Yesterday’s announcement that the New Communications Forum 2005 conference in Paris next month has been postponed is a huge disappointment.
After the resounding success of the first Forum in the US in January (some highlights here), everyone involved was looking forward to a similar experience in Europe.
Posted on the Forum blog, the announcement included this statement:
We have discovered that it is just too early in the technology adoption process here in Europe for PR and marketing professionals to invest in a two-day conference dedicated to blogs and other new tools. […] We firmly intend on holding the Forum once we have judged the market is more ready, hopefully towards the end of this year.
So here’s my provocative statement: What an indictment of the lack of interest and willingness to learn about something new by communicators in Europe! And the lack of interest by companies in communication channels that are already impacting their businesses.
Or is it? There are little pockets of excellence here and there, with increasing numbers of communicators who are active in using and evangelizing these new channels (look at the new directory of PR bloggers, for example).
Yet these pockets of excellence represent the converted – what the Forum is about is reaching the unconverted: those communicators who haven’t yet experienced these new channels and want to find out how they might benefit them and their businesses. That’s what we saw at the US event in January – lots of PR, marketing and other communicators who didn’t yet know much about blogs, etc, but wanted to find out more.
Shel and I discussed this in yesterday’s edition of The Hobson & Holtz Report podcast, speculating on why such a lack of interest in Europe contributed to the decision to postpone the Paris conference.
We asked our listeners to tell us what they think. Is Europe a ‘communications Sahara’ for blogs and other new-media channels? Is it simply far to early to even think about putting on a 2-day event in Europe that focuses on all these tools from the communication point of view as opposed to the technology point of view? Is it that communicators just aren’t interested?
Tell us what you think. Do you agree? Disagree? Have other opinions?
There are many ways you can easily share your thoughts:
- You can email your views to: comments (at) forimmediaterelease (dot) biz
- If you like, you can record your thoughts in an MP3 file and send that – we’ll play it on a show
- You can leave comments in the podcast post on my blog, Shel’s blog or the podcast blog
- And you can even call the new Comment Line and leave a voice recording
Either way, please don’t sit on a fence. Let’s get some balanced opinion on what’s wrong in Europe!
15 thoughts on “Are communicators in Europe ready for blogs?”
Italian PR firms are slowly getting aware of blogs. Last week we were invited to attend a meeting on blogs organized by Digital PR (Hill & Knowlton) for a few of their enterprise customers.
Although the speakers made a few interesting points, there was a definite lack of awareness of many of the key points of blogging/enterprise blogging/nanopublishing: very few people seemed to understand the difference between a journalist and a blogger; the only Italian example of “corporate blog” presented to the audience was Vodafone’s Tel&Co which is nothing more than a press release en travesti; etc.
So it seems as we are at least a couple of years behind the US.
The meeting’s presentations (italian/english) are available at
our commentary on the event (italian) at
You might like to know that here at Warwick University we are making a mjor investment in blogging as a social, educational and communications tool. We are still getting to grips with how to use blogging in the most effective manner- there are immediate plans for blogs focussed on research, student recruiment and other areas.
You might like to check out Warwickblogs at http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk.
There is a lot of discussion here about the educational value of blogs, but we are only just starting to tackle the strategic communication potential of the tools. It’s a shame that the opportunity has been missed to put some focus on this topic.
ludo is certaintly right with the statement “Europe is behind”. I’m not sure, if several years oder just some months. In Germany awareness is raising quickly.
But there is another thing: I think, there still doesn’t exist a pan-European PR community, and many German oder Italian PR professionals will not consider visting an event in Paris although they certainly miss a lot.
In Germany several events on blogging and PR are planned this year. Some of them are organized by PR federations, some by agencies or by PR bloggers (for example http://www.pr-blogger.de where I am involved). I’m curious about their success.
Meanwhile, I will continue teaching my students about blogging and PR…
I could agree with that in a way, but yet interest on blogs is growing and so its awareness.
Maybe the concept itself was very ambitious, but maybe a one day event in the center of Paris could fit better for European standards.
Just look at Blogs and Social Software event organised by Loïc Le Meur. 200 people already suscribed!
I am confident that the Forum will take place soon!
