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Rebranding Europe: How the EU can improve communication with its citizens

Europe needs to change. In many ways. This was said several times on the occasion of the 60th birthday and the celebrations of the Rome Declaration on Saturday. The EU leaders said it. And thousands of Europeans who took to the streets. Europe – the European Union, that is – faces a facet of multiple issues it seems unable to solve. One these issues is the inability of the EU to communicate issues that affect the daily lives of its citizens and it thus creating the impression it disregards the needs of  the European average man, woman and child.

The book “Rebranding Europe Fundamentals for Leadership communication” published beginning of March addresses exactly these issues.

Author Stavros Papagianneas has a 20-year long experience in communications as he held several positions as the Communication Officer at the European Commission and Press Officer and Spokesperson to various diplomatic missions in Brussels.

We asked the author two questions: Why and where does the EU communication fail and What can be done ? Stavros Papagianneas sent us his replies

KTG: Why EU communication fails?


“There are different types of disruption of EU communication. The 2004 enlargement that was so strongly associated with ending the division of Europe appears now to have a gloomy effect on its further integration and unification. The euro crisis divided Europe into a North and South. The refugee crisis is even worse for Europe. In addition to the North-South divide an East versus West confrontation has arisen. Most European capitals were heartily disappointed when Eastern European countries blankly refused to participate in a EU-wide solution to the refugee crisis.
The European project is in the middle of its most severe crisis since the Treaty of Rome was signed by the six founding members in 1957. Since the 2008 financial crisis exposed the structural shortcomings of the eurozone, Brussels’ economic weakness has been one of the key arguments in the UK against EU membership (Brexit), just as the Union’s economic strength was a key argument to stay in the 1975 referendum.

In addition, the EU message is not effective also because it is not always interesting to the media and the citizens.We have other phenomena that influence EU communication like the Brussels bashing, fake news, scandals with Commissioners being employed in corporate top positions after their EU mandates (Barroso, Neelie Kroes,..), understanding today’s audiences, the identity crisis, the lack of a common European public sphere,lack of communication strategy and professionalism..etc”

KTG: Key recommendation on how the EU could value for the daily lives of its citizens?

St Papagianneas:

The European message needs to be interesting to the media and the citizens. It needs the kind of storytelling that captures their interest and explains what it does for them.

There is need of a two way communication where the citizens participate.
Communication should happen more on local level and take consideration of national and regional needs and topics.
We should look at it from different facets depending from where we are. What is relevant for Gernamy will probably not be important for Spain or Poland. Decentralisation from Brussels is key.
Most of all, the EU needs to send out a message of unity and recovery. The European Union needs to show that it is coming out of the crisis. It is fundamentally important to send out a message that will link past images to the future. A clear and sustainable political commitment to work together is one of the cornerstones of achieving success in communicating the EU.

Below is the Press Release sent by StPcommunications

Rebranding Europe. Fundamentals for Leadership Communication
Brussels, 15 March 2017

We are delighted to announce the publication of the new book of Stavros Papagianneas ” Rebranding Europe. Fundamentals for Leadership communication.”Rebranding Europe explores why EU communication fails and how to make it succeed. It examines the future of communication in Europe full of complex issues involving: the creation of a European public sphere, the European identity crisis,  multilingualism, the lessons learned from the Brexit campaigns,  challenging myths and populism, communicating Europe, grassroots communication and how to support quality journalism.

It provides key recommendations and describes what can be done to show in a simple and clear way what is the added value of the EU for the daily lives of its citizens, and how to rebrand Europe.

It gives original and logical answers to communication questions. The author has spoken to a number of key stakeholders in European communications and has conducted several interviews with important opinion leaders. Their input is invaluable and they provide different perspectives.

Among them are Jane Morrice,  former Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), responsible for communications and former BBC correspondent; Androulla Vassiliou, former EU Commissioner of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth; and Rick Ridder, former U.S. presidential campaign manager for Howard Dean and senior consultant to five other presidential campaigns including those of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Gary Hart. The book includes also the results of a survey that the author has conducted among EU affairs journalists.

The book is available at ASP Publishers , Amazon, and in the large book stores in Europe from 15 March 2017 on. 

For a copy of the book signed by the author please contact Stavros Papagianneas at [email protected]

Stavros Papagianneas is managing director at STPCommunications. He has more than 20 years’ experience in PR, strategic communications, public affairs,  digital communication, social media and media relations. He has also been a member of the Working Party on Information of the Council of the European Union. He is the author of several articles in EU media like New Europe, L’ Echo, De Tijd,  Communication Director and Research Europe. He holds a Master degree in Communications from the University of Brussels (VUB).

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