Posts filed under ‘public affairs’

The Beijing-Brussels connection

Fleishman-Hillard Brussels was particularly enthusiastic to welcome Li Hong, President of Fleishman-Hillard China, as he visited the capital of Europe last week. While almost 8000 kilometres separate Brussels from Beijing, the upcoming leadership transition in China is poised to have a dramatic impact on the economy here in Europe, as in the rest of the world. His visit was thus the perfect occasion to discuss, with a handful of EU public affairs professionals from a broad range of industry sectors, the challenges the country is facing and the outlook for various industry sectors moving forward.

Trade policy is an exclusive power of the EU which means that it is the EU, and not individual member states, that legislates on trade matters and concludes international trade agreements, covering services, intellectual property and foreign direct investment. With the globalisation of the supply chain, China has become a major, if not the most important, production hub for multinational companies operating in Europe. Any shift in labour or environmental legislation taking place in China has an impact on foreign companies producing in China. Similarly, China is looking at the EU as a landmark for matters like the classification of chemicals substances or product safety legislation.

The fruitful discussions further confirmed the global dimension of EU public affairs. As influence operates from multiple pressure points and sources across different time zones, a silo approach to public affairs is no longer viable. Companies navigate in a globalised system with global challenges (trade, environment, food security, energy scarcity): what happens in China impacts the EU and vice versa.

In view of the current global economic slowdown, all eyes are expectantly turned on market prospects in China where a burgeoning economy and growing middle class still offer untapped opportunities for foreign players, from the pharmaceutical and retail sectors to logistics, automotives and chemicals.

On November 8th at the 18th Party Congress, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will see new faces in many of the top leadership posts. Given the importance of the Party’s leadership to the functioning of the world’s second-biggest economy, these major generational changes will strongly impact the margin of maneuver of foreign companies operating in China. It will also have a critical influence on the future of EU-China political and trade relations and therefore on public affairs in Brussels, Beijing and beyond.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive analysis of what the upcoming Chinese leadership change can bring to the industry, European consumers and EU policy makers.

 Francesca

October 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Your starter for 10: life as a EU public affairs consultant

Some would call it a life sentence. Others would call it a vocation. Many would argue I need more than an annual summer vacation. It’s been 10 years this August since I left the European Parliament (and working for someone I miss on a daily basis) and joined Fleishman-Hillard. Here are ten reasons why I’ve been here ten years.

1. It’s personal

I have a personal stake in the EU. I was indoctrinated at the College of Europe (I’m one half of a College couple). I still get hacked off when people talk down about the European Parliament. I’m happy to admit to being a ‘believer’ in ‘the project’ of EU integration. I may not work in the EU institutions, but my chosen career allows me to participate in EU integration every day of my working life. There are few that can claim their personal interests coincide with their day job so happily.

2. It’s about the real world

The great thing about consultancy is you get to help folks from the real world understand the EU and vice versa. There’s something intrinsically fascinating about understanding different sectors and being able to translate EU jargon and arcane processes into something that means something to someone. One of the most fascinating parts of our job is getting to go up air traffic control towers, visit chemicals plants and tour breweries as part of getting to know our clients businesses. Without gaining that understanding, we’d be pretty poor consultants.

3. It’s doing well by doing good

Explaining the EU to business and business to the EU helps democracy and makes for better policy at the end of the process. Over the last ten years I’ve lost count of the number of EU citizens I’ve had to teach crash courses on the EU, its benefits and how it works. Equally, much of our work involves ensuring that our client’s insights about their businesses and what’s affecting them are translated for policymakers and presented to them in a way that’s understandable. It strikes me that we’d have pretty rubbish policy if stakeholders didn’t have a voice in the debate. And they’d be a lot less informed EU citizens out there if we weren’t around too.

4. It’s a journey

My job has changed immeasurably over the last ten years. From the issues I’ve covered to the sectors I’ve worked for and the tasks I undertake, every day is different. From following issues to managing clients, to managing people and now helping run a business, it’s been a journey. The great thing about this consultancy is your role can evolve over time, while still doing the things you love (generally all listed above).

