Posts tagged ‘Brussels’

A tale of two cities

Since my return to Brussels I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the differences between public affairs in Washington D.C. and how it is practiced here in Europe’s capital. My not so groundbreaking conclusion is that while the objective of public affairs may remain the same, the practice of public affairs is shaped by the market’s conditions.

As such, to kick us off in what I intend (at this stage) to be a series of posts reflecting on my time in the U.S. below you’ll find some contrasts between the two markets that I came up. I’ll take a look at my views on the impacts of some of these pairs in the coming weeks.

Elections v Selections

Politics v Policy

Confrontation v Consensus

Fast v Slow

Closed v Open

Money v Insights

Emotion v Facts

Public v Elite

Many v Few

Periphery v Center

No prizes for guessing which side is Brussels and which is Washington.

James

 

April 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm 2 comments

The same broom for the last twenty years

I’m not the only person to have recently returned to FH Brussels. Last night we welcomed back many of those who have made us what we are today at drinks for FH Alumni in our offices. Like any organization that’s been around a while we’ve seen our fair share of colleagues come and go. Yet there’s still a sense of stability around the place. I’ve worked out that our current management team has a combined FH lifespan of 96 years (average of 9.6 years). That’s some organizational memory for any agency in any market.

As an FH old timer (9 years and counting), it was great to see so many former colleagues and current friends in one place. Our reception and meeting area on the second floor may be shiny and new, but for those returning it seemed, to me at least, that the feeling was one of returning home.

The event reminded me of a story told by Michael Berendt when he finally moved back to the UK a few of years ago (he still remains a colleague and writes an interesting blog on EU affairs here). Michael compared FH Brussels to Trigger’s broom in a scene from the UK TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses. I’ll not spoil this classic piece of British television comedy for you, it’s embedded above for your viewing pleasure. I think you’ll get the message.

Thanks to all of those handles and brush heads who turned up last night. You’ve made this broom what it is. We look forward to seeing you all again for our 20th birthday bash in June.

James

btw – it’s great to be back inside the Brussels Bubble. Look forward to getting back in the groove and posting on this blog in the coming weeks. Next post from me will contrast D.C. and Brussels from a P.A. perspective, unless something else takes my fancy.

April 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm 1 comment

FH Athletes storm the Brussels 20km

On 30 May, six of FH Brussels’ finest athletes (?) took the streets of Brussels alongside 30,000 other participants to face the annual Brussels 20km run.

A great race was had by all, with some of the more seasoned runners breaking personal bests and the newbies simply surprised they had survived the ordeal. A massive round of applause goes out to ‘FH Marathon Man’ Donald Ricketts who ran a stonking time of 1:19:07 – just over 17 mins behind the race winner!

Aside from self glorification/deprecation, there is an interesting (not to mention entertaining) technological element to this piece. During the race, all participants’ times are tracked by an RFID chip attached the runner’s foot. This chip allows accurate timekeeping from when the runner crosses the starting line, at 10km, and at the finish line, providing an accurate time readout and… video footage of them crossing the finish line.

If you want to check any of the FH team crossing the finish line simply visit www.20km.be, click on ‘results’, and enter their name or number to see their time and the video. See results and numbers below.

  • Donald Ricketts – 1:19:07 – #21814
  • Simone Mancini (on loan) – 1:42:13 – #23184
  • Ed Ratcliffe – 1:46:13 – #8946
  • Malin Raman Delin – 1:46:20 – #22199
  • Roeland van der Stappen – 1:54:44 – #21813
  • Nick Andrews – 2:15:39 – #4298

The team’s motto of “If I can do it, anyone can” still stands, so we hope to see you there on 29 May 2011.

Ed

June 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

Posts I’ve enjoyed on this blog

After nearly eight years in our Brussels office and coming up to three years posting on this blog I’m off to our Washington D.C. office for a couple of years at the end of the month.

Before I leave I thought it not a bad idea to indulge myself just a tad, forgive me folks, and point to some of the blog posts I’ve enjoyed writing or reading on this blog. I say enjoyed because, as my wife (sorry, my luv) will testify, relaxation of an evening has become me on the laptop tinkering with this blog, the twitter feed or various other websites that are in some way work related.

Which MEPs use Twitter?

Part of our hypothesis when we started the blog was that digital communications was changing how policy-makers were interacting with voters and stakeholders. To support our view we created a long list of MEPs, the good folks at Europatweets aggregated them a couple of months later on their nice website, Digimahti had another go at listing them and finally we’ve now created our own Twitter lists to categorise them by Committee on our twitterfeed in recent weeks.

