Posts tagged ‘United States’

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

Twongressions to lose Democrats seats? Study on Twitter in Congress

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Our colleague Mark Senak’s study on the use of Twitter by members of the US Congress has been making some waves in the media across the Atlantic in recent days. The main headline being that the Republicans are beating the Democrats in their use of the tool. We shall have to see what this means when it comes to the mid-terms.


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January 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Polling and its impact on public policy

An interesting piece on the impact of polling on public policy in the US from my colleague Jeff Weintraub on our Public Affairs blog that is worth checking out here.

In contrast, I am not sure we need an online poll to establish whether polling has a big impact on the outcomes of public policy decisions at an EU level. I’ve discussed the fact it isn’t used more in previous posts.

In any case, it is an interesting debate in an EU context. Should advocates and policymakers in this town be making more use of polling both in advocacy and in making their policy decisions?

I’d be interested in your views and indeed examples of where it has proved valuable/not valuable.


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October 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm 1 comment

Public affairs views from around the world

As part of our recent global public affairs practice meeting here at Fleishman-Hillard, we managed to catch a minute or two to camera from some of our colleagues from around the world. Struggling for a place to put the clips, we created a YouTube channel all of our own here.

Amongst those contributing to our discussions on the challenges facing companies around the world was former European Commissioner and current member of our International Advisory Board David Byrne.

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July 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm 2 comments

What is Public Affairs? Some thoughts from a global perspective

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

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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…


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

To Twitter or not to Twitter?

Can Twitter be used for advocacy? Well Pat Cleary, our resident digital public affairs guru at Fleishman-Hillard Washington D.C. has been converted to the cause following a recent legislative campaign for one of his clients. In the article attached he speaks to the National  Journal about his experience of how the tool can help in advocacy towards legislatures.


National Journal Twitter Story

May 14, 2009 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

Twitter, the US elections and Brussels

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Check out the coverage of the use of Twitter in the US elections today referenced over at the Guardian but picked up widely elsewhere, here and here. As Americans are going to the polls they have been able to report their experiences at the booths using Twitter by adding the hashtag #votereport to their tweets.

Lots of long queues and dodgy machines as I am reading but hopefully not too many hanging chads by the end of the night. The site also includes a cool mash up that sees the reports coming in plotted on a Google Map.

Whilst we’re on Twitter, some interesting thoughts on the use of Twitter in a Brussels context on Steffen’s blog late last week over here. Worth a read.

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November 5, 2008 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

Posts from America (3) – The only day that counts is tomorrow

Michelle Ob...

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Michelle Obama flew in today and held a rally at the College of South Nevada. The accompanying photo shows her at the event. Her speech went down really well with the enthusiastic audience of around five hundred, who stood in the glorious sunshine to chant ‘Yes We Can!’ and show their appreciation of Michelle’s part in the campaign.

The speech was more of an emotional testimonial than a detailed outline of policy though she did hammer home central messages about education, the economy, jobs and the Iraq war. Michelle seemed choked at times when she told stories of people she’d met and the highs and lows experienced since the start of the campaign.

‘The campaign has been fun’ she said, ‘and the rallies have been amazing, but the only day that counts is tomorrow.’ Her pride in her husband was clear and she spoke touchingly about what the impact had been on the Obamas as a family. I was impressed with how at ease she was with the crowd. She appeared to speak unscripted though I’m sure she has given similar speeches many times. She dealt ably with the frequent enthusiastic shouts from the crowd and delighted people with an extended rope line walk when she came off stage. There were at least seven television cameras covering the event, I counted fourteen other journalists scribbling in the press pen and she apparently gave a number of one-to-one interviews when she came off stage.

This was a slick event which touched the spot with the assembled activists. I’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of a number of similar events in the UK with the Labour Party, though nothing on this scale would ever have been staged for the leader’s wife. In US politics it seems that a candidate’s family plays a crucial part in the campaign’s ultimate success.

Michelle Obama’s visit was one of three high profile ones taking place today. Sarah Palin visited Reno in the north of the state and Senator McCain will fly in this evening at the end of a grueling day of visits to swing states. Nevada is a small state with only five electoral college votes, but it is crucially important to both campaigns. For Obama it represents a fail safe. Pollsters believe he already has 264 solid blue state votes. Nevada’s 5 would bring him to 269, which is the number representing an electoral college tie. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives must vote to decide the winner and because the Democrats control the House, this means that a win in Nevada would mean the Democrats taking the presidency. McCain is obviously keen to stop this happening and his campaign is therefore fighting hard to keep it for themselves. The last time that Nevada voted Democrat in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1996.  As an added indication of how important this fight is, the Obama campaign has over three thousand lawyers in Nevada alone ready to get involved if there is any repeat of the 2000 election.

Our committee room in north Vegas is well prepared for tomorrow. We’ll be starting at 5.30am when we will hang ‘don’t forget to vote’ signs (very quietly!) on the front doors of people we hope will vote for Obama. Following that after a quick breakfast we’ll be knocking on doors to encourage people to get to the polls as early as possible as there is concern that later in the day the lines will be very long and people may decide it’s not worth the wait.