5. It’s about thinking and doing

I like to think that I can think with the best of them, but to be honest I still wish to get my hands dirty. Whether it’s drafting a position paper, media release or getting out there to events and speaking to folks, I like the doing as much as the thinking. Generally our job is a mixture of both.

6. It’s about outcomes

All communications is about change, either in behaviour or perception. It’s great to be able to measure the success of what you do, not by counting outputs but by measuring a change in a behaviour or perception of those we’re seeking to reach.

7. It’s a business

Someone once said to me that (EU) Brussels is the least commercial town on the planet. That may be true, but in a town of policy wonks (something I’d class myself as) consultancy is probably the most commercial thing going.  Once again there’s a measurable outcome in there.

8. It’s the people

Intelligent, committed (or need to be), experienced, interested, passionate… I could go on. From my boss to the latest account executive to wow me with their knowledge, as we don’t produce crisps or indeed anything else it’s the people that are the firm. I’ve been fortunate to count some of the best amongst those I’ve worked with. Many have become and stayed friends, even after they’ve moved on. It’s always great to see Alumni at events – funny how often they speak as if they’ve come home. As I note that the average lifespan of a management team member here is well over 10 years I conclude that we must be doing something right.

9. It’s fun

It’s hard work but at the same time I’d have to say I laugh out loud at least once a working day. Ten years of doing so probably says I enjoy coming in every morning.

10. It’s not just about Brussels

Increasingly our work looks at issues from a European (national capital) and even international perspective. It’s great to be able to have conversations with trusted colleagues about how the issues are playing out in London, Berlin, Beijing and Washington. It reminds you that much of what we do here is affected by and affects others parts of the world. It takes you out of that comfortable Brussels bubble which we can sometimes inhabit.

If you too fancy a life sentence, applications can be made here.

James

July 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

Join us at the Personal Democracy Forum, 2012!

On Thursday, May 31 we’ll be in the European Parliament, taking part in a captivating brainstorm on how tech – and tech-savvy citizens – are transforming governance, politics and civil society.

Why don’t you join us?

Now in its ninth year in the United States and its third year in Europe, the Personal Democracy Forum brings together top opinion leaders, politicians, technologists, and journalists from across the ideological spectrum to network and exchange ideas.

Next week’s event – Finding Europe’s Public Place – is set to put the impact of technology in Brussels under the spotlight, evaluating its role in the European institutions, diplomacy, lobbying and journalism.

Speakers will examine how interactive communications technologies are now being regularly deployed to address critical civic problems, and make governments more efficient, transparent, and accountable. They’ll also discuss whether these technologies are bringing Europe any closer to the as yet elusive public sphere.

Also on the agenda: the invaluable role social media has played in supporting democracy movements all over the world.

The Personal Democracy Forum invariably attracts highly distinguished guests – and this event is no exception. Ambassador William E. Kennard of the US Mission to the EU,  Facebook Europe’s Erika Mann and Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times are just a few of the speakers who’ll be sharing their insights on the day.

Register now to secure your place for this thought-provoking and invaluable event.

See you there!

Catherine.

May 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

FH Europe podcast: 20 years of Public Affairs in Brussels

In the latest instalment of the FH Europe podcast, we interview Caroline Wunnerlich, the Managing Director of Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. FH Brussels celebrated 20 years in business last year, a landmark Caroline hits this year. In the interview she tells us about how PA in Brussels has changed over the last 20 years and looks ahead at the next 20.

Click here to listen to this edition of the podcast.*

Click here to subscribe to the FH Europe podcast on iTunes.

* If using Internet Explorer, you may have to right-click on the link and “save target as”, then play the saved file by double clicking it.

