France is now living an important political communication crisis.
“Introduced to Amine Benalia-Brouch, a young party activist of north African appearance, Hortefeux (pictured) said: “You always get one, when there’s one it’s OK, it’s when there are a lot of them you get problems.” (…) The incident is captured in a video on the website of Le Monde. Mr Benalia-Brouch is introduced by a figure who says “He’s an Auvergnat, an Auvergnat, it’s a disaster.”
As the young man poses with Hortefeux someone says “that’s integration for you!” A man then says: “He speaks Arabic,” and a woman says: “He’s Catholic, he eats pork and foie gras.”
Mr Hortefeux then says: “He doesn’t correspond to the archetype then. Not at all” – before making the controversial remark.”
What is pretty surprising is the apparent misunderstanding and lack of professionalism of Brice Hortefeux. Every content, interview, travel, meeting, can now be broadcast on YouTube, FlickR, blogs: in this case, Hortefeux speaks as if he was 100% off the record.
Moreover, there are several ingredients for a typical communication crisis:
UMP politicians have been pretty crap in terms of communication during the last few days. Luc Châtel and Nicolas Sarkozy were spotted while they were “organising” some fake testimonials
Hortefeux claims that it’s a conspiracy of other parties against him. Well, as his own supporters did not give the same explanation & the same storyline of the context in which he was filmed, the thing is that Hortefeux cannot be followed, listened and credible
Hortefeux accused parties, media & new media, all in the meantime. Well, if you need to save your life, you’d better leave a chance to get one open channel. Otherwise, you’re dead
Public Sénat did not declare immediately that they were the ones who filmed Hortefeux. Therefore, every French citizen made a shortcut: Elysée pressure=Brice Hortefeux wants to control the truth. Have a look on Twitter
Jean-François Copé burning situation: Brice Horefeux was not alone to make a mistake BUT JF Copé “escaped” to a certain extent the controversy. How come? I don’t have any right answer now, but we can imagine that Copé’s friends prefered to see Brice suffering from the polemic
One new breach in the empathy system that candidate Sarkozy wanted to implement during the presidential elections.
as social media is now a great information loop in France, journalists, activists & citizens can communicate together to share quickly elements of context when it comes to important issues
you cannot pretend that nothing’s happening if everybody’s asking for answers online, that is to say that the word-of-mouth is calling you
I had the opportunity this week-end to take part to a conference @Modem summer university – centre party in France (too complicated to get into details) around new possibilities thanks to online activism.
I don’t go too further on my own speech, as a video will be broadcast in few days. Basically, my point was to break 4 stereotypes that are promoted in general opinion about social web:
“social web is not mainstream nor “real life”"
“you need to make a buzz to be heard in digital political field”
“the young are the only producers of information”
“it’s anarchy online”
But what really matters and what really interested me are the questions that the Modem activists asked:
how to be authentic? aka there are internal debates that must remain confidential, but how to involve observers/citizens in the whole process
how to centralize and coordinate the actions?
who are those bloggers?
how can I leverage at my local level some digital influence
What I really appreciated is the pragmatism they had, and the focus on value proposition:
we have great ideas, we first need to agree on a common storyline, to listen to people in the meantime, and then in probably 2/3 years we’ll be ready for engaging deeply citizens.
“avoir une vraie idée dans une vie, c’est beau. Être capable d’en sortir 150, c’est absurde. “ (rough translation: to have a single idea/purpose in life, it’s great. To have 150, it’s absurd/non-sense)
So digital influence work could be a way to change their internal organisation and to help it structure assets, programs, stories. Digital influence is far more than promotion of ideas: it’s a matter of management.
“C’est le cas, ainsi, des Jeunes démocrates (affiliés au Modem de François Bayrou). Web TV, achat en ligne de l’incontournable tee-shirt orange, partage des articles sur les réseaux sociaux, blogs des fédérations : leur site (www.jeunes-democrates.org) se veut interactif. « Ce sont des médias stratégiques, qui permettent d’innover et de passer des messages plus décalés, différents du standard politique », estime Franck Faveur, à la tête du mouvement.”
Franck Faveur (and the whole article) claims that online communications gives the opportunity to diffuse more surprising or quirky mesages. But I just think that it’s not a good idea in France, or in Europe in general, to develop this kind of second-degree messages. How come? Because we lack and miss the first one, the political meaning. The very last study that has be done by the European Parliament explains the reasons why people did vote or not:
“The main reasons cited by non-voters for their choice mainly relate to the wider political climate: a lack of confidence in politics in general (28 per cent), the view that voting makes no difference (17 per cent) or a lack of interest in politics (17 per cent). By contrast, only 10 per cent cited a lack of knowledge of the EU, EP or the elections and just 8 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the EP as an institution.”
A lack of confidense, and a misunderstanding of what politics means. When you look at the European elections, you realize that the 2 parties that rocked thanks to social web are Piratpartiet and the Greens. And that it was a long-term strategy, with a strong focus on pedagogy and conversations, using only tactical buzz to boost the whole programme. Social media were the hub of all the interactions they leveraged.
So my point is that you don’t need quirky messages, but new paths to informations – which is quiet different- driving to a clear vision/political programme.
Quirky paintings do not not make sense without that value proposition
“since we entered Twitter, I think the definition of public diplomacy has changed”
According to David (Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York ) , if in the past, we had to convey messages to third parties, now we could directly talk to the relevant public.
It’s true to a certain extent:
you still need to be “respectable” enough to be conveyed
you also need traditional media to “sacralize” your views
but it’s right, more and more journalists are on Twitter and social media anyway
there’s a war for the storyline about the information: now governments can bypass tradional press in order to give their views