65% of MEPs use Wikipedia at  least twice a week

Spotting MEPs that tweet was one thing, but we wanted to go a little deeper in understanding how they use the internet and how we may be able to use it to communicate to them. Our EP Digital Trends study sought to do this in 2009. The results led to three conclusions on how our results influence our thinking on public affairs here. It also turned out that MEPs aren’t the only ones who rely on Wikipedia – seemingly the Commission services have a penchant for it too

Grayling’s EU office starts it’s own blog

We are known to say that to be a thoughtleader one has to have thoughts and they have to be leading ones. Well one measure of thoughtleadership may well be that others follow where you have gone. Grayling’s team has a super blog. We wish more agencies in town would join them (and us).

Helen Dunnett explains the value of blogging for trade associations

Helen’s views on how ECPA was using its blog in Brussels was enlightening and uplifting. It underlined that there are organisations out there who do recognise the value of using digital tools in Brussels.

Scoop: European Parliament talks about European Parliament

Wordle is a great tool. Never more so than when reminding us of the fact that the Bubble likes to talk about the Bubble. The outgoing EP President’s speech was a classic.

Parallels between a Mel Gibson film and the President of the European Council

Sometimes it’s just been fun writing. No more so than one Sunday morning over coffee when I delighted in the fact that the nomination of the President of the European Council was like a seen from a 1980s US action film.

James

April 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm 3 comments

What PR types can learn from Brussels’ shrinking press corps

The Economist’s Charlemagne, Libération’s Jean Quatremer and communications consultant Michael Malherbe, all blogged this week about the diminishing numbers of accredited journalists in Brussels.

There are plenty of PR types who will be using this fairly seismic shift as an excuse to our bosses or clients when our story doesn’t get covered. But the press corps could double, and a press release that merely ”welcomes” a Brussels announcement on an issue that is irrelevant to most, while at the same time  “applauds”  the “Commission” (cos there is only one “Commission” in the world, right?) will NEVER get picked up. A  few years back, there was an infamous Brussels website that named and shamed such press releases.

The monster that the Europe correspondent has to grapple with has always been multi-headed. Having to file stories on data privacy, anti-trust, food labelling and customs in quick succession is no joke. We PR types need to be of much more use to journalists –  bringing them easy access to real world experts and those with influential opinions on issues that matter to – or even entertain – their readers and their editors.

With fewer journalist around (yes, there are still 700 but you get what I’m saying), we should take more time to get to know them.  And not (alone) by taking them for mad nights out, but by actually reading what they write, knowing their pet subjects, knowing their style and that of their editor.

Charlemagne makes the excellent point that journalists should move from Brussels out to the trenches every few years.  So should all of us.

Anita

March 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm 1 comment

About me: could you add that my dog is a poodle named Fredo?

After tweeting and blogging about the Commission’s own biographies of the Commissioner-designates the week before last, the FH team duly set about writing our own bios of the incoming members of the college. This was done with some trepidation given our own ribbing of the Commission’s efforts, but we felt safe in the knowledge that it was hard to make as much as a hash of it as they had.

The bios were circulated to direct contacts by our team members early last week. They are now available for general consumption on our own website. Happily, our bios have already made their way around Brussels as we’ve been receiving some phone calls from the institutions themselves about the content.

As you may expect, assistants in the EP have been asking for the telephone numbers of the offices of the Commissioner-designates. However, the most stand-out call was from a Commission delegation in an not-to-be-named Member State. It would appear that the Commissioner-designate had read our bio of them and wished to include further biographical details about their family life. We were of course happy to oblige.

Any more biographical information on pets, people that are not your former lovers and/or people that are, which Commissioner-designates wish to share with us are happily received.

James

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December 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm 2 comments

Commission staff (mis)use wikipedia as often as the rest of us shocker

It’s been an exciting day. We cut our weekly staff meeting short. We gathered around our computers shortly after midday to watch the press conference that saw the announcement of the proposed make up of the new Commission. Some we knew, some we didn’t. From our MD to our intern, we love this kind of stuff. We duly dashed off notes to clients. Climate Action Commissioner and DG  confirmed. French get Internal Market. Transport to Kallas. Obscure DG ENVI unit transfered to DG SANCO etc.

However, the communication emanating from our office that probably caused the activity today was our tweet on the official biography of the new Irish Commissioner – Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. We tweeted on it as it shocked us to read that the new Irish Commissioner had chosen to set the facts straight about her relationship with another Irish politician, Charles Haughey, in the bio that accompanied her announcement as the Commissioner-designate for Research.

In the office we couldn’t believe it. Why on earth would you want to repeat such an accusation, even if untrue, in your official bio? Did Brussels really care? Would the Irish press really focus on this? We discussed what we believed the strategy behind this bold move could possibly be. Surely they couldn’t believe that a premptive strike on an old story that no-one in Brussels had read anyway was the right way to go? Did the Commission-designate care so much as to insist that this statement was inserted in the bio?

