Twitter: A multilingual meeting point of news, politics and interests in times of crisis

An analysis of Twitter communications relating to Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion policies managed by the European Commission in 2012

This is the subject of my MA research project, which I carried out between September 2012 and June 2014.

This blog article consists of a study summary and conclusions. A presentation with the key study elements is attached to the article.

I can share the full report. Feel free to contact me and ask for a copy.

Summary of the study

This report describes a research project that focused on analysing the communication content of the Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion policies managed by the European Commission through its specialised department, Directorate-General for Employment (DG EMPL), and László Andor, the Commissioner responsible for the policies, on Twitter in 2012.

In addition to an introduction to social media and Twitter, and a literature review, the report describes the activities of collecting and processing the data, extracting and presenting the results, interpreting and discussing the research findings. They provide complete answers to the research questions on Twitter communication content, trending topics, communication behaviour and patterns developed by the three Twitter account holders.

The findings were also discussed against Lasswell’s Paradigm, as enhanced by Heinderyckx[1] (1999, p.35), and a set of Twitter communication models adapted by Waters and Williams[2] (2011, pp.356-357).

The findings indicate that Twitter content was mainly in English and covered these policies with a particular focus on the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. The communication model developed by DG EMPL is based upon standard institutional behaviour and involved an EU-based audience. About 1/5 of the audience redistributed the content while the remaining 4/5 acted mainly as consumers.

Conclusions of the study

This thesis reports on the 2012 Twitter communications of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL). The thesis focuses on their communication content, purposes, features and patterns as well as some aspects on whether these communications could be categorised as social network or social media behaviour. The research question and sub-questions were fully answered using both quantitative and qualitative results and were then confirmed by the Twitter account administrators in face-to-face interviews.

According to the three account holders, DG EMPL’s Twitter activities in 2012 were a pioneering stage. The key purpose of the three Twitter account holders is to communicate the three major policy areas: Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion as stated on their Twitter walls:

  • Social Europe[3] (@EU_Social) is “the EU Commission’s Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Directorate-General (DG EMPL)” account that “aims to explain how the EU’s work on employment and social issues benefits people living in the EU.”
  • EURopean Employment Service, EURes (@EURESjob) provides “advice and job-matching to workers, employers and citizens wishing to benefit from the principle of free movement”.
  • László Andor (@LaszloAndorEU) is the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and his account is managed by his “private office and press team”.

However, the results provide evidence that in 2012, the European Commission (EC) successfully integrated Twitter into their communication strategies, which year by year, has aimed to develop consistent and rich communications on the platform. Twitter enables both personal and institutional communications. For example an institution may communicate with the public by bypassing traditional media: newspapers, radio, and TV. While in case of traditional media, the public consumes what media owners offer them, with Twitter the public is empowered to voice its needs and expectations and therefore co-author, influence and redistribute the content.

The content published by Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor is a policy narrative which flows throughout the 2012 Twitter timelines, with peaks and dips that illustrate the communication and information activities tweeted on the platform. The 2012 communication “mood” tended to focus upon the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

The content was scalable and embedded some practical value, especially for job seekers. The content was also well tailored to suit different audience segments: for instance EURes addressed people in certain EU countries and Commissioner Andor hosted a chat. Although most of the content was based on specific policy vocabulary, the three account holders adapted and adjusted the tweets to ensure their accessibility to the audience. Therefore the content was meaningful and relevant to the audience and carried a solid social dimension by referring to the latest policy developments and events. The results clearly reflect the communication subjects and the trending topics, which contributed to achieving an efficient and successful communication throughout the year.

The three account holders engaged with their audience to a degree and the most employed Twitter function was retweeting. Engagement increased during online and offline events, which showed a certain degree of interaction between the communicators and the audience. The chat hosted by Commissioner Andor enabled live temporality and synchronous communication, which is an essential Twitter function.

The intended audience, mainly based in EU countries, responded to the content by engaging with it differently, depending on the expertise level and interest of the audience. For instance, the EY2012 activities affected a significant number of senior people, while the chat was attended mainly by youth, given the chat topic, namely “Youth Employment Package”.

