Adopted by AER Executive Board 16 March 2016.
Implementing mission and core objectives
The present Communications strategy is part of a fourfold global strategy of the Assembly of European Regions which aims at setting the stage to ensure that the mission and objectives of AER are implemented effectively.
AER’s mission is:
- To be the voice of the regions of Europe
AER’s core objectives are:
- Promoting regional interests in Europe and beyond;
- Fostering interregional cooperation to promote the exchange of experience and the development of regional policy.
AER believes in the following values:
- Democracy and transparency – two totally complementary and inseparable values: AER will act transparently to focus on defending the interests of all member regions while respecting democratic principles.
- Fairness and solidarity – the root of mutual respect and acceptance of cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic differences: AER advocates solidarity between all regions of Europe, while urging fairness as a source of cohesion between member regions and promoting equal opportunities for all.
- Openness and dialogue: AER is open to all European regions and their elected representatives, men and women alike, from all non-extremist political movements. AER promotes dialogue and dares to confront ideas;
- Boldness and effectiveness: AER seeks to stimulate creativity and encourage political debate, and aims to transform the regions via forward-looking projects.
Objectives of this strategy
1) Creating a system of communications
The first and foremost objective of the communications is to implement the AER mission and core objectives. In this regard, communications is understood as going beyond the mere production of outputs for activities. Communications is an integral part of the decision-making process and the operations; it is neither an “add-on” nor only a product, but rather something as fundamental as operational or policy objectives to achieving AER’s overall mission.
Effective decision-making cannot be done solely on objective facts – communications should play a role in that process ensuring that all actors involved (internal and external) grasp the needed information to make the most effective call.
At this point, the art of communications is to provide the correct information, in the right amount and at precisely the right time. This is essential for AER to keep up with a changing society and truly apply the principles of transparency and dialogue.
2) Analysing and defining AER in its communications environment
Effective communications require a good understanding of who we are and how we are perceived in our environment so as to fine-tune the messages and how they should be disseminated. This requires constant and ongoing monitoring of AER’s political eco-system so as to adapt to internal and external factors of the environment.
Communications is an important tool in making AER a political intelligence agency; it will provide input for decision-making and enhance the added value of AER activities and actions, making them more relevant, attractive and comprehensive to the audiences.
It is important to identify the relevance of the communications strategy but also to acknowledge that the process is based on a broad set of existing actions and practices. This strategy is a natural evolution of what has been done in the past and the result of a need to constantly adapt and improve so as to keep up with the political reality, competitors and environment in which the organisation is working.
Communications will help AER to stand out in light of its competitors and other actors on the European landscape as being the unavoidable player for promoting regional interests.
Communications will be the starting point for a longer process of branding the structure; identifying what makes the organisation unique and defining a common identity for a structure that prides in its diversity.
Definition: Primary groups of people, with common interests and needs, identified as the intended recipient of the communications outputs. Getting the audience right ensure proper implementation of the strategy.
The list of audiences below is prioritised with the members at the top, being the most important. They represent where most of the efforts, time and resources will be spent for preparing, sharing and disseminating information. Those on top will receive more frequent information in larger amounts and greater detail.
- Members: Member regions and their representations, Observers & Member organisations
- Staff: Secretariat and seconded officers
- Partners: Organisations and private partners with whom AER has a cooperation agreement
- Media: European and regional media
- Stakeholders: Institutions, Networks, Organisations
- Potential members and partners: Non-member regions, private partners and networks.
AER communications should convey the core of the following messages, no matter the audience addressed, and no matter the channel being used.
These messages should always transpire at some point in the dissemination.
- AER added value: The sum is greater than the parts. The diversity of members from wider Europe and the diversity of AER’s action result in a bottom-up organisation tailored to meet the needs of regions.
- AER competitive advantage: With the regions, for the regions. The unique history of the network moulded by numerous key regions and individuals combined with active ownership of members make AER a strong, non-institutional but political and hands-on organisation.
- AER achievements: The impact and influence of the organisation through its ambassadors (members) is both qualitative and quantitative and more often than not difficult to measure. AER’s independence is a key success factor for the network’s achievements.
These are the tools and services offered to the AER members:
- Targeted networking: Thematic committees; Working groups, Private partners, Partner networks, etc;
- Capacity building: Peer reviews, Thematic seminars, Workshops, Benchmarking seminars, Study visits, Social events, Virtual meetings, Virtual matchmaking etc;
- Advocacy and lobbying: Rapporteurs, Expert pools, Declarations and position papers, Political reports, High level conferences etc;
- Profiling regions: Newsletters, Website, Media dissemination and monitoring, Regional Innovation Award, Most Youth Friendly European Region, Tales from Europe, AER Annual activity report etc.
The AER Programmes and Projects serve a multitude of the above objectives. The have been established as they ensure a long-term structure and platform for exchange. The current programmes are:
- AER Youth Regional Network
- AER Summer academy
AER has extensive experience in all aspects of European project management and funding, ranging from:
- Project writing & development;
- Assist members in finding project partners;
- Taking part in projects as component leader;
- Taking part in projects as partner;
- Disseminating project information on behalf of member regions involved in projects;
- Disseminating information on funding opportunities and partner search;
- Using project experience, expertise and know-how to feed into AER’s own work.
Monitoring and evaluation
The monitoring of the communications output will be measured on a regular basis according to pre-defined criteria. These will be established in 4 main areas in what concerns communications:
- Member relations;
- Partner relations;
- Media relations;
- Stakeholder relations.
Monitoring will also be necessary for the policy side of AER’s work.
Evaluating the success of the actions will be a much subtler exercise, as it will aim to evaluate the effect of the communication actions, which implies that everything that cannot be measured with a mere number. To be effective, the evaluation should be constant and repeated systematically. This process is time consuming and challenging and highly dependent on qualitative analyses but absolutely key as it will provide insight on the impact of the communications system.
Linking the strategies
Planning helps Communications to determine where and how to act throughout a planning cycle, and defines the distribution of responsibilities and timing of the decision-making process.
Communications helps Member relations in Identifying and defining the added member value, a key component for success.
Member relations helps Planning to determine on what field to act depending on the demands of regions at AER.
The tools will take their full form in the AER Toolkit as an independent publication.