was considered ‘too risky’ because it was new
  • if you never try anything new, you will repeat your existing strategy
  • which is fine, if your existing strategy is working fine
  • the Commission’s existing communication strategy is not working fine

Fortunately, in 2016 DG REGIO was a little less risk-averse

  • Tony and Agnès are rockstars for supporting it, Matteo for running it
  • Note for the File I: the world didn’t end when Madeleina was ushered out of the press conference
  • Note for the File II, for those who thought that was a crisis: it was an opportunity (to explain the EC’s delicate position in these negotiations)

Maybe we can learn something from this?

Probably, considering that in 16 months Madeleina:

  • evolved from apolitical, & uninterested in comms, to national figure and social media monster
  • instinctively learnt more about comms than some Brussels comms experts will know in their entire lifetimes
  • has become the sign of (some) things to come

So maybe the EU Commission should try something new more often?

Just a thought. And maybe spend less on videos nobody wants to watch.

What next?

I love projects like the blogging competition for the same reason I blog — to create some space for serendipity and learning. Sometimes I get paid, sometimes not. But anything’s better than standing still and learning nothing.

If you’d like to do something similar over the next couple of months, join Madeleina’s Letters2Europe project.

It’s a sweet, crowd-funded cultural exchange project, where British people hand-write letters to ‘their unknown European friends’ to express their Brexit dismay, and to hope relations between Britain and the rest of Europe will not be unnecessarily ‘overdamaged’ (my term).

With Brexit negotations going south fast, we’re going to need more cultural exchanges like this. Divorces are always messy. This one already sucks.

However, Letters2Europe is probably something the Commission can’t touch, for the same reason they escorted her out of the press conference — as an Institution, they must remain studiously neutral, and cannot afford to appear to favour one side over another in the UK’s internal debates.

But Letters2Europe isn’t aimed at Institutions, it’s aimed at people, so there’s no reason you can’t help

But Letters2Europe isn’t aimed at Institutions, it’s aimed at people, so there’s no reason you can’t help. Madeleina wants to return to Brussels to hand out these letters for Christmas, so:

Because, in the final analysis, if Brussels cannot reach out and connect to someone like Madeleina Kay, then <fill in your disaster of choice>.

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