There were countries which responded better to DG EMPL’s Twitter communications according to their national economic and social contexts. Belgium was on top as the country is also the home of most EU institutions, which prove that a number of EU staff and key political figures endorsed the communications by redistributing parts of the content. Some relevant examples include Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Ireland and Greece. Spain and Greece experienced some crisis peaks in 2012 and it should be noted that the audience based in these countries was significantly engaged with the content. It is worth noting that in Spain, total engagement accounted for about 20% of the aggregate country engagement, which is a substantial figure. The UK came in third position because of two reasons: 1) a well organised network of DG EMPL’s counterparts at national and local level, who redistributed key pieces of content published by the three account holders, and 2) the content language, which was English, the language of the country and of most Twitter communications.

It appears that a significant part of the audience consisted of “elite” groups. Ordinary people preferred to get involved in EURes activities, some EY2012 activities and the chat hosted by Commissioner Andor. The “elite” audience, which was composed of experts, EU bodies and staff, national bodies, public figures and academia, showed the highest interest in the content. The results indicate that the “elite” audience redistributed (retweeted) parts of the content to their own followers at European, national, regional, and local levels.

Given the staff shortage and a number of limitations in terms of language coverage, the three account holders stated that they have achieved what they aimed to, even though the reciprocity of followers and followees is particularly unbalanced.

The results confirm that even though the account holders’ semantic profiles feature different basic attributes, they were able to complement each other and share communication tasks. The results also indicate that 8.35% of the unique followers engaged with the content. This ratio is closer to the standard 1/9/90 distribution on the Web in terms of content creation, customisation and consumption. Therefore the remaining followers could be the “listeners” who, in theory, consumed the content passively without engaging with it.

At the moment, there is no standardised method to measure the level of engagement of the three account holders since there are no benchmarks validated by scholars.

However, there were two major limitations that the three account holders encountered: a shortage of staff in terms of content language coverage and Twitter’s non-existent reciprocity of follower-followee users, which normally promotes one-way communication. In terms of language coverage there is evidence that the content suited mainly an English speaking community as 96% of the tweets and 70% of the external content were in English. It may mean that non-English speaking users might have been excluded from accessing key information. This may explain the unremarkable and poor coverage in certain EU countries. In terms of follower-followees, with 3% of people followed by the three account holders, the communication looks unbalanced. However, Twitter as a communication tool encourages this behaviour and evidence of this can be seen in how the platform is used by celebrities. Both practitioners and scholars would not encourage the adaptation of “celebrity behaviour” by institutions. Instead, an institution should expand their network of followees and try to listen to their information needs.

The communication pattern of the three account holders could be portrayed as follows:

  • Standard institutional behaviour on Twitter with content mainly based on EU policy vocabulary combined with plain language, in English mainly.
  • A linguistic pattern dominated by positivism and some signs of genuine dialogue with the audience, notably during certain online and offline events. Positive communication aspects are demonstrated by the Losada Line algorithm and backed up by the commitment of the three account holders to genuinely serve an EU-based audience.
  • A well-developed Twitter strategy with no missing key communication points and clear and measurable communication objectives. This statement is based on the results and their related parameters which were discussed earlier against Lasswell’s paradigm, as enhanced by Heinderyckx (1999).

The main challenge of this research was to identify all the relevant communication variables and place them into a coherent entity of a Twitter communication pattern. DG EMPL used Twitter as a complementary communication channel in 2012, in addition to traditional communication channels. Given the Twitter expertise level of the three account holders, the findings of this research could be applicable in other institutions.

A major limitation of this study may be the concreteness of its purpose: analysing only one policy package communicated by only one institution through a specialised department. Another drawback might be that the institution may employ different communication patterns with other policy packages. Other EU institutions or bodies may have different communication approaches on Twitter, therefore the study did not intend to generalise the findings but to rather feature a case study.

