Has there ever been a bigger publicity fund in the history of the world? A billion euros spent on average every week in promoting the role and virtue of the European Union! No wonder there are so many people out there who have been duped, deluded, brainwashed and hypnotised into thinking the EU is the benefactor of all and the people’s defence against their own wicked, money-pinching governments.
Of course, the EU does not publicise the fact that it has such a huge publicity budget. That would defeat its objective. So they call this money the Structural Funds, and they spread it around the regions of every member state under the pretence of improving their economic lot. Some of this money will certainly improve the lot of some people in the regions – those consultants and firms that get contracts to undertake some public function, and those publicly funded organisations that get an extra lease of life from an injection of funds. But the amount of economic benefit that filters down to the general population is usually quite small, and certainly small in relation to the total expenditure. But this does not matter, because the principle objective of these funds is to promote the EU.
How can I say this? Well, it is not me that says it, it is there in the words of European Commission. Take Regulation 1828/2006 which sets out the provisions for the Structural Funds (which are actually five separate funds). There are 55 Articles governing the use of the Funds, and Articles 2-10, right up front, govern the publicity requirements for any project funded by the EU. Most of the rest of the Articles are about control systems on where and how the money is spent. One would have thought that the most important aspect of any project would be to produce benefits for the target population. But to such benefits there is no reference. It is just about expenditure, which for a Eurocrat (and indeed bureaucrats everywhere) is always a key objective. And the publicity.
Project beneficiaries, those that receive the money directly, are told:
Meeting the publicity requirements set by the Commission is part of the formal Funding Agreement, and failure to publicise the European Regional Development Fund support could result in projects having to repay grant. This has happened in the past, so meeting the publicity requirements should be taken very seriously.
No such threat is ever made for a failed or inadequate project.
What is this publicity requirement? Here is a sample in the Eurocrats’ own words:
Strict publicity requirements have been set by the European Commission which must be followed by anyone developing and delivering projects, or managing the Programme.
It is a condition of grant that any assistance received by a project from the European Union through the Structural Funds is clearly and appropriately acknowledged in all publicity material (including plaques and site signage), publications, public procurement documents, and events.
The European Union logo is the primary visual representation used for the European Regional Development Fund Programme and one of the most important communication tools. It is mandatory that it is used and applied correctly, prominently and consistently on all publicity materials and project documentation produced by a project supported by the Fund.
The logo consists of a number of key elements which must be used:
- The standard European Union emblem (Twelve five-pointed gold stars in a circle on a blue background)
- Reference to the European Union
- Reference to the European Regional Development Fund
- The statement ‘Investing in your future’
If any part of the material is produced in colour, then you must use a full colour version of the logo with the standard colours:
- Pantone Reflex Blue – 100% process cyan and 80% process Magenta
- Pantone Yellow – 100% process yellow
Are you still with it? You can manage the colours? There’s a lot more to come:
The logo works best in colour on a white background. However if it appears on a coloured background the black text of the logo may be hard to read. In those cases it is permitted to change the text to white to improve clarity. In addition a white border must be included around the rectangle of the flag emblem with the width of 1/25th of the height of the rectangle. The important thing to remember is that the background should be uncluttered and provides enough contrast to ensure clarity.
The logo should be placed in a prominent and suitable position, on all materials. If used alongside other funders logos as acknowledgements, then the ERDF logo has to be of an equivalent size and appropriate to the scale of the material and documents being used. As a minimum, the logo, including the emblem and the wording, should be used at 40mm width (landscape logo) and 25mm height (portrait logo).
To prevent any visual interference the logo must be positioned in its own clear space, standing apart from other images, text and logos, and should not be placed immediately against a document edge
Got that? The EU logo is all important and must be placed so that no one can avoid seeing it. And the all important slogan “Investing in your future”. Well, it is the eurocrat’s future that is being bolstered here. And the eurocrat likes to control everything:
The ERDF logo must not be stretched, squashed or reproduced in colours other than those stated in these guidance. Nor should it be reproduced in a different typeface or be rotated. The standard typeface to be used is Arial. When resizing the logo you must ensure that it stays in proportion and does not become distorted.
There follows at this point three illustrations of the EU Logo with the commands emphasised
YOU MUST use Arial typeface
DO NOT distort the logo when resizing
DO NOT rotate the logo
This is an example of an EU logo given which would not pass muster, and would make any project that used it liable to a clawback of funds.
So we get it. The EU wants you to do EXACTLY what it tells you. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’. Now let’s get on to the real self-promotion:
Billboards must be erected on the sites of projects where infrastructure or construction projects are being financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the total public contribution to the project exceeds €500,000. A billboard must be erected at the start of the works. Billboards should be sited to maximise the opportunities for it/them to be seen by the public and include a space reserved for the ERDF logo as acknowledgement.
The ERDF logo should take up at least 25% of the total billboard size
When the project is completed, the billboard should be replaced by a permanent plaque within 6 months.
Projects are required to put up a permanent plaque in an appropriate visible place and ideally accessible to the general public, no later than six months after completion of the project. This is applicable where the total public contribution to the project exceeds €500,000 and the project consists in the purchase of a physical object or in the financing of infrastructure or of construction projects.
All this, of course, when the money for the project is but a small part of the money the UK has already handed over to Brussels.
Plaques should be of a significant size and include a space reserved for the European Regional Development Fund logo as acknowledgement of the role played by the fund in part-financing the project.
Plaques must include the following information:
- Name of the project
- Name of the Programme: ‘European Regional Development Fund’
- Description of the activity supported by the project
- Display the full ERDF logo
The information above should take up at least 25% of the total plaque size.
