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On Saturday Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times published an article that has made the rounds of the blogosphere in quite some fashion (a Google blog search for the article generates just over 14,900 hits). The article “Spinning the Web: PR in Silicon Valley” is a well-researched and timely piece about how public relations (PR) execs in Silicon Valley propel new tech start-ups not by issuing press releases and calling up journalists – rather they court Web gurus, influential bloggers, and Twitter users.

The article mentions a few interesting examples, for instance, Brew Media Relations, the firm that began representing the popular photo-sharing site Flickr in 2004, never issued a press release for it, even when it was acquired by Yahoo. Ms Hammerling of Brew Media Relations explains “Flickr would publish news on its company blog, a few more blogs would pick it up, and two days later Business Week would call”.

But the piece does not tell the full story of the fundamental revolution PR is presently undergoing, as Brian Solis of FutureWorks aptly points out on his blog PR2.0. Solis explains how PR, particularly in Silicon Valley, is “much more potent than most entrepreneurs, investors, and executives realize”. He also stresses the degree to which PR today is under-appreciated and misunderstood. PR is not about ‘pushing’ news, rather it is about creating relationships “with the greater communities of influencers and users who can help extend a story, intentions, value, and sentiment as a means of driving awareness, building communities, and empowering advocates over time”.

Granted, Silicon Valley is more conducive to ‘new’ PR strategies, tools, and approaches, than say Brussels, for instance, but this should not stand in the way of PR innovation in a more ‘traditional’ arena such as the EU heartland. While there are excellent initiatives and a clear momentum towards true recognition of new PR (for example, in this year’s European Public Affairs Awards there is a new category for best Web 2.0 campaign), Brussels’ agencies are seriously lagging behind their US and continental competitors and partners. Yes, there are agencies that feature polished blogs (see Fleishman Hillard’s Public Affairs 2.0, ZN’s HyperThinker or our very own The Lobby) and there are trade associations that are successfully using Twitter or facebook (see Enviro.aero or Pesticide Information) but that’s about it. Brussels agencies are keen and the tools are all around us, but it remains to be seen whether Brussels and its opaque institutions are ready for them.

I challenge you to name a single senior Brussels PR executive who has 6 influential bloggers and 4 prolific Twitter users on speed-dial rather than 10 members of the Brusssels press corps (and who is willing to take his or her story to them rather than to the press)?

– Emil

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Great wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Lobby has learnt that in the last few hours China has blocked access to content sharing platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, or Tumblr, most probably using their Golden Shield Project firewall. Blogs hosted by WordPress or Blogger have also been blocked. According to several journalists on the web, Chinese authorities want to pre-empt any attempts to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident.

It is a sad example of government censorship but acutely highlights another dimension of social media, namely that it poses a real threat to dictatorial regimes around the world and in many countries serves a purpose greater than mere social interaction.

– Maxime

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How will you vote in the upcoming European elections? Platforms such as EU Profiler can help you figure out where you stand on the liberal-conservative and Euro-enthusiastic or Euro-sceptic scale, but there’s more to it than that, right?

A recent study conducted by the GfK Polonia research institute in Poland suggests that voting behaviour is still largely dominated by charismatic and well-known personalities. The degree to which candidates employ creative and original campaign methods seem to matter more than the actual details of the party programmes.

We all know that Obama was very talented at this game. He used social media tools to their full potential and managed to extend his personal network of “fans” even further than any showbiz star (except, of course, Ashton Kutcher on Twitter). Many campaigners in Europe are now playing catch-up and the methods are proving to be working quite well – though better for some than others.

Libertas, with its controversial rhetoric, uses the full spectrum of social media tools to its advantage and has managed to create a platform ungoverned by rules on speaking-time and where self-censorship is timid at best. Their webpage is full of 2.0 gadgets and widgets pointing to their Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts (also see Libertas Strikes Back). Yesterday, they claimed to have the most visited webpage of all European parties. But as any geek knows, hits do not equal unique visits, and unique visits do not necessarily equal votes on the big day…

– Agnieszka

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