Another important limitation is the use of the CAQDAS tools, particularly LIWC, which ignored 31% of the tweet content, so valuable pieces of information might have been lost. This percentage could include specific policy vocabulary, which is not part of the LIWC dictionaries. A solution to minimise this drawback was to manually triangulate “word pairs – most frequent words – semantic nodes” and ensure relevant content categorisation through a human filter.

It appears that the Twitter behaviour of the three account holders borrows features from the four standard behaviours adapted by Waters and Williams (2011), but it does not completely conform to any of them. Therefore DG EMPL’s Twitter behaviour combines both one-way and two-way communication approaches with “publicity”, “public information”, “two-way asymmetrical” and “two-way symmetrical” communications, the last one being the prevailing behaviour. An explanation as to why the Waters and Williams models cannot be adapted could be the difference of both communication channels and the context of when the two scholars transposed the traditional model of public relations to Twitter. Therefore, further research could look into these variables and come up with other solutions. Furthermore, the advice on Twitter good practice provided by Waters and Williams, which were checked against this Twitter communication example, could be further enhanced by future research to design a Twitter Netiquette, a Twitter code of good behaviour.

Further research should look at the way “elite” audiences transfer and disseminate the information to their own audiences and the tendency of the audiences to shift from the traditional paper-based communication supports to digital support, such as the social media channels when it comes to communicating EU policies to EU-based audiences. As about 7% of the external content recommended by the three account holders was in PDF format, further research may look at the readers’ preferences in accessing either traditional PDFs or the latest eBook formats (ePUB, mobi) for mobile devices, which are often used to connect to Twitter. The findings of this research may be just be a starting point for further research projects where scholars may investigate the communication approaches of a European institution or body addressing multilingual audiences on Twitter.

Further research may also investigate the reasons of supervised communications on Twitter and look at the way political and administrative communications overlap. Another point that future research projects may consider is how audiences perceive the mixture of the two communication types, political and administrative, and how the audiences understand the institutional communication behaviour of a European institution or body.

Even though the EC applies a strict institutional communication framework, based on restrictive guidelines for staff, the results demonstrate a special Twitter relationship between account holders and the audience. This relationship may raise a number of questions about social inclusion versus digital exclusion and how to minimise the digital divide. That may be an issue the Commission wishes to consider, in the context of social inclusion or other policies.

The audience of the three account holders has been well profiled and represents only part of the EU population who have the ability to use Twitter. Even though the Commission has a strong corporate voice on Twitter, the results do not reflect a full public perception of employment, social affairs and inclusion policies and of Commissioner Andor, in all EU countries. The 2012 audience of the three account holders showed a certain degree of commitment where followers are loyal to an institution, even though the audience acted more as a consumer and multiplier rather than a content co-creator. It is obvious that Twitter mediates the EC’s communications to Twitter-based audiences while there might be audience segments that still need to be reached on other social media and network platforms and perhaps by combining the digital means with traditional communication means such as paper-based publications.

According to the results, Commissioner Andor acted more as a preserver of the political communication dimensions rather than a unifier of both operational and political communications.

The results indicate that Twitter is not only another means for self-promotion by the EC but also an innovative solution with which the institution brings something new in the way it communicates to the public. Twitter, which is a dynamic medium, has grown as an institutional practice as the research findings prove in the case of the EC. Therefore the EC communicates with the citizens in an attempt to bridge the gap between policy makers and policy beneficiaries. The EC experience is an example of how social media, and Twitter in particular, are used for both political and administrative communication purposes, even though Twitter communications need prior approval in most of the cases.

While ordinary people join Twitter every day, the organisations are still trying to find the most appropriate means to manage their Twitter presence. It appears that there is no universal recipe on how to respond to the information needs of people on Twitter. Therefore, in terms of communicating employment, social affairs and inclusion policies through its specialised department and the Commissioner in charge of this area, the Commission has moved from a pioneering stage to a more advanced use of Twitter and the results are already visible. Before 2012, the EC made the strategically correct decision to join Twitter by adding an extra communication channel to their existing channels, in a period of time when more communication was needed to enable an EU institution connect to its audience. In the case of the EC, the Twitter generic question “What’s happening?” proved to be the incentive to keep communications going. The research findings clearly indicate that, in 2012, DG EMPL used Twitter not as a means to overcome or minimise the effects of the crisis, but as a solution to enhance the communications with a loyal audience mainly based in the EU.