I don’t think it’s fair to call Europe a ‘communications Sahara’ for blogs based on the data point that the NewComms Forum has been postponed. It may just be a function of the marketing of the event, or its location, or the timing. To extrapolate that European communicators are not interested is untrue from my own discussions.
Taking RSS as one of the new channels. Until recently, in the UK for instance, very few publications even had feeds – some still don’t eg The Sun. In Germany, there are still very few feeds, so while communicators may be interested in the technology, its application is less prevalent.
When it comes to blogs, then it seems adoption does lag the US. Speaking to my colleagues in Germany, many PR agency clients would not value ‘coverage’ or a discussion on a blog, compared to MSM clips. That’s not to say that they never will but that the level of acceptance of the power of blogs as a communications channel isn’t there yet.
Then again, here in the US many companies are still ignorant of the value of blogs, and many Internet users don’t have RSS readers (I think it’s less than 5%).
I don’t think we should be looking for what is wrong in Europe. Communicators need to select the correct channels to reach their audiences. Taking another medium, in the US, SMS is an under-utilized channel compared to Europe. That doesn’t mean the US is wrong (in fact SMS use is increasing), but that people are using different channels, such as IM over cell phones.
I’m sorry the event has been postponed, but I’m taking that as a sign of a need for more education and more proof, than anything else. I’m sure your blog, and the efforts of Blogging Planet will go a long way to help that.
Excellent comments, thank you.
Some thoughts on each.
Ludo, that’s an interesting picture in Italy, ie, the lack of awareness you mention. No surprise, though, right? And that’s not a negative or a criticism, as it’s simply broadly reflective of a picture in many European countries. It just seems to be where we are right now.
I looked at the Hill & Knowlton presentation given by Joel Cere. It’s encouraging to see that the overall top-level messages contained in this presentation broadly reflect what other people are saying at other such events in other countries. For instance, I heard and saw all of this at the New Communications Forum event in the US in January. I’ve used very similar messages in presentations I’ve made to companies. So communicators (at least) who tell the story are presenting a consistent and focused top-level picture.
Tom, thanks for that info on the Warwick University blogs. I’m actually a regular lurking visitor there, having discovered them not long ago. Over 3,000 blogs! Phenomenal!
Thomas, that’s good to hear about planned events in Germany during this year. That’s an interesting point you make re a certain unwillingness to go to an event in another country. Maybe people don’t see the relevance of an event taking place in, say, Paris to them in their market – even though the relevance is definitely there, wherever the event is being held. So maybe that’s a further promotional thing that needs to be considered when marketing a pan-European event like this.
Octavio, good points on the scale of the event. Perhaps you’re right. Interesting re the Internet 2.0 event in Paris you mention. Yes, that has attracted many people already to sign up. Yet that event is not targeted specifically at communicators and the content isn’t tailored for that audience.
So the European Forum ‘target participant’ like the type of person who attended the Forum in the US – typically, a communication practitioner who didn’t know too much about new-media channels but had heard about them, and had a strong desire to learn more about them, the benefits of them and how to apply them in their own company environment or that of their clients – would unlikely to be going to Loic le Meur’s event.
There’s a half-day conference taking place here in Amsterdam in late April a few days before Internet 2.0 in Paris called Blognomics (http://www.blognomics.nl/), which is the first conference in The Netherlands about blogging. It’s aimed at a broader audience than the Forum event (ie, not only communicators) but the focus is similar: helping people who want to find out more to understand what tools like blogging can do in business (and in politics, too) and how to apply them. I don’t know what the sign-up numbers look like, but I gather from the organizers that it is expected to be a successful event.
Both these events are one day or less. So perhaps a 2-day event like the Forum is a bit too ambitious for Europe at this time. I’m not saying it is, just wondering aloud. But if so, then we’re probably talking about a different type of event, as the deep content of the Forum couldn’t be squeezed in to just one day.
Like you, though, I am certain the postponed Forum event in Europe will take place at some point this year, whatever it’s eventual structure.
Morgan, nice rebuttal on my ‘communication Sahara’ point. It’s great to see a provocative statement slapped down so neatly 😉 You’re right in that you can’t use a broad brush here. If that new list of PR bloggers is any indicator, as I mentioned in my post, there is quite a lot going on to raise awareness of these communication channels among communicators in various European countries. Little oases in the desert, then.