Steffen

April 25, 2012 at 9:35 am 1 comment

FH Podcast: Alumni series – exploring PA #1 – Barry Lynham, Knauf

Lots of smart and interesting people have worked for FH Brussels over the years. Many of them are still here, but some have moved on. Over the next few months we’ll be chatting to a few of the people who fall under the latter, to explore how the practice of communications, especially PA, differs depending on the nature of the organisation, and how PA has developed over the years, in Brussels and beyond.

First up, we talk to Barry Lynham, who left FH in 2003 and went on to run an art gallery before joining Knauf insulation as Head of Public Affairs for Europe. In this podcast, he enthusiastically tells us how in-house and agency differ, how PA has become a more complex discipline over the years, and how the PA model needs to move on from Brussels-centricity to be truly effective.

Click here to listen to this edition of the podcast.*

Click here to subscribe to the FH Europe podcast on iTunes.

* If using Internet Explorer, you may have to right-click on the link and save target as, then play the saved file by double clicking it.

Steffen

November 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm 1 comment

Challenge: Internship. Approach: Coffee. Implementation: Still following outlined procedure. Outcome: To be confirmed.

Wednesday 2 November 2011: a significant and anticipated day in my diary for two reasons. Not only did this day mark the fact that I have been working for Fleishman-Hillard for exactly two months, but it also marked the milestone of my 21st Birthday.

Taking both of these events into account, now seems like a great time to expose the true thoughts of an overly keen intern entering the manic world of public affairs. In the hope that I still have an internship after this, here goes…

The day before I arrived in Brussels two distant months ago, I left bewildered and highly confused friends behind asking the same questions that they have always asked me; something along the lines of ‘What is wrong with you’?  They justify this accusation, this time at least, with three core reasons: I am coming to Brussels to undertake a full time job in public affairs. Although I’m 100% sure that most of them don’t know what public affairs (or the EU for that matter) is. As they packed their sombreros, beach towels and a bottle of ‘England’s finest Spanish Sangria’ (I mean really?) for a year of Erasmus in Valencia, I packed my suits, a pair of high heels (or two) and a pink pencil case. I got on a plane that morning, the small business jet type where you are surrounded by highly important looking people and therefore try not to even breathe too loudly, and not once have I looked back.

So the question is, how do I explain to my sun soaking friends on a beach in Valencia just how fantastic this decision was, and that actually, my judgment of the ‘year abroad’ in my opinion, was without a doubt the best. This is where my 21st Birthday would fall into my explanation; I genuinely felt that there was nowhere else I’d rather be on this day than doing a job that I’ve fallen in love with and working in a truly unique office that I feel privileged to be a part of.

So how has this happened so quickly?

Yes, I have a very small tendency to be over enthusiastic about everything but my diagnosis of this situation is, I believe, justified.

Something that a job advertisement could never tell you about is the truly exceptional atmosphere of the office. I am surrounded by people who are clearly experts and completely dedicated to what they do yet this is magnificently combined with good humour and a great spirit and this hits you as soon as you walk through the office door. Additionally, I am fortunate enough to work amongst an impressive range of nationalities which I am informed is particularly unique to the Brussels office. It would be hard not to enjoy working in this office.

In the past two months I have learnt more than I ever did in my past two years at University. I have been involved in organizing and attending events (Christmas party included), I’ve discovered that things such as ‘logistics’ are actually relatively interesting topics and I’ve even had the opportunity to visit the Paris Office for a day. I now tweet about everything (within reason) and I am genuinely committed to Renovating Europe and the 3% pledge. I am even going to have a go at being on the FH football team. The pace is fast and every day is different and it actually keeps me occupied; being someone with an uncontrollable amount of energy, this has always been a particularly difficult task.

So all in all, I would recommend this internship at Fleishman to anyone that would ask me about it. I would probably tell them that yes the job is hard work and yes sometimes it can get a little difficult, but I would also tell them that it is beyond rewarding and that this opportunity is absolutely incomparable. The job is exciting, the people are fabulous, there is an office band, the coffee machine isn’t half bad, there always seems to be cake in the kitchen and for me, it is a great position to be in when you really care about what you do.