In terms of Twitter’s future, it is not possible to make predictions, as van Dijck[4] (2013) stresses: “Since the meaning of microblogging has not stabilized yet and the ecosystem of connective media is still in great flux, predicting the future is like playing the stock market: you can monitor all elements meticulously and not be able to forecast turbulence, owing to the volatility of the system. (…) Twitter’s fate is dependent on its interoperability with other microsystems and also on the equilibrium between owners’ ambitions to exploit tweets and users’ motivation to keep tweeting” (p.88).

The research project in a nutshell (PPT file, 800 KB)

[1] Heinderyckx, F. (1999), Une introduction aux fondements théoriques de l’étude des médias, Liège, Cefal-Sup.

[2] Waters, D., R. and Williams, M., J. (2011), “Squawking, tweeting, cooing, and hooting: analyzing the communication patterns of government agencies on Twitter” in Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 353-363.

[3] https://twitter.com/EU_Social

[4] Van Dijck, J. (2013), “Twitter and the Paradox of Following and Trending” in The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media, Oxford University Press, pp.68-88.

Communication: From science to feelings and instinct

What is it like to be a spokesperson for the EU Budget?

As a student in your last year of Multilingual Communication, you are bound to think more and more about your future job. Over the last few months, I have found myself thinking about thousands of options such as becoming a social media consultant, assistant in human resources or even a spokesperson. Well, why not? Becoming a spokesperson will definitely not happen overnight for an (almost) freshly-graduated student like me but I was still curious to find out what this job involves, aside from simply being an excellent communicator.

Patrizio Fiorilli answering journalists' questions

Patrizio Fiorilli answering journalists’ questions

Mr Patrizio Fiorilli was very kind to meet with me at the Berlaymont. You might think that meeting the spokesperson for the European Union’s budget made me nervous but Mr Fiorilli was very friendly and easy-going. You can tell that he has got a genuine interest in people and communication. Why meeting the EU’s spokesperson for the budget? Budget is clearly not my field of expertise but I was rather impressed with Patrizio Fiorilli’s rich professional background, which he modestly describes as “purely journalism and communication”. After his studies at the ULB in Brussels, he moved to London to work as a journalist for the BBC World Service while being the UK correspondent for various French and Belgian media. Then, he wanted to become a communication consultant to be “on the other side of the fence” and to help big companies improve their communications. Before becoming the spokesperson for Budget and Financial Programming at the European Commission in 2010, he also worked as a press officer and a communication director, while teaching communication at the Institut des Hautes Études de Communication Sociale (IHECS) in Brussels.

What encouraged him to become a spokesperson was simply curiosity. He certainly misses a few things from his previous jobs but “it is great to be involved in the decision-making process and to defend a position.” What about his way of communicating in everyday life? Has it been influenced by his job as a spokesperson? He answers that it is not linked to his job as a spokesperson but rather linked to his professional career in communication. “You are taught that the first principle in communication is to adapt your message to the audience. That is what we do – all of us – every day in every single context.

Some people have got a negative picture of the European Union’s budget, its purpose and the ways it is used. Other people simply do not understand it. If he needs to describe the EU budget to an ordinary citizen, Patrizio Fiorilli uses a very simple yet effective metaphor: “Imagine there are 28 houses next to each other, facing a river. Rather than each of the households building their own little bridge to cross it and you would then end up with 28 bridges […] they put the money together to build one single bridge that will be much stronger and much cheaper, more convenient […] and that is what the EU Budget is about.”

Another thing that encouraged me to get in touch with Patrizio Fiorilli is the fact that he also works in a multicultural environment, which makes him the perfect interviewee for a student who aspires to work in a multilingual environment. When you work in a multicultural institution, one of the first things to keep in mind is that “whatever you will say or write will end up being translated. Therefore, you have to be really careful in terms of wording.” After all, “keeping simple is the second rule of communication, whether it is multilingual or not”.