So no acknowledgement that it is the UK taxpayer that is really funding these projects (and in fact thousands of projects in central and eastern Europe whose people are lead to believe that everything is coming from good old uncle EU with the very deep pockets).
All plaques must be produced and funded by the project
Well, actually not just the plaques but all this publicity has to be paid for by the project – it is the first call on the funds.
All printed documents and publications produced by projects supported by the Fund must acknowledge and reference the ERDF funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo and ensuring it is visible in a prominent position. This extends to a variety of materials and documents including, but not restricted to:
- General advertisements, job advertisements and notices
- Leaflets, brochures, flyers and posters
- Case studies
- Exhibition banners and display panels
- Business cards
- Promotional items
- Letterheads and compliment slips
- Reports and papers
- Project documentation
- Procurement material
- Job descriptions
For small promotional items, such as business cards, the European flag emblem and words ‘European Union’ can just be used.
OK, OK. We understand that the only important thing in these projects is to promote the EU.
All electronic materials produced by projects supported through the Fund must acknowledge and reference the ERDF funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo. This extends to a variety of materials including, but not restricted to:
- Presentation Slides
- Email footers and signatures
- Audio visual material including films, video, DVDs, CD Roms
- Social media tools including Face book, Twitter and SMS Messages
The logo is to appear on the homepage for all project specific websites and within the website of the project sponsoring organisation the logo is to appear on project related pages.
So if we splatter the EU logo everywhere, we get the money? Correct! But you must do more by organising promotional events:
Conferences, seminars, exhibitions and events are an ideal way to promote a project supported by the European Regional Development Fund. All materials and documents produced for an event in advance, on the day and after the event must acknowledge and reference the funding received by displaying the full European Regional Development Fund logo.
All press releases produced on projects supported by the European Regional Development Fund should include a text reference to the ERDF support and when initially launched should state the amount of funding awarded.
And don’t neglect press releases throughout the project which will promote the EU on a more continuous basis:
Press releases should be developed for the launch of the project, and additional releases announcing key milestones and achievements. Your local Programme Delivery Team in the Department for Communities and Local Government will be able to provide advice and guidance on press releases developed.
The following wording should be included in the editor’s notes for all press releases concerning projects part financed by the European Regional Development Fund:
The [INSERT NAME] project is part financed by the [INSERT NAME OF PROGRAMME] European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013.
Please note that the European Regional Development Fund Funding Agreement for the project should be in place before any media or PR activities are completed. If projects are interviewed by the media (print or radio), with the aim to produce a news story about funded activity, or produces a radio or TV advertisement to promote the project, reference should be made to the European Regional Development Fund support provided.
Publicity must not be confined to informing the general public about how generous the EU is. One must also ram home to anyone working with the project how much they owe to the EU:
All projects must provide beneficiaries who are taking part in activities associated with the project, clear notice that the project has been funded under the European Regional Development Fund Programme. Projects must ensure that they have provisions in place to notify those taking part in the project activity that it benefits from the Fund. Ideas of how to achieve this include:
- Mention during induction sessions as part of a training course
- Note the support in any contracts or paperwork given to beneficiaries
- State the support in internal newsletters and bulletins
- Provide the beneficiary with a leaflet explaining European Regional Development Fund investment in your project
- Plaques, posters and displays
And to emphasise just how key an activity publicity is, the EU requires a PLAN on what and how it is be done. And this Plan will be assessed and if it is not up to EU requirements then you’ll lose project funds. Hardly surprising that project managers give publicity the priority over everything else. Is there time for any of the real project activities aimed at generating benefits? Not much!
It is important that everyone involved in delivering a project, not just the project owner, understands and follows the European Regional Development Fund’s publicity requirements. Applicants should demonstrate how these will be delivered by the project as part of the application through a Communications Plan, Project Management Plan; or produce this separately. This may be called upon during assessment of the project. The plan should be proportionate to the scale, scope and nature of the project and contain as a minimum:
- Aims of the project and target groups
- Strategy and content of the information and publicity activities to be delivered by the project, aimed at potential beneficiaries, stakeholders and the general public
- An indicative budget for delivering the plan
- People and companies involved in delivering the plan and its activities
- Details on evaluation of the activities
During the lifetime of the project, regular monitoring activities and audits will take place where all projects will be required to evidence how they have met the publicity requirements. Therefore it is essential that you keep evidence of all project publicity materials. Typical types of evidence could include, but are not restricted to:
- Press releases
- Press cuttings indicating publication and date
- Photos from events
- Literature such as leaflets and brochures
- Presentations and speaker notes
- View the plaque and billboard or photographic evidence
- Website materials
- Project documentation and correspondence
Audits can take place a long time after the project has been completed. Therefore ensure all evidence is kept until advised by the Managing Authority that it is safe to dispose of it. If a project is unable to evidence adherence to the publicity requirements, it could result in the clawback of the funding.
When fulfilling the publicity requirements it is important to remember that any publicity materials produced and services used, must adhere to the European Commission procurement rules and regulations. Failure to provide appropriate evidence is identified as one of the most common audit failings and is subject to a high degree of attention from UK and European Commission verification and audit visits.
So there you go. The important thing is the publicity for Big Brother, not benefit-generating activity. But get it right and you’ll be in line for another dollop of money the next time around. The EU always rewards its own.
But wait! I almost forgot. That is not the end of it! At any particularly auspicious event, like the opening of a centre of something or other, where there is something physical to see, the EU wants the project to invite an EU Commissioner (with a national Minister if necessary) to make an inaugural speech with the flag flying and no doubt the Ode to Joy playing in the background. It’s all good publicity! And it’s all paid for by you.