I had a 21st Birthday that I will never forget and my fingers are crossed that I enjoy the next eight months just as much as I have enjoyed the previous two. Perhaps I’ll write a sum up article at the end of my internship year in June and compare the two…!

Emma Cracknell

November 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm 1 comment

Is the climate right for change?

Not so long ago, I had the privilege to visit our team in South Africa, where our world-class team has been in overdrive helping a range of clients prepare for the upcoming COP17 global climate talks in Durban later this year.

It is clear the government there – and many of its biggest companies – are determined to put on a big show. Anyone suffering hearing damage from the sound of vuvuzelas at World Cup 2010 would surely agree that the country does “big show” very well. But now, football has been replaced by climate change as the subject on everyone’s lips.

That strikes me as a contrast to the way the subject is being viewed in Europe. The continent has historically led the world in the development of climate change policy and practice, but lately, I get the feeling that other concerns – economic recovery, job creation and so forth – have caused politicians and business leaders to focus elsewhere.

While in many ways this is perfectly understandable, it fundamentally misses the point. I say that for two reasons. Firstly and most obviously, the problem hasn’t gone away. Climate change is still happening, we’re still making more of an impact on the world than we should, and many complex issues have yet to be solved before we are able to live sustainably within the world we created.

Secondly, there is a mistaken notion that tackling climate change costs money and jobs. In reality, it often makes good business sense to tackle climate change. High energy prices mean that measures taken to make operations more efficient can give companies a competitive advantage. The opportunity to do our part to save the planet motivates employees, inspires innovation, and creates new jobs in cutting-edge industries. The notion that reducing our impact on the environment has to mean increased costs or job cuts is outdated.

That said, I also think that it is important to put a value on our environmental impact if we are going to seriously address the problem. It has often been said by companies that “we will not buy our way out of environmental responsibility;” but the real issue is about changing behaviour. Behavioural change is always difficult, and cost is a much more powerful motivator than goodwill.

I’m not sure whether COP17 will produce a watershed of political support for environmental and social sustainability. Early signs are promising – China, for instance, is sending 2000 delegates to Durban, South Africa intends to unveil a comprehensive carbon tax, and the EU remains ideologically committed to furthering the discussion. But international agreements are complicated, the world is deep in recession, and – and as COP15 in Copenhagen showed us – intent and result are often very different things. Time will tell.

In the meantime, however, each of us can focus on where we can personally have an impact. If we each can assess and show improvement in a small way, and actively think about and manage our energy use, it can make a huge difference. It is also important for each of us – either as companies or as individuals, to communicate: to talk about what we’re doing; how successful we have been, what we have learned along the way and – of course – how much money we have saved. Doing this will make it much more real than talking about it in the abstract.

There is no one-size-fits-all model for reducing environmental impact. But if each of us does a little, we can have a big influence. The future of the planet is too important to be a passing fashion.

Dan Baxter

November 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm 1 comment

What does best in class public affairs look like?

Last week I came up with some top line thoughts on what a best in class public affairs function looks like in a Brussels context. I’ve based it on my experience in the market over the last decade. For some I am hoping it’s blindingly obvious, but I think it’s a point of view that could serve as a useful refresher of where we all want to be.

In summary it is something along the lines of proactive, externally focused and all about measurable outcomes. Being a consultant I felt obliged to develop a bit more than a sentence. Hence the nine things that I think effective public affairs functions do well:

1. Provide insights

The only thing public affairs functions have to make their case is the insights that they bring. Best in class public affairs functions have ready access to data, examples, and thoughts and are able to turn these into insights that are timely, relevant and useful for policymakers and wider stakeholders who are figuring out public policy. These folks are of course intelligent beings and will listen to others (with different facts, data, and thoughts) before making up their own minds.