As if his professional background was not impressive enough, Patrizio Fiorilli also proves he has got a solid general knowledge and a soft spot for literature. A while ago, he actually started a blog where he publishes short stories in French. He has been interested in literature from a young age and thinks that “rather than letting sheets of paper rot in a cupboard, just let them rot on the Web because it’s safer”, he adds laughing. “It is also a way to escape and create lots of different characters and situations”.

As the 15 minutes were getting closer and closer, I asked him whether he would advise someone to become a spokesperson. According to him, some people are just not spokesperson-material, no matter how smart they are. Communication is more than science, “it is about feeling and instinct” and involves other aspects as well such as psychology, sociology and many others. One thing he insists on is that journalists need to teach something new to their readers or viewers. But in order to do so, a journalist will need the spokesperson to convey a clear and concise message, summarised in words that ordinary citizens would understand. The first thing defining a spokesperson is “the notion of service”. Spokespersons are there to help journalists do a good job and promote their employers’ interests and views. Which is why he adds that “at the same time you are on a boxing ring with the journalists because you have not got the same agenda”. All in all, “it is like a Rubik’s Cube challenge, it is fun”, he adds smiling. I, for one, am convinced. Aspiring to become a spokesperson is now officially on my list.

6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

I felt very welcomed from the first day at MDI. All of my colleagues did their best to make me feel at home and were always patient with me. Everyone was much focused on work but very relaxed at the same time, which made it a comfortable environment to work in. I had a very good relationship with my colleagues. There were also three other interns who were involved in the same types of activities as myself.

I had no issues with my internship supervisor. I admit I was sometimes hesitating or asking too many questions but he was always patient with me, explaining my tasks thoroughly and always encouraging me.

I really enjoyed working at MDI: one immediately detects a sense of solidarity and generosity. I also learned that it is not always easy to carry out team work. Sometimes a crisis may make one re-prioritise. Sometimes, one needs to delegate or to make another choice. That is why I felt grateful to feel helpful in the office, even if it meant a modest contribution.

Before coming to MDI, I imagined an internship to be quite challenging. Of course, there were moments more challenging than others but I never felt any kind of pressure from any of my colleagues. In fact, I was always encouraged and I learned something new every day.

7. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Conclusions

I believe this internship was a fulfilling experience, which helped me learn and discover more things than I imagined. I never thought I would have the opportunity to take part in designing MDl’s social media strategy and related activities. I felt part of a unique team which helped me experience solidarity and team spirit.

I was inspired by MDI’s policy on diversity. I have always thought that diversity should be promoted as an asset and richness instead of being presented as a trigger of fear, discrimination and conflict. I am glad I was a member of a team who encourages tolerance and understanding between different groups and cultures.

I also gained more confidence. It may sound irrelevant but I used to be afraid of answering the telephone and deal with someone while one of my colleagues was unavailable. The most important lesson I learned was to be professional, never give up good work ethic standards and believe in communication based on common sense.

I do agree that one thing I need to work on is initiative. I was eager to learn but at the same time I always tried to avoid any kind of mistake. To be honest, I was sometimes afraid of being overconfident or overdoing   something.   However, my internship supervisor advised me not to feel discouraged because initiative will come with more experience.

I honestly do not have anything to criticise. In fact, I feel grateful to have had this unique opportunity, not only in London but also in a great organisation with friendly and welcoming people, who are a model of perseverance.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

 

5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme

I believe my first MA year helped me achieve key skills and knowledge. The courses and the seminars prepared me to perform well.

My language and social skills always came in handy, no matter the situation. I obviously went through the Cross-Cultural   Communication course again before starting the internship as I anticipated the communication with different people from different cultures. This helped me a great deal, not only to understand other cultures’ points of view but to also remind me to always put things into perspective and try to find a compromise.

