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17 June 2015

M-score: the importance of a vision on communication in politics

Every morning when driving to work on the E40 from Hoegaarden to Waver, I always listen to the radio. It’s a way to get ready for the day. Sing along, laugh with the fine humor of Siska Schoeters and go over the planning of the day in my head.

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Yesterday morning something in the news struck me: Flemish Minister of the Environment, Joke Schauvliege, is working on a ‘M-sore’ which is a mobility score for houses. Besides the fact that I don’t agree with her proposal, the initiative also shows the importance of having a clear vision and a communication plan ready when talking about new ideas. Politics is all about marketing.

To go into more detail with regard to the political side: The M-score will inform people about the proximity of your house to public transport, the motorway and to important facilities like schools, hospitals and shops. The lower the score the closer you are to these facilities. The score will be shown on a scale from green to red. The greener, the better. The goal is to inform people about the accessibility of important places to your (future) home… So what? According to Minister Schauvliege, people should be informed whether or not they will need to buy a (second) car. The M-score should also be a stimulus to go and live in city centers. An overview of some reactions on social media indicates not everyone agrees: You don’t solve traffic jams with a paper (Bart Somers – Open VLD); People can judge for themselves how far they will live from their work or school (Matthias Diependaele N-VA).

In my opinion the M-score is shifting the responsibility away from politics towards the people. So in the future you shouldn’t complain about the accessibility problems when you have bought or rented a house in a zone with a high M-score. You knew this in advance. Shouldn’t we work the other way around? Work on solutions instead of communicating about the pain points? The idea of one M-score per house won’t work because the ‘mobility-fit’ of a house will differ from person to person depending on working place and family situation. Therefore it would be better to have some kind of ‘mobility-matching’ tool.

Now let’s talk marketing! Getting the message across is crucial when launching new ideas or products. It is important your target group gets the right message and information. Therefore it is primordial to have a clear vision and a marketing strategy to know which message you communicate through which channel. These are the basics of marketing. When listening to Radio 1 (BEL10), you understand this communication wasn’t carefully prepared. The radio called her and asked for concrete measures, so she named the M-score. I would advise to think first about explaining her vision on the future before launching loose projects with insufficient context. Now Minister Schauvliege needs to put time and energy in defending this initiative, time and energy which is lost to focus on what really matters: the vision on ‘Ruimte Vlaanderen’. Both an internal, for her own party as well as her coalition partners, and an external communication plan is needed.

So tomorrow morning I will leave my house in Hoegaarden (with a red M-score) and wave to all the people in the traffic jam on the E314 leaving their green M-scored houses from Leuven.

I’m interested to see how traffic problems will be taken into account when developing the M-score. Or maybe we should start by finding first a solution for these traffic jams?

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