Select Committee on European Union Forty-Fourth Report


Appendix 4

Press and Publicity: Draft Action Plan for Sub-Committees

10 April 2003

Introduction

Following a recommendation in our Scrutiny Review, we heard a presentation from Jillian Bailey, Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) at our meeting on 11 February. We agreed that a short analysis of the key messages of our media strategy would be adopted by the Select Committee and implemented by the Sub-Committees as they conduct individual inquiries.

This paper meets that request. A number of key areas are covered but the overall message is that Sub-Committees have an important role to play in the process and that the media strategy needs to be part of the planning of Sub-Committee work. The role of chairmen too is key, as is the question of whether our Committee is adequately resourced to implement these proposals across the board.

The Select Committee endorsed the approach taken in this paper; and referred this action plan to the Sub-Committees. Sub-Committee Chairmen were asked to identify priorities so that resources could be effectively deployed. Our Clerk will also examine the resource implications in detail; determine what can and cannot be done with existing resources; and make the appropriate recommendations. The suggestions proposed in this Action Plan are being piloted in a number of key areas (identified by the Sub-Committee Chairmen) over the coming months.

As a parallel element in implementing the Scrutiny Review, the Committee will also shortly be asked to consider broader questions of the dissemination of our work, including how we can make our work directly available to Members of the House (eg via our proposed Annual Report).

Key messages

We must be aware of the key messages of each of our reports. There are many press releases issued every day so those from our Committee need to stand out in order to compete.

  • We have already agreed that all reports should include an abstract. In addition, we have agreed to make key information available separately from reports to ensure wider distribution (our staff our working on proposals to deliver this);
  • Caroline Jackson MEP in her evidence to the Scrutiny Review called for recommendations to be more forceful and pointed;
  • The main message of a report is not necessarily always that which the media pick up and we must be robust in rebutting inaccuracies;
  • The news value of reports, and media coverage of them, will vary. While many reports are reflective, we should strive to find a human interest news angle if possible.

Target audiences

It is important to be aware of the key audiences for each report. These will vary between reports. The amount of preparation and work involved in identifying and effectively targeting widely varying audiences should not be underestimated. The following suggestions are made:

  • Press Briefings at the beginning of a major inquiry should be considered, so that the Sub-Committee can set out the direction of the inquiry (other Committees have done so).
  • Media and non-media contacts relevant to a particular inquiry should be identified at the start of an inquiry and contacts developed and maintained during the course of that inquiry;
  • Members of Sub-Committees should indicate particular organisations and individuals which should be targeted - specific MEPs in particular are a key target audience;
  • Members of Sub-Committees should help to ensure that relevant local and regional media are targeted for each inquiry, in particular where individual members have their own local press contacts;
  • The mainstream and specialised press and media are already targeted, but effort needs to be directed at attracting more European media correspondents via the Foreign Press Association and the London correspondents of European and other international media. The main press interest in the Committee's work is in Brussels and there is a need to target the Brussels press core, perhaps using the national parliament office;
  • Appropriate contacts in London embassies should be identified to receive copies of reports and be asked to suggest relevant national journalists;
  • Particularly newsworthy and interesting witnesses should be drawn to the attention of target audiences and press and media contacts during the inquiry;
  • Press conferences or briefings should be carefully considered and not organised as a matter of routine;
  • Sub-Committee Clerks and the Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) should compile a list of key non-media organisations such as relevant contacts in universities and other relevant bodies who will be sent copies of reports. The Sub-Committee and Select Committee Chairmen should be prepared to sign personal letters to selected contacts (this already happens on occasion).

Process

As the "window of opportunity" to promote inquiries is very short, best use needs to be made of the inquiry period. Process is therefore key. Publicity and communication with the media is something House of Lords Committees have tended to tack on at the end of an inquiry. For such work to have maximum impact it must run alongside a Committee's substantive work and be seen as an integral part of the planning of work.

  • Sub-Committee Chairmen and Clerks should meet the Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) at the start of each inquiry and Sub-Committees should involve the Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) at the earliest stage in planning inquiries so that effective press and dissemination plans can be promulgated;
  • Each report should be accompanied by a media plan giving the date of publication, the target audiences, the distribution strategy, and the case for a press conference/briefing if necessary: this plan should be adopted by the Sub-Committee along with the first draft. Committee Staff should prepare the plan, using a prepared pro-forma to be devised by the Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) and with her advice;
  • Press releases need to be short and snappy. Much of the material with which the Committee works needs digesting: while the recommendations need to be carefully drawn, a press release can be more colourful: this is a matter for the Sub-Committee Chairmen and Clerks with advice from the Press and Publicity Officer (Committees);
  • Embargoed press briefings should be considered where issues are complex and sensitive so the Committee gets its message across clearly;
  • Consideration should be given to professionally translating certain press releases and digests of reports into other languages;
  • We should seek publicity on activity other than reports, such as correspondence with Ministers, interesting visits etc;
  • Each Sub-Committee should review press coverage after the publication of each report. Monitoring to assess the most effective mechanisms should become routine.



 
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