Communication means a great deal of respect and compromise. For example, when dealing with our partners in Algeria or when I was in touch with our colleagues in Morocco, I always kept in mind a number of things while avoiding stereotypes. Our way of setting up a meeting in Western Europe is completely different with the one in North African countries. Time is a much more flexible notion and very often has no dimension. I have to admit that at the very beginning, I was feeling stressed when I had to postpone a telephone or Skype call and did not set up a proper meeting. Then I tried to put things into perspective and realised that the way of dealing with time in North African countries is much more relaxed and flexible.

So, instead of feeling upset or stressed, I tried to learn from this and became more relaxed myself. I also felt there was mutual understanding and I tried to deal with several things with a sense of humour. I also feel that speaking French might have helped a lot: it was a common ground, which made us feel more comfortable and familiar. Getting to know other cultures from an early age and speaking a number of languages is key to tolerance and understanding.

The last year Corporate Communication course played an important role in understanding communication planning and strategy. While working in the two projects, I always had in mind what I learned at the courses: identify the communication purpose, context and audience. In addition the following communication variables were crucial: stakeholders (partners, trainers, journalists etc.), communication strategy (both online and offline) and communication plan. I always tried to keep in mind the golden rule in communication, which is called “The Five Ws and the H”, without which a report or broadcasted information would not be complete.

  • What happened?
  • Who says it or who is it about?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

This helped me draft a number of articles for the website, while doing research or interacting with stakeholders of our projects.

Obviously, my contribution to staff recruitment and reference gathering as explained earlier is related to my Human Resources Management course. It was a good opportunity to apply the theory I learned and understand certain procedures.

As mentioned earlier, I was often involved in communication and logistics. I helped out with “traditional” public relations tasks such as sending out invitations to guests and answer to RSVPs. However, I learned how much potential social media have as a PR strategy. MDI’s Twitter account became the most used and handy channel for our event at the Frontline Club. I never imagined that our activity on Twitter would get such a great feedback. I am glad to use my new social media skills while working at my MA dissertation project and interacting with other Twitter users.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes

My first week at MDI was filled with diversified tasks and for three months, I did not feel like I was always doing the same things. The best thing about this internship is that I have learned and practice most of the knowledge and skills acquired during my MA courses, not only in the fields of communications and media but also day-to-day office activities.

I started by helping out with general administrative tasks. I learned to be very organised and thorough. When filling out different papers or forms, the slightest mistake can have many consequences. That is why double-checking became a golden rule, even when I had to scan a simple document. For example, I had to help certain details in a financial report to be submitted to one of our donors. I had to compare a set of expenditure lists with all the attached documents: check if the correct amount was indicated, if the proof of payment was enclosed and if something was missing or was incorrect. Another general administrative task was to update the staff board in the office and inform everyone by email about everyone’s availability and calendar.

I often helped with logistics for different projects and events. I was sometimes helping with flight or hotel bookings but I often needed to contact different people in other countries. This is where my interpersonal and intercultural communication skills came in handy. I sometimes had to find compromises and find the best way to suit both sides when it came to organising an event, for example. Setting up meetings with very busy partners is quite challenging so I had to find ways to respect both MDI’s and our partners’ needs and requests.

From the first week, I was involved in a project called “Inclusive Media for an Inclusive Society” in Algeria. This project is about building the presence of youth and marginalised voices in Algeria. At first, I had to read the project summary and understand the process of identifying the project’s stakeholders. Then, I needed to write a summary of this project in order to send it to all of the important stakeholders to inform them about the activities. Later on, this summary helped me write a draft about the project for our website.

I was also happy to help with logistics: our priority was to contact the partners of this project before a meeting in Algiers. Our partners are key stakeholders as they were the ones to help the project be effective. They also help us get in touch with the right people.

My job was to get in touch with these partners, update them on the upcoming project activities and set up a meeting involving them and my colleagues. These meetings were very important because the project’s further development depended on them.

