Many civil society organisations that support a secretariat at EU level, face recurring difficulties with respect to their internal communications. Members feel that the information on what is happening in Brussels is: not enough, too much, not the right kind or not at the right moment. Inversely, secretariats often feel that members do not provide them with the input they need to successfully lobby at EU level.
The answer? Smart communication along the following lines:
- Be selective in disseminating information. Overload is a big problem for all of us so reduce the number of times you send something. Ask yourself if the information is really interesting, useful and relevant. When in doubt, do not send (yet).
- Be rigorous in when and how you send information. Use a standard format for newsletters, convocations or other info so readers recognise it and know what to expect.
- Distinguish clearly between facts and opinions.
- Make your documents readable and accessible: have a native speaker edit your documents, use as little acronyms and insider language as possible.
- Experiment with news flashes and short overviews of information. Include links to full documents or places where relevant information can be found.
- Create communities where can easily share information, including infographics and video.
- Offer short and concise training/update moments on a regular basis -such as short time slots annexed to meetings- during which you brief members on relevant news, developments and information.
- Get organised: make sure that for any meeting members or participants receive all documents in time (meaning one week before informal gatherings and between one and three weeks for statutory meetings, like AGMs), send all relevant information in one batch, mark documents in such a way that they clearly refer to corresponding items on the agenda and indicate on the agenda how certain information is relevant.
CSO secretariats in Brussels are often very busy with their European agenda, while their members focus primarily on national issues. For them, European work is an add-on. The result is a gap in knowledge and understanding. To bridge this gap, smart information is key. Our advice: move information management up the priority list. Your members will be grateful, their involvement and ownership will improve your results and your network will be strengthened in the process.