2. Focus on policy formulation

Effective public affairs functions focus on the policy formulation stage more often than not rather than the legislative phase. Once the proposal is out you’re playing at the margins. Not where best in class finds itself that often (see this post on why successful public affairs should be like a Tom Cruise movie).

3. Develop solutions

Successful public affairs functions look to bring solutions to policymakers for the challenges that European society faces. Saying no aint an option, saying this is a more effective way to get to where we all want to be may well be.   

4. Conduct dialogue

Top of the class functions also have the mandate within their own organizations to be able to work on solutions with policymakers and stakeholders, even if their own position is not 100% defined. Policymaking is a process, if you can only start and end with the same position and all you can do is repeat it you’re of little use to all concerned once they’ve read your position paper.

5. Integrate all forms of communications

World class public affairs functions have the mandate and expertise to use all forms of communications in a public affairs context, from media and online to third party mobilization and one-on-one meetings. As our EP Digital Trends survey has shown, the folks you’re seeking to talk to get their information from all sorts of places (as you and everyone else on the planet does). The best in class public affairs functions get this and don’t see their role as restricted to one tactic (meeting people) but focus on how best to achieve the outcome.

6. Remain connected internally

Great public affairs functions are connected within their business in order to get the insights needed to create useful policy thoughts. They also have a functioning public affairs network across European countries that can do all of the other eight points– after all the position of one half of our legislature and much more besides is actually decided in national capitals.

7. Seek out partners

Brussels is based on consensus. As such, to be on top of your game you’re going to have to be able to find and motivate partners within industry, civil society and elsewhere of the merits of your insights and the solution you’re proposing.

8. Value reputation

Best in class functions are part of businesses that care about what they do and care about what people say about what they do. While the strategic direction of an organization is not normally decided by its public affairs function and the value that an organization places on the external world depends on many factors, I think effective functions bring the outside inside and can be an agent for change within their own organizations as much as outside it.

9. Provide value to the business

Really great public affairs functions are relevant to their businesses. What they do is relevant, timely and useful to the continued success of their organizations. What the EP Committee said today was really interesting to EU geeks like us, but a best in class function is able to say why it’s important for their organization, what impact it’s likely to have going forward and what they’re going to do about it. They answer the “so what” question on a daily basis.

James

October 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm 4 comments

An American in Brussels

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when the populace of the EU Quarter abandons Brussels like rats from a sinking ship and those few of us left on board are trying to wrap up all of the ‘admin’ tasks that we’ve put on hold for the several previous, hair-raisingly busy months.

It’s also the time of year when I, as an American, have to go through the annual bureaucratic rigmarole that is renewing my Belgian work permit. This is now my third time down the path of renewal and every year it’s the same somewhat maddening procedure (though the first time is always the worst!). This year, however, I’ve found myself pondering  the question that I always find myself answering for curious Europeans who say something like ‘But, it’s normal for Europeans to want to go to the States, but you’re an American, how did you find yourself here, in Brussels?!’, and so I decided to take a little poll around the FH Brussels office to see why the other Americans (there are 5 of us in total!) are here.

Carey Evans, from Los Angeles, California

“I came for the weather… clearly.”

Jessica Henderson, from the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Minnesota

“Because I couldn’t afford London, Paris, or Geneva.”

Tatiana Hulko, from Evergreen, Colorado

“I blame the Brit in my life for trading in sunshine for rain.”

Katie Wolicki, from Asheville, North Carolina

“Belgian chocolate, frites, waffles, and the little boy peeing….what more could you ask for? ”

