Client name: European Commission (EC)

Duration: 2012-2013

Location: European Union

Situation

European Union (EU) regional policy seeks to strengthen the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU and to reduce the large difference between Europe’s regions.

Despite its large budget, European citizens are insufficiently aware of the role of the EU in funding programs aimed at boosting economic growth, job creation and internal cohesion.

In 2012, Coffey was commissioned to undertake an evaluation of EU regional policy communication. The aim of the research was to identify good practice in the member states and review the European Commission’s approach to communication to benefit the creation of a refined communication strategy for the 2014 to 2020 programming period. 

Solution

The evaluation was broken down into two main focus areas:

  • an evaluation of communication strategies on a national and regional level with an emphasis on identifying best practices
  • an analysis at the EU level with a review of communications activities of the Directorate General for Regional Policy over the duration of the programming period

Data was collected through a variety of methods:

  • 107 responses to a questionnaire on communication activities with Managing Authorities across the EU
  • 100 interviews with representatives of Managing Authorities and other stakeholders in a sample of eight Member States
  • 22 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and informants at the EU level (such as EU institutions, information providers, journalists, and academia)
  • online surveys of the users of the EU’s regional policy website, Inforegio, and parties interested in the Directorate General’s own communication activities
  • a benchmarking exercise of communication activities of three relevant institutions, and a strategic workshop with a number of representatives of the Directorate General

Result

The evaluation identified some weaknesses in the EC’s communication strategies. Messages and information were fragmented through various channels and the tone was rather impersonal and distant for its target audiences.

However, the evaluation found that the transition to the next programming period and the changes that the next generation of programs will bring provide a good opportunity for the Directorate General to communicate more broadly about its strategic priorities and key results and impacts achieved. Many examples of effective communication practices have been identified and there is potential for these to be given more visibility and for the Directorate General to encourage more learning between Member States.