With its sights on the Commission's calls for tenders rather than on the stars on its flag, VO Europe is tasked with landing communication contracts and operations from European institutions. The other VO entities provide operational support to make this happen.
VO Europe as an entity is separate from the rest of VO, in terms of its target, its working method and the profiles of the 18 people who make it up. The project managers are committed Europhiles, who are well versed in the workings of the Institutions and nurture close ties with European civil servants. Contracts are won by dint of intensive background work at both the administrative and strategic levels. Once the contract has been secured, there is still plenty of work to be done because of the complex way the institutions are organised, which means mastering the nuts and bolts and the strict intellectual and theoretical methods. VO Europe is familiar with the complex working practices and above all the 4 principles to be mastered.
Patience and flexibility
Working with the European institutional sector is a hurdles race. The obligatory 3-part application process is the first hurdle to be overcome: an “administrative” section, to demonstrate that the candidate has the legal, financial and technical capabilities to carry out the project being targeted; a “methodology” section, to explain how VO Europe intends to implement the project; and a “price” section, to assess budgetary efficiency.
Even with the contract signed and sealed, the race continues... Your contact is rarely a decision-maker and a host of other stakeholders can influence the decisions being made. If one level says “yes” to you, another might say “no”, even during the course of the project. You have to be flexible, anticipate things and be able to find solutions - all while remaining within a budget that will not change.
The match between theory and practice
VO Europe can rely on the other VO entities to implement European projects: VO Event for translation into an event concept; SIGN for graphics; VOICE for digital comms; SENSE for content and structuring, etc. What with the strict requirements of European officials and the reality and needs of the agencies, there is a real chance that communication can sometimes “get stuck”. In this case, VO Europe plays the “interpreter”, the link that helps the two worlds understand each other.
A pool of skills and permanent think tank
VO Europe responds to around ten calls for tenders a year but manages between 50 and 80 projects annually (some of them recurring), the result of contracts lasting several years. In other words, creativity can never wane.
Two successful examples of this are:
- The recent “Research and Innovation Days” in September 2019, a kind of “Davos of research”. This was a success that the whole Commission is still talking about. For this extraordinary event, VO Europe and VO Event worked hand in hand to completely reinvent the concept of a European conference. VO Europe liaised with the Commission to develop “outside the box” conference content - special co-design sessions, specific exhibitions, sophisticated networking spaces etc. This was to enable participants to actively contribute to the production of content in real time, while VO Event drew up a bold event concept, a true translation of the content, in a place that encourages co-creation in every aspect.
- The “Escape Room” project, set up in ten or so countries for DG Justice, on the theme of consumer protection. This used a game-based model to raise citizens' awareness of consumer rights. In partnership with VO Event for the implementation and SIGN for the graphics, VO Europe developed an Escape Room inspired by Aleksandra Kingo's vision, based on contrasting bright colours to create an individual, easily recognisable ambience. The Escape Room offered 4 different games, allowing participants to tackle subjects such as product safety or holiday packages etc. The overall design of the Escape Room effectively encouraged participation - a complete mystery that stimulated the curiosity of the participants, who then underwent a unique experience involving information, appropriation through games and a deeper understanding of the subject thanks to the experts in attendance.