Yet I have to say that some of my experience in the past six months or so (a very long time in the blogosphere) when speaking to some communicators in some companies – mostly in the UK, I would add – is that every time I speak to them about new-media channels, that’s exactly when I see a ‘communication Sahara’ (and if you want to see some thinking on this point, please look at an article I posted on Blogging Planet recently: http://www.bloggingplanet.com/eng/index.php/2005/03/11/14-how-you-can-get-out-of-the-twilight-zone).
It’s also interesting to see mini-events going on in various places. Quite a few in the UK, many that are marketing focused. For instance, Open Sauce Live (http://collaboratemarketing.com/opensaucelive/).
So all these things are happening. All of us who have ‘seen the light,’ so to speak, will continue with our own evangelizing (some people are uncomfortable with that word, but I believe it’s the right word) until a critical point has been reached when the time becomes right for a Forum-type event as it was originally planned.
Would that be a fair summation?
Thanks again, everyone for your great comments. Keep ’em coming!
Yep – sounds like a fair summation. Thanks Neville.
Being a student of Media Communications one would asume that at least some of the teaching staff (and students!) would be aware of the massive changes going on because of blogs and RSS/Atom feeds.
In a class of 50 students only two of us are doing something to explore the possibilities and change the way blogs and communications are perceived and used. Exactly one (1) professor (teaching the media theory class) is aware of the power of blogs, podcasts etc.
Everyone else (much like the entire country except a very, very small minority) is either incredibily dissmissive of the new concepts or actually haven’t got a clue what’s going on.
Jernej, that sounds a bleak picture.
Take a look at the Warwick University blogs (see Tom’s comment above) to get an idea of one enlighted approach to blogs and communication in the education environment, and on quite a large scale.
What’s Wrong in Europe?
The New Communications Forum Europe, originally scheduled for April 5-6, has been postponed.
We firmly intend on holding the Forum once we have judged the market is more ready, hopefully towards the end of this year.
This news has Neville Hobson ask…
I think the conference was just too much too soon. I do a lot of work for Weber Shandwick in the UK and while they are interested in the area they would struggle to justify a two day course in France.
I also think that the terminology is very off putting (too techy) for many PR and marketing professionals. I find it’s better to focus on the benefits and outcomes rather than the tools.
All issues we try to tackle at http://www.opensaucelive.com
They’ll get there in the end!
Blog Event Postponed: So What?
There is a rather interesting discussion going on as to why not enough people wanted to attend. Many of the explanations annoys me, actually, even if I respect the bloggers behind
As one of the producers of the Forum, I want to thank Neville for your post and all of you for your thoughtful comments.
I wonder about the “being held in France” angle, which I read here and heard in several conversations. If “France” is a big part of the problem, what country would be better?
Virtually every speaker, and most of the various sponsors we had, told me that they had roughly 10-20 people interested, and if all of those people had actually signed up, we’d have had standing room only. But interest just didn’t translate to commitment. (In fact, we got more commitment from eastern and southern Europe than western Europe – I wonder what that means?)
We’ll try again once we have a better sense that people are moving from browsing to buying.
Thanks, James and Elizabeth for those thoughts.
Not sure I agree, James, that 2 days is too much. If the content is compelling, people will come, all other things being equal of course. And like the Forum in the US in January, this event was specifically intended to avoid much of the techie jargon and focus on the communication.
Elizabeth, I’ve heard similar comments, too, re location. My immediate thought on that, to answer your question, would be: UK, London.
Very interesting what you say about eastern and southern Europe. That fits with much of what I hear these days when I speak to people in eastern Europe in particular – very strong desire to find out and learn. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into bookings for this Forum!
For another view on all this, take a look at Fredrik Wacka’s post the other day at Corporate Blogging Info –
Some interesting comments there (incl yours, James!).
I’ve also received some comments by email. Shel and I plan to discuss this a little in our next podcast. In today’s show, actually, which we’ll be doing later CET.
As Thomas mentioned, in Germany there is a beginning interest in blogs and communication. When I speak to PR-professionals, most of them have heard about blogs – last year it was the other way round.
My first workshop for PR-professionals about blogs in Germany will start at April, 15 – and we had no problems to sell it. Whenever I talk to people in the PR business, they ask me about blogs and what they could do. But most of them are hasitating to start anything…
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