Posts tagged ‘government relations’
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.
It seems that the position paper is about as standard issue as a BMW 320D or a Blackberry Bold for the public affairs professional in this town. You simply would not leave for a meeting without one. I think it’s time to change all that. It’s time to throw away the rather haggard old position paper and replace it with the shiny new ‘Benefits Statement’. Ta-dah!
No, I’m not saying that we all need to be made unemployed; something which UK nationals may associate with benefits statements. Just that one of the key public affairs document needs to be re-tooled and re-focused if it’s to do its primary job of helping convince our audience to go in our direction within any public policy debate.
There are of course good position papers and bad ones. Brevity good. German academic style papers with fifty million footnotes bad. A single point good. A list of twenty five things that are all equally important bad. General calls for support bad. Clear instruction on what to do if they support your point of view good.
My issue with the position paper is that given its name it’s a little hard to get past the general idea that it should all be about the organization writing it. What your organization thinks. How your organization is affected. While all these things are important to you, nine times out of ten I’m guessing they are not that important to the folks you’re trying to convince. So while you clearly need to work out what you think and why, when you come to putting it down on paper I’d suggest starting it’s time to focus your thoughts on the benefits for the people you’re trying to convince. What and who do they care about? Why is what you say important to them? Above and beyond persuading them you are right what are you going to say to make them act?
In thinking about these questions, I’ve come up with my own 4Ps of what policymakers care about in my humble view (see above). Clearly the emphasis one places on any one of the 4Ps depends on the assessment of the issue and the folks you are communicating to. However, I find it a useful starting point for thinking. I hope it’s of use to you too.
Going Dutch: does the internet split the difference between public affairs and government relations?
Koen Droste over at FH Amsterdam recently appeared in the Financieel Dagblad on the subject of the effect of the internet on lobbying. You can check out his take on what the internet means for the practice of public affairs and government relations here.