By Kelly Hayes
This summer I was afforded the amazing opportunity to intern abroad in Dublin, Ireland in Parliament. It was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t change any of it. After traveling to Vietnam with the Global Leadership Center, I unpacked and repacked my bags within five days and was off to Europe! Even with previous internship experience and two years of ImPRessions and PRSSA, I still didn’t know what to expect. The basics of public relations are the same everywhere, but how things are done and executed differ.
Working in Parliament I thought I would work a lot with social media, press releases and writing. While I didn’t work as much with social media, I did write all the time. Press releases were the norm. Media lists were my constant reference and parliamentary questions were my daily task. These job responsibilities really shed light on a major difference between U.S. public officials and those in Europe: our public officials tweet and use Facebook like no other but those in Europe still rely heavily on traditional media practices.
I had to create an entire media database including every single newspaper and radio station in the Republic of Ireland. While I did advise certain social media practices, writing press releases/statements and sending them to newspapers and radio stations was my main job. When I was on my way to work every morning I saw many people with newspapers tucked under their arms and countless buses with radio show advertisements on them. In the U.S. we tend to be very social media focused, especially when it comes to politics. European public officials do use Facebook and Twitter but not to the extent where they are constantly tweeting and posting.
In 2012 the U.S. was reported to have the most Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ users, as well as the largest increase in Instagram usage. While we are able to find Wi-Fi in almost every part of the country, Ireland is still struggling with that concept. I remember my boss repeatedly dealing with just trying to get wireless access to certain places in County Kerry. He didn’t even have Wi-Fi back at home because it wasn’t accessible.
Shocker, right? Even in Dublin the best Wi-Fi reception was in Starbucks, which never fails to deliver. Overall Europe’s public officials will continue to rely on the newspaper and radio industry to get their message across. And what will our public officials be doing? Tweeting while they are in the chamber (which – in Irish parliament – is NOT advised).