That leaves me. So why am I here? Well, I can’t say I came for the weather and I, too, am probably unable to afford the luxury of life in London, Paris, or Geneva. Nor can I claim that it was the infamous beer, waffles, or chocolate that lured me here – though they didn’t hurt. And although my colleagues have all provided (what I like to assume are) tongue-in-cheek responses to my query, I have to say that I originally landed in Brussels sort of through happenstance and, like most Europeans here who are not natives to this fair(ish) city, I guess I got sucked in. It started innocently enough, with an internship here during my undergrad studies, but living in Brussels piqued my interest in EU affairs and the policy making scene. I returned after graduating to do a Masters’ in Leuven, got a job in a public affairs consulting firm in Brussels, then another job, et voila, little by little, before I really realized, the exciting world of the EU had gripped me and the slightly more laid-back lifestyle of the Brussels-scene kept me close. Despite the rain and the endless red tape, the lack of friendly service, and the inconvenience of much of everyday life (I’m sorry, but it makes NO sense that all of the shops and stores close on bank holidays when people actually have time to spend their money!) I find myself willfully going through this renewal process that keeps me here for at least another year.

And so, as much as this writer likes to complain about the above mentioned issues (and more!) I have to accept that actually, we do have it pretty good here. The international work environment that I’m lucky enough to be  a part of is a unique one. The friends I’ve made who live here and who depart to the far reaches of the globe are largely friends and contacts I’ve made in Brussels. The proximity to the heart of European policy making and the opportunity to have interesting interactions with policymakers means that my job is interesting every day – not something that can necessarily be said even for my counterparts who live and work in America’s version of Brussels, Washington DC. These are the things that brought me here and which keep me here still.

That said, for now I’ve had about as much of Brussels as I can take for 7 months at a time without ‘escaping’ and I’m off on hols back to New England as of Monday. So ‘bonnes vacances’ everyone! See you in a few weeks when I’m back – refreshed by the warm weather, sunny, blue skies, and ocean breezes of the Maine and Massachusetts coasts and ready to face the gray skies and Bruxellois lifestyle that we have all come to, err, know and love.

Lindsay Hammes, from Augusta, Maine

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July 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm 5 comments

Everyone loves a good story

The other day I attended an event on the Future of Mobility and Transport in Europe and a quote from an MEP, who was on one of the panels, got me thinking about ‘storytelling’ in public affairs. While discussing Intelligent Transport Systems, the MEP asked fellow participants whether they have ever thought – while having breakfast – where each of the items on the breakfast table comes from, and what journey they have made. What’s the supply chain of a jar of marmelade, where has it been and by which modes of transport? Were there any regulatory barriers on the way or were its travels facilitated by the existing legislative framework? Such a simple example or story can bring a discussion on transport to life, as it links the world of the audience to the issue.

In fact, one of the many challenges we face as public affairs consultants is talking about inherently technical (and dare I say, sometimes unexciting) topics to policy-makers. However, usually they have anything on their mind but the very detailed requirements of products A, B and C that can potentially have far-reaching effects on a client’s business – and ultimately, citizens. And when you’re looking for someone to advocate on your behalf, there are certain issues that will always gain support and others that, well, don’t. As an MEP, would you, for example, want to be the champion of a ‘single administrative electronic document for the im- and export of goods to/from the EU?’ Not a very imaginative topic perhaps, but incredibly important for anyone who supports the completion of the single market.

Following up to James’ post regarding the use of position papers (see: Time to throw away the trusty old position paper?) and the need to tailor material to what your audience cares about, rather than drafting everything from your organization’s perspective – I’d like to add the need to tell more stories. (Note: stories, not fairytales ;)). There has been a lot of buzz on this particular point in the PR realm and it is equally applicable to PA, see some excellent posts on this topic by our colleague Steffen on his personal blog (Get off your high horse – tell a decent story and Develop a content strategy to succeed in public affairs). Some of the perks of storytelling include:

  • It’s an easy way to avoid using overly technical or business jargon .
  • The exercise will force your organization to think out of the box.
  • Stories can create emotional involvement in an issue.
  • Stories provide the opportunity for a more personal and targeted approach.
  •  The method is refreshing and allows you to be creative – and your material will be more appealing as it stands out from the crowd.

Obviously with the usual caveat that on most occassions – straight up technical information, facts and figures are still desirable, but it is worth bearing in mind that real-life examples and stories can make your ‘characters’ come alive.

Kirsten

July 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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