At the same time, we needed to recruit a local Project Coordinator. I got in touch with the selected candidates to set up interview slots with each of them while my colleagues were staying in Algiers. Apart from logistics, I also helped with information research on the Algerian media and current events linked to our project in Algeria. This helped my colleagues have an overview of important events, which had been relevant to discuss during their meetings with the project’s partners.

Then, my internship supervisor entrusted me with a challenging task. Their stay in Algiers was rather short and in order to make the recruitment phase more efficient, I needed to contact each candidate’s referee, ask them more thorough questions about the candidates and their experience and fill in a reference form. Once I filled in these forms, I sent them to my colleagues and this helped them make a final choice and make sure they hire the best candidate for the job. Everything went smoothly and I was very glad to have helped for all of that.

Another project I assisted is called “Fighting discrimination in Russia through tolerant and inclusive reporting”, which focused on helping promote freedom of speech and equality in Russian society. I mainly helped with logistics for this project and assisted to the recruitment of our new Project Manager. We had scheduled a couple of interviews and my colleagues suggested to join them and observe the whole procedure. This was definitely a useful exercise for me because it allowed me to think about everything that I have learned in my Human Resources courses.

Even if I was just observing, it was very interesting to see what is going on behind the scenes of recruitment and to see what the interviewers are looking for in a candidate. I took a lot of notes to help me remember the types of questions, my impressions and other comments. After those interviews, my colleagues and I had a debriefing in order to exchange ideas and opinions. They also listened to my own point of view and I thanked them for giving me this opportunity. Since I was getting familiar with the project, I also wrote a draft about it for the website.

While performing logistics and administrative tasks, I also helped out my colleagues with different types of research. MDI’s manager travels a lot to different countries for different events. She is often invited as an expert speaker to conferences related to media and diversity. Therefore, I was happy to help do some research on different issues, current events, other organisations or institutions and anything related to MDI’s fields of activity.

Browsing through different websites allowed me to become more familiar with organisations I had not heard of before and I gained a lot of general knowledge. I also helped another colleague with research related to EU policies and media standards, for instance, and helped get in touch with different people from important organisations. For one of our project in the Balkan countries, I went through a number of online documents of the European Commission to make a summary of anything relevant to our project, which then helped us write our project proposal.

I also needed to check different websites (newspapers, journalists’ blogs) and even tweets on Twitter for different stories related to media and diversity which we would talk about on our website. For example, if we found an article depicting immigration in the UK positively or negatively, we would write about it on our website and explain why this story is a good example of responsible and inclusive journalism or why it reflects any type of discrimination.

One of my favourite tasks was to help manage MDI’s communications on the Social Media (Twitter) and social networks (Facebook) platforms. The Website and Communications Manager suggested I could help out and monitor MDI’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. She and I also had a long discussion about MDI’s social media strategy. We discussed about social media in general and we tried to find solutions to promote MDI’s activities on social media. As a social media expert, she also gave me many tips, which allowed understand the mechanics behind an organisation’s Social Media communication strategy.

I really appreciated that she valued my suggestions and input. I also appreciated my colleague for sharing with me so many secrets of managing online communication platforms. Afterwards, she gave me green light to interact with different users on both Facebook and Twitter and to keep her updated about our activity and feedback on social media. Interacting with people on social media is a daily effort but I managed to dedicate a bit of time every day to this task, which made me enjoy social media more and more.

My language skills also came in handy. I did some translation work from English into French and also helped proofread a number of documents, which were translated from Arabic into English.

In August, MDI organised an important event called “Inclusive Media for Inclusive Societies” which consisted of a study tour and a conference for media decision makers from Egypt. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) supported this event. The conference took place at the Frontline Club in London, a well-known venue for debates and conferences. This conference was an opportunity to discuss about the issues in Egypt and the ways in which responsible and inclusive journalism could help. Other editors, professors, experts and people interested in media and diversity attended and there was a very interesting exchange of ideas. This was also an opportunity to meet and interact with interesting people.

We had many surprises while organising this event, mainly because August was a very chaotic period for Egypt. However, we managed to handle everything despite the crisis and I was very happy to help out every time I could, from sending out the email invitations to our guests to collaborating with a coach company for the study tour around London. At the end of the event, hearing that my help was very much appreciated was very rewarding to me.

