The AEGEEan is starting a new section – News from the Past! Now on regular basis we will introduce you to interesting articles from previous annual reports (“Key to Europe“). First article in this series goes back to 2002!
Communication: from strategy to implementation
Branding AEGEE in Brussels (April 1997- May 1999)
Background and Challenge
For AEGEE-Europe, Brussels was a relatively new field, as the Head Office had been located in Delft until 1996. Setting up an office and managing to develop the right contacts had taken quite some time and it was necessary to prioritize the “outward face of AEGEE.”
At that time, I was a member of the elected European board called Comité Directeur. There were many strong points which I was able to use in my communication, such as the solid network that AEGEE represented, the fact that AEGEE covers all topics (interdisciplinary), it does not have a national level (as the future of the EU could have been seen in that moment) and the history AEGEE had in the development of Erasmus. From this it was clear that AEGEE should have a strong voice in the European market in Brussels in the field of education and it was my job to make all this known.
My first task was to map out the different target groups within Brussels, such as the media (especially European media), the European Institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, Committee of the Regions, Permanent representations) and the NGOs (ESIB, ESN, European Youth Forum). I started with updating the current contact, such as with DGXXII, with whom a very good connection already existed. From this I created a new database, which was kept up-to-date on a daily basis.
Further more, I needed to know how the Network wanted to be represented. In order to “brand” AEGEE, I needed to know exactly what I was trying to “brand” and for this I needed the feedback from the Network. The result was a questionnaire, to which many locals responded. The main conclusion was rather surprising to me: most locals had problems with presenting their results externally, mainly because they did not feel that they were a part of a big association.
The next step was sending out press releases to journalists about the activities of AEGEE. I also arranged press conferences in the office of AEGEE-Europe to get media attention. A very important point in this was the permanent contact I had with the “Anciens of AEGEE” in Brussels. Most of them were working in European Affairs and were able to help AEGEE in developing its contacts. Lobbying with journalists for European media, such as the European Voice, Agence Europe, Uniting Europe, Europolitique, BBC and La Libre Belgique, was crucial for the media coverage of AEGEE’s activities. We presented the results of projects such as Europe and Euro and set up new projects, such as Socrates Action Day, and the first conference in the European Parliament (March ’99).
The feedback of the Network to these projects was very important in order to create the correct angle for communication. The new projects were based on the “voices from the Network” and the conference in the European Parliament was set up especially to give the locals who participated the feeling that they were part of a big network. However, more internal communication on the history of AEGEE was equally important.
In those two years I developed “the brand of AEGEE” in the European market of Brussels. And it paid off. The visibility of AEGEE in the European media increased enormously. In 1998 for example there was an article almost every week on AEGEE and its activities. Secondly, a large respect for AEGEE and its activities exists in the European Institutions and the NGOs. This was felt especially when a speaker was invited for a conference and many important figures were happy to come. But the financial support for AEGEE increased as well. The public institutions (European Commission) were open to give support to the activities of AEGEE. But for me the most important result was the change of mentality inside the Network of AEGEE. Member felt again that they were part of a big network; they were proud of the activities of AEGEE and felt appreciated in what they did.
Written by Dan Luca, AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca
Originally published in Key To Europe 2002-2003