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VoteWatch Europe on how it indexed the social influence of MEPs

BCW Brussels won the ‘Most effective use of data and insights’ category at The Drum Awards for PR 2021 for its work with VoteWatch Europe. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project...

The challenge

Influence in politics is changing. Political clout is no longer only about voting power, the ability to shape legislation or appointments to positions of authority. Social media has become a powerful instrument for politicians to reach voters, shape the public conversation, and build a community of support for their ideas. Today, one Tweet can provoke a political earthquake.

The power shifts of 2020, accelerated by the pandemic, meant that European public affairs professionals needed modern, innovative tools to identify the movers and shakers in the European Parliament. That’s why BCW Brussels and VoteWatch Europe joined forces to develop the Influence Index, the first data-driven ranking of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that combines political insight with social media analytics.

The strategy

The Index combines VoteWatch Europe’s decade-long experience of analysing influence in the European Parliament with BCW Brussels’ expertise in social listening and data analytics. The Index scores each MEP based on two dimensions of influence – political and social – across six of the most pressing policy issues of today.

Political Influence is the MEPs’ political clout in the EU institutions. The score indicates their ability to impact legislation, shape the political agenda, win votes and gain positions of power. The score is based on:

Leadership: Appointments to positions of influence in the European Parliament or the political groups.

Legislative power: The MEP’s ability to influence legislation, by becoming a rapporteur, shadow rapporteur or opinion rapporteur. We assign more points to rapporteur positions under Ordinary Legislative Procedure compared to non-legislative reports.

Performance: Participation in the voting sessions, and the extent to which they vote along with their political groups and on the majority side.

Network: Judged based on time spent in Brussels, seniority, experience and domestic ties.

Social Influence: the strength of the MEPs’ social media presence. The score indicates their ability to reach audiences online, shape the public conversation, and build a community of support for their ideas. The score is based on Twitter data from the past 12 months, and considers:

Reach: the size of the MEP’s Twitter follower base and the number of Twitter engagements (retweets and likes) on policy-relevant Tweets in any of the 24 EU official languages.

Relevance: the number of policy-relevant posts published and the number of times the MEP is mentioned by other MEPs in policy-relevant posts.

The campaign

The analysis provided insights into who wields influence on European policy on Health, the Green Deal, Digital, Democracy and Home Affairs, Economy and Foreign Affairs. As well as revealing which MEPs were most influential, the Index also shone a light on which European Member States and which Political Groups had most potential to shape policies in specific areas. The European Green Deal Index, for example, highlighted an influence gap between MEPs from Northern and Western member states, and those from Eastern states. The Digital Index showed how women are at the forefront of the EU’s digital policy, with female parliamentarians representing 8 of the 10 top-ranking MEPs.

Professionals looking to understand dynamic of influence in the European Parliament now have an invaluable tool at their disposal to steer their public affairs strategies. Members of the European Parliament also have a modern, relevant barometer to measure their influence as they shape policies in the areas that matter most to the citizens they represent.

The results

The campaign captured the interest of policymakers, public affairs professionals, consultants and the wider EU institutional community in Brussels. BCW held video interviews with nine top-ranking MEPs to discuss their reaction to the index, and their impressions of how political influence evolved during the pandemic.

But more importantly, the Influence Index also captured interest on the ground in Member States, where European citizens are often disengaged from EU politics, and unaware of the influence MEPs have on our daily lives. The Index was featured in 38 pieces of media coverage, including top-tier media in Brussels and the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Malta and Romania. Antonio Tajani, the former President of the European Parliament, spoke about the Index live on Sky News in Italy.

On social media, the #InfluenceIndex hashtag gained 19.5M impressions from 3,000 mentions published by 2,290 unique users between July 3 and October 31 2021. On 13 October 2021, 282 people from four continents joined our webinar as we interpreted the Index’s data, and discussed the interplay between political and social influence with Members of the European Parliament and Index influencers Eva Kailli and Dragoș Pîslaru, VoteWatch CEO Doru Frantescu, EU influencer Jon Worth, and moderator and journalist Shada Islam.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR 2021. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entry, click here.

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