I also wrote a draft for a project proposal covering activities in Italy, Greece and Hungary. I helped summarise the current situation in all three countries and I was able to describe the suggested activities for this project and explain how MDI would get involved. This draft included the key points of our communication plan.

In September, I had a surprise from one of my colleagues who is a Project Manager. She organised a number of training sessions to get familiar with the Project Management basics. I am sure her tips and tricks might come in handy someday. We started with the basics and she made sure the lessons combine both theoretical and practical aspects. She encouraged us to be creative, to imagine a project we would like to implement and to apply the methodology to this project. I left before the lessons finished but fortunately, I can keep in touch with my colleague and continue this training by submitting my homework and questions by email.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications

MDI uses its website as the main communication platform with its audience. The website is both in English and Arabic, considering that MDI reaches a great number of people from Arab countries. Aside from that, Facebook and Twitter also help promoting   MDI’s   news,   activities   and   projects.   Subscribing   to   MDI’s   monthly newsletter is also a way to stay informed.

Being a multicultural organisation, MDI works with different countries throughout the world and therefore, they have to be in touch with people from different cultures. French and Arabic are the most used languages for MDI’s communication with Algeria and Morocco, for example. Therefore, my French knowledge and skills were useful to contact partners, trainers or MDI colleagues based in those countries.

As a student in Multilingual Communication, I learned to apply my linguistic and intercultural communication skills. I have not only communicated with people in the UK but also in other countries. The Cross-Cultural Communication course I attended in my first MA year was extremely useful when it came to dealing with different perceptions of the professional field. To keep in mind that other cultures have a different attitude towards work was very important as I communicated with people from other cultures. I have learned that the key ingredients for an efficient communication are patience, finding compromises and – most importantly – listening to each other. I also had to consider the linguistic factors. Stylistically speaking, I noticed a considerable difference between French and English. Many times, I had to avoid referring to French expressions because it sounded too formal in English. I learned that one can afford to express things in English more simply than one would do in French.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

 

2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London

The Media Diversity Institute is a London – based   non – governmental   organisation entirely devoted to working with the media and important stakeholders in this field in order to improve reporting on diversity issues which can cause conflict and spread prejudice and intolerance. MDI’s policy is to promote all kinds of diversity, may it be diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, age, gender and whatever else makes individuals or groups different from each other.

MDI aims to prevent the media from spreading prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Instead, it encourages fair, accurate, inclusive and sensitive media coverage in order to promote understanding between different groups and cultures.

MDI offers various trainings and workshops mainly focusing on ethical journalism (also called responsible reporting) covering diversity, minorities and human rights issues. They also organise conferences or roundtable debates, which bring together important media stakeholders to discuss the importance of good diversity coverage in the media. Through these types of events, MDI creates long-term partnerships with organisations and other stakeholders from different countries.

MDI’s headquarters is in London and includes a small staff team. However, all of them are devoted experts in their field. Aside from the Executive Director and the Director of Operations – who was my internship supervisor -, there is also a Development Director, a Website and Communications Manager, a Financial Expert and two Project Managers. We were only three interns in the office and our job was to help out with mainly logistics and communications.

MDI has worked with many countries, not only in Europe but also in the Middle East and North Africa, the Caribbean and Southern Asia. MDI has got other offices throughout the world such as in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, to name a few. In order to achieve its goals, MDI collaborates with journalists, academics and students, media decision makers (owners, editors and managers) and reporters, as well as with civil society organisations specialised in diversity issues. MDI often teams up with other major organisations in order to “combine experience, knowledge and financial resources”.

MDI regularly updates its website, a portal bringing together the global media and diversity community, and allows them to share information, ideas and views. The website does not only provide us with updates on their projects and activities but also with news, events, studies, reports, articles concerning diversity issues. MDI also publishes a wide range of manuals and other resource materials. More recently, MDI has introduced a MA course on Reporting Diversity at the Westminster University in London.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment