Posts tagged ‘Brussels’

Game on!

Any regular reader of this blog knows that we tend to take ourselves pretty seriously. I mean, we’re serious consultants with serious work to do and serious policy areas to ponder! We’re passionate about the issues of the day that will affect our work, our clients, and life in general out there in the wild blue yonder; whether it be how the German elections could impact the direction of energy policy, or how the twittersphere is chiming in on Europe.

We’re also passionate about cake. Yes, you read that correctly, cake: the edible foodstuff that is sweet and moist and can be blamed for ever-expanding waistlines of office workers, worldwide.

Now it seems, as the resident baking enthusiast here at FleishmanHillard (and instigator of semi-regular, now infamous ‘cake competitions’), I’ve begun to get a bit of a reputation. So when colleagues spotted an opportunity to form a team to participate in the BritCham Great Brussels Charity Bake Off  competition, they knew exactly who to call. We pulled together a team of bakers (meJaneSandrine, & Maria Chiara), gave ourselves a name “FHun in the Oven” (apparently makes Brits chuckle – thanks James), and decided to bake a good ol’ fashioned Hummingbird Cake – a specialty of this famous London bakery (Like a carrot cake, but not. See the recipe below).

After some fun Sunday-evening adventures (Batter tasting! Bowl licking! Icing-testing!), and one happily-averted mishap that almost ended with the top layer of our cake on the pavement of Rue Goffart, we were feeling pretty good (read: in a sugar-induced coma) about our handiwork…

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…Until we started checking out the twitter feed #BxlBakeOff and saw the seriousness with which our competitors clearly take themselves.

The competition was fierce and I mean fierce. 24 cakes. There were cakes with squirrels and acorns fashioned out of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts…

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There were orange=frosted covered Halloween cakes that tasted like my childhood and were adorned with creepy little edible marzipan bats and rats!

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There was even a cake depicting an EU legislative timeline! I mean, these people really do EAT, breathe and sleep their work!

Needless to say, our humble little hummingbird cake, despite its deliciousness, found itself a little out of its league amongst the worthy competitors.

The winner was a 3-layered cake, with each layer representing a color of the Belgian flag. It was wrapped in a Belgian flag banner, covered in what I think was chocolate ganache, and had a 3D edible version of The Grand Place atop its chocolate & edible-flower be-carpeted self. Hmpf. I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t get a picture, so recommend checking out Judge Emma Beddington’s instagram’d capture for photographic evidence. She has also written, in hilarious fashion, about her experience as a judge in a post on her own blog, Belgian Waffle – and it’s well worth a read (plus there are more pictures!)

Ok, so we didn’t win this time. And we’re not sore losers. (No really, we’re not!) But now that we know what we’re up against, well let’s just say: challenge accepted!

Roll on November, where ‘pie’ features as the next competition category….and watch this space for further tales of our competitive baking adventures!

Lindsay

The Hummingbird Bakery’s eponymous cake

What you’ll need:

300 g caster sugar

3 eggs

300 ml sunflower oil

270 g peeled bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate

300 g plain flour

 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

100g tinned pineapple, cut into small pieces

100 g shelled pecan nuts (or walnuts) chopped, and whole, to decorate* (we used both, pecans in the cake, walnuts on top)

3 20cm cake tins, base-lined with greaseproof paper

Frosting:

250g cream cheese

100g unsalted butter

600g icing sugar, sifted

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.

Put sugar, eggs, oil, banana and cinnamon in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated (don’t worry if the mixture looks lightly split.) Slowly add the flour, bicarb soda, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until everything is well mixed.

Stir in the chopped pineapple and pecan nuts by hand until evenly dispersed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

In a separate bowl, beat icing sugar & bitter together in a freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on a medium slow speed until the mixture comes together and is wel mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

When the cakes are cold, put one on a cake stand and spread about one quarter of the cream cheese frosting over it with a palette knife. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the frosting over it. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Finish with pecan nuts and a light sprinkling of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

October 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm Leave a 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: Journalists & Digital #4 – Ian Wishart of the European Voice

Continuing our occasional series on how Brussels journalists use social media, today we feature an interview with Ian Wishart of the European Voice. Ian talks about how – as a new arrival in Brussels – Twitter helped him navigate the Brussels maze. He also muses on the potential for better Twitter performances from the Brussels power brokers.

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.

In case you missed it, here’s the Storify page and the web page of the recent seminar held by the Council on “The Impact of Social Media on Journalism”. Outside of the Brussels bubble, here’s an interesting analysis in writing and film from the BBC of how social media had changed its newsroom.

Anita

October 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm Leave a 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

FH Podcast: Reputation and Public Affairs

Public Affairs in Brussels has traditionally centred heavily on government relations, namely the practice of communicating with policy-makers. In a digitalised world, however, organisations and industries are increasingly finding that reputation issues that have little to do with the legislative, often very technical, debates that take place in Brussels, are having an impact on how they are perceived here.

For that reason, Public Affairs professionals are increasingly required to appreciate and incorporate elements of reputation management in their work.

In this interview, Dan Baxter, Senior Vice President and Partner at FH in Brussels, tells us more about why reputation management matters and provides some pointers on how to successfully conduct reputation management.

Click here to listen (if using Internet Explorer, you may have to save the file – right-click and save file as – and then play that file separately.)

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

Steffen

October 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

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

1st Worldwide Personal Democracy Meetup Day – 12 July – We’re in! What about you?

Last year we blogged about our cooperation with the Personal Democracy Forum folks. As you might know, the Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) is an online community and annual conference about the impact of technology on politics, government, and democracy. Next week our PdF friends are taking things to a whole new level. This time the conference is going global. On 12 July, PdF is organising the first Worldwide Personal Democracy Meetup Day. About 50 cities all around the world will have their own PdF meetup. All will tweet throughout the day using the hashtag #PdFmeetup. Exciting, isn’t it?

Meetups are informal gatherings in essence. That’s the beauty of it. It’s about getting strangers, who don’t know each other but share common interests, to meet in real life… thanks to the Internet. Created in 2001, meetup.com was a simple but revolutionary idea. It had a key role in the unprecedented grassroots mobilisation around the 2004 Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination -I highly recommend Joe Trippi’s inspiring The Revolution Will Not Be Televised– as it also did in Barack Obama’s campaign.

We are of course taking part and can’t wait for D-Day! One of the spokespeople of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU will join us to discuss how they used social media during their mandate. They tweeted, blogged, reached out to bloggers, and even gave accreditations to some of them to attend EU Council meetings. How did they manage to get their hierarchy on board? What are the lessons learnt? Will this show the way to other EU institutions?

You’re welcome to join us at our offices from 6.30pm. Just register on our meetup page so we know how many people would be attending. Our Brussels meetup is now ranked 3rd place in terms of attendees, just after New York City and Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is just a couple of attendees away… do you think you could help us reach 2nd place? How cool would that be? 😉

Laurence

July 8, 2011 at 11:08 am 1 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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