Well, no. The answer would appear to be the bio was in part a cut and paste job from her wikipedia entry, rather than an original piece of work. (Thanks to @ako9000 for the detective work). If you’re looking for the bio, it was here. This evening it’s not online due to technical errors…

It goes to show a few things. Firstly, if you’re writing a biography of a Commissioner-designate you probably don’t want to lift it from wikipedia. Especially if wikipedia repeats salicious and untrue details about your new Commissioner’s private life. Wikipedia may be a good starting point for research, but it aint necessarily the truth. Secondly, you can seek to insert balance into a wikipedia article, but balance is not necessarily a good thing. The fact that wikipedia says an accusation was made but it’s untrue does stop the accusation from being repeated. Finally, twitter can be a powerful tool to spread news – however pointless – quickly. Within seconds of our tweet, our own followers had retweeted and theirs had retweeted again. 174 followers had clicked on our tinyurl within an hour of our tweet according to hootsuite.com

James

 

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November 27, 2009 at 10:52 pm 5 comments

Public Affairs Action Day – 30 November

Conference season is upon us once again. And boy does our workshop at last year’s Public Affairs Agenda two day extravaganza seem like an age ago. This year we’re partnering with the good folks at Dods on their European Public Affairs Action Day to be held on the 30 November at the Renaissance Hotel (it is a day rather than a summit this year, but the hotel remains the same).

We shall be hosting one of the workshop sessions, which will be structured in the form of a panel discussion complete with Q&A. Our panel is entitled “To Twitter or not to Twitter: the use of digital tools in public affairs” and will run in the second morning slot from approximately 11.30 until lunch. Appearing on our panel will be:

  • Alexander Alvaro MEP talking about the use of the internet by Members of the European Parliament in and after the election campaign earlier this year.
  • Pat Cleary our SVP of digital public affairs from our Washington DC office talking about the use of twitter in advocacy campaigns on the basis of a recent piece of work he did for the Fix Housing First coalition.
  • Mark Redgrove. Mark heads up communication at manufacturing industry association Orgalime. He shall speak about how his organisation is using the internet to support advocacy in a Brussels based context

Registrations are not yet open, but should be soon here. We hope you can join us.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]James

October 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm 1 comment

Pan-European politics: Can the internet connect the dots?

A new event announcement that is of interest lands in our inbox. Personal Democracy is holding a European conference in Barcelona on 20/21 November. Speakers include representatives from the US but also Europe and of course the Brussels bubble. Jon Worth and Susan Pointer of Google among them.

Topics to be addressed include:

  • Pan-European politics: Can the internet connect the dots?
  • New possibilities for collaborative government
  • Using the internet to open up politics outside the parties
  • Transparency and participation: What is real e-government?
  • What should European politicians and parties learn from the Obama victory?
  • Using social media to transform the relationship between voters and their representatives
  • State of the art politech: how to use mobile, video and social networking to advance your cause
  • New media vs traditional media: how to navigate the new environment

There are many conference on digital communications, but it strikes us that us that this conference is more appealing that most given its focus on the interesting nexus of politics and digital communications. Right up our street.

James

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October 7, 2009 at 10:01 am 1 comment

What is Public Affairs? Some thoughts from a global perspective

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

Image via Wikipedia

This last week saw our latest Global Public Affairs Leadership meeting here in Brussels. In attendance were public affairs practitioners from global centres like Beijing and DC, major European capitals such as London, Berlin and Paris and a host of other places from Latin America to Canada. It just goes to show that wherever you are,  the public policy agenda is likely to have an impact on your business.

It was great to participate in some informed debate on hot issues; the regulation of financial service markets, energy security and climate change and consumer product safety amongst them. It would appear that increasingly issues are global and markets interconnected, even if the issues play out locally.

Much the same observation can be said for public affairs itself. While the objective may be the same the world over, the tactics used may change depending on the market, the regulation in place (in terms of direct contact between stakeholders and government) and the issue and its lifecycle.  The discussions led me to the observation that it was worth putting down somewhere my own understanding of some of the terms discussed – from communications to public affairs and finally government relations.

I’ve tried to do so in the attached file below.

Public affairs and government relations diagram

I’d be interested in people’s reaction especially in Brussels where the terms government relations and public affairs tend to be used interchangeably. At the same time communications tends to be looked down upon by those who only do the strict lobbying piece, as if decision-makers are only informed by views expressed in one-on-one meetings. Our recent digital MEP survey suggest otherwise.

One final thought. Our session on this subject matter appeared to me to suggest that the conditioning of the environment in which decisions are taken (i.e. the public affairs as opposed to government relations piece) is increasingly important for actors irrespective of the market they are in. It is in this context of course that digital tools fit in…

James

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June 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

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About this blog

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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