MEDIA ANALYSIS: Making Brussels more digestible

As the European Community prepares for its 50th anniversary, Hannah Marriott examines E!Sharp, the magazine launched by a noted Brussels lobbyist.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of The Treaty of Rome – the agreement that established the European Economic Community, later to ­become the European Community. And 2007 is also an anniversary year for Paul Adamson’s E!Sharp magazine, which he founded five years ago.

E!Sharp aims to engage a wider audience with EU politics in an ­entertaining way. Adamson insists that ‘people should be more aware of Europe’, adding: ‘It has its problems but it is not the basket case some people think it is.’

Adamson is well known for founding Adamson Associates in 1989, before selling up to BSMG Worldwide in 1998. He later became chairman of Weber Shandwick Adamson after a BSMG/WS merger (PRWeek, 16 ­July 2003).

Today, as well as overseeing E!Sharp, Adamson is still a lobbyist, in his role as chairman of The Centre in Brussels.

He describes The Centre as somewhere between a think-tank and ‘a club’, adding: ‘Not a club with drugs and dancing, but one with art exhibitions and film screenings.’

Adamson explains: ‘We don’t do lots of research and reports, but we do host book launches, discussions, roundtables and debates.’

He readily admits, however, that it is the public affairs side of the centre’s work – run by co-founder Martin Porter, and with clients including Vodafone, Oracle and eBay – that pays the bills.

High-profile contributors
E!Sharp
certainly seems to have gravitas – its fifth anniversary edition, published in January, featured congratulatory quotations from such luminaries as Neil Kinnock, Eddie Izzard, Richard Curtis and Tony Blair.

Caude Moraes, Labour MEP for London, says: ‘People talk about it, and if I don’t read it I feel I have missed out on something I need to be reading – it really fills a vacuum for an accessible read about the EU.’

The magazine also boasts some very well-regarded contributors, including The Guardian European business editor David Gow and The Independent political editor Andrew Grice.

But E!Sharp does seem to polarise opinion. One lobbyist dismisses the venture as ‘vanity publishing’, adding: ‘Paul is probably public affairs’ most well-known and well-respected lobbyist, and E!Sharp exists on the strength of his reputation.’ There are many more influential ­publications in Brussels, many argue, including weekly newspaper European Voice, The Economist and the European edition of the Financial Times.

However, E!Sharp is a different type of publication. For a start, it is bi-monthly (it was monthly for the first three years but reduced its frequency because, Adamson says, it was taking up so much of his unpaid time).

Adamson also judges E!Sharp to be unique because of its ‘ambition to explain the EU to a wider audience’.

Open Road founder and CEO Graham McMillan says E!Sharp is invaluable to him because ‘the UK press – apart from the FT – are totally useless on the EU, and we need to know what’s going on’. He adds: ‘It is well produced and imaginative, whereas other magazines, such as European Voice, can be tedious.’

Similarly, BT president of European affairs Robin Pauley says E!Sharp ‘carries weight’ because ‘it uses an eclectic range of interesting, informed and well-respected commentators’. He adds: ‘It is also mercifully well written, clear and has a sense of humour. You usually learn something from it – and get a smile, too.’

Yet many other Brussels and London-based PA practitioners claim to rarely read E!Sharp. Elaine Cruikshanks, CEO and head of global public affairs at Hill & Knowlton Brussels, describes it as ‘nice-to-have, but not a must-have like The Economist or the FT’.

Others say they are concerned about conflicts of interest, given that Adamson is both a lobbyist and a publisher.

And these concerns were exacerbated when launch editor Jacki Davis left the magazine last year. She was replaced by Simon O’Connor, who has a lobbying, rather than a journalistic, background. Furthermore, he works part-time for the magazine, alongside a role at Adamson’s think-tank ‘club’ The Centre.

Playing safe
Such issues can discourage lobbyists and PR people from targeting the magazine. But Adamson responds that he is careful to avoid conflicts of interest: ‘My dear friends out there are waiting for me to make a false move, so I am very careful to stay away from subjects in which my clients are involved.’

Meanwhile, MEP Moraes says: ‘People who are negative about E!Sharp need to get a life – Paul is a real enthusiast for communicating what is going on in Europe, and people should be thanking him.’

Either way, there are opportunities for coverage. As McMillan says, while PA practitioners would never attempt to win coverage in the magazine for a very specific campaign, they might well ­target it for general ‘awareness raising’ of big issues, such as carbon-neutrality or energy security.

The magazine also has a regular column, Captain’s Table, penned by a different prominent CEO or chairman each issue. Adamson says he would welcome contact from possible contributors, but advises PROs to remember that the piece should be an interesting personal view, and not about ‘how wonderful the company is’.

E!Sharp is also soon to launch a regular series of interviews with high-profile personalities who are not based in Brussels but have an interest in Europe. The first will be Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips. Future interviewees, says Adamson, could be ‘anyone high profile with an interest in Europe’.

Facts about E!Sharp

Founder and publisher Paul Adamson E paul@esharp.eu

Editor Simon O’Connor T 00 322 735 9685 E simon@esharp.eu

Frequency Bi-monthly; Lead-in Two months

Circulation
15,004 — with 13, 689 copies distributed free. Fifty-one per cent of the total circulation is distributed in Belgium, and 37 per cent in the UK. Sixty-two per cent of copies are made available in public places, including Eurostar terminals and British Airways lounges. Other recipients include think-tanks such as Chatham House and European Commission departments.

Web
www.peoplepowerprocess.com

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