Polls close in Nevada at 7pm tomorrow. The optimistic voices here think that if the Republican turnout is down on those who voted in 2004 and the Democrat vote is dramatically up (many think this is likely) then we should know the outcome by 9pm west coast time. A large party on Vegas’s Strip is planned and I’ve got my fingers crossed that one of the hardest working and most committed Obama supporters will make an appearance. If she does, the question I have for Obama Girl is, does she hope for a place in the new administration?

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November 4, 2008 at 5:43 am 1 comment

Posts from America (1)

It was Halloween when I touched down in LA yesterday. I’d heard that Americans like to dress up on 31st October, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was greeted with. A woman next to me at baggage reclaim was dressed all in black with multiple skull and crossbones tatooed onto her shaved head. Her friend had a bllood trail coming from her mouth and looked as if she’s just been punched. At first I wasn’t sure whether they’d had a fight and normally dress like this – I’m in LA after all, but my stares provoked a ‘Happy Halloween’, plus a broad (black toothed) smile from the faux pirate. This put me at ease – sort of.

I was met by a James – a volunteer from the British Labour Party – who has been here for the past week. We drove to Santa Barbara and James gave me a good briefing on his experiences and about how the Obama campaign has been going in this part of the country. On arrival we met John and Felix, two other Labour Party stalwarts  inspired to take a break from work and join the campaign. Together we went out for a beer and to admire the Halloween costumes. There were some fantastic efforts but we were not prepared for the number of people who had decided to dress as Sarah Palin!

California is a true blue state and Obama already knows those electoral college votes are in the bag. However there are lots of local candidates like Hannah-Beth Jackson who is running for California’s state senate and has a tougher fight on her hands. I met Hannah-Beth at a rally on Saturday morning and was impressed with the way she inspired the 100 or so volunteers who had turned up for a day’s campaigning. She told me her prioities were investing more in reneweable energy, demanding higher local taxes from the multinational oil companies who operate out of the state but currently pay little or no tax and focusing on improving health and education policies. There was a high level of enthusiasm amongst the volunteers some of whom told me how they’ve been using the internet to inspire people as has been happening all over the US The volunteers were joined by state congresswoman Lois Capps and Pedro Nava the local state assembly member, both of whom are also running for reelection. You can find out more about the campaigns of all of these candidates by checking out the Santa Barbara Democrats site.

After posing for photos with a cardboard cut out of Senator Obama and picking up some memorabillia we got a debrief over coffee from Tim Allison, a Democratic delegate and the team leader of the campaign in Santa Barbara. Tim outlined how the campaign worked and explained the levels of organisation that link what is happening in Santa Barbara into the national campaign. Everyone I spoke to – many of whom were old campaigning hands – said that they’d never experienced anything quite like the level of organisation of the Obama campaign.  His ability to communicate messages, to inspire and lead was, they said, a sign that an Obama presidency would be successful.

It’ll be four more days until we’re be able to judge if these enthusiastic activists are right and to know whether Senator Obama has what it takes to convince America that he’s the right man to lead them, but I know they’ll be working their socks off until the polls close at 8pm on Tuesday 4th.

We said our goodbyes to the Santa Barbara lot and set off for Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada is a swing state and so I expect the atmosphere will be quite different. There are high hopes amongst Democrats that for the first time in years the state will turn blue, but that remains to be seen.

I’ll be sure to post on what we find when we arrive and on how the last few days of the campaign develop in my part of the US.

FH Brussels team member Tim Nuthall is on the campaign trail with Democrats in California and Nevada in the last few days of this US election season. As a departure from our usual digitally related content, Tim has agreed to write a short series of posts on his personal experiences in the US.

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November 3, 2008 at 10:11 am Leave a comment

Obama and the iPhone

Image representing IPhone as depicted in Crunc...

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There is little doubt that if queues to vote for the Democrats on November 4 are comparable to queues on the release of the iPhone, then Obama will be a happy man.  Last week Obama’s team announced that the link between Obama and the iPhone ran deeper, with the creation of an application for the iPhone which encourages friends and families to vote.

The imaginatively-named ‘Obama 08 Phone App’ has a ‘Call Friends’ option that prioritizes contacts by key battleground states and asks users to call their friends in those states to vote for Obama. The software also enables users to receive updates about the campaign and set reminders to call friends on Election Day. Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign explained, “A contact has a lot more value when it is from someone you know than when it is from some random person,” said Chris Hughes, the director of online organizing for the Obama campaign.

Amid such talk, it is easy to forget that the subject of the conversation is political campaigning. Indeed, categories such as “Not Interested,” “Considering Obama” and “Already Voted,” are more suggestive of an online dating tool. Herein lies the ingenuity of ‘Obama 08 Phone App’: the obvious question as to why friends would want to sort their contacts into anything other than alphabetical lists is lost in the originality of the application.  The software plugs into the millions of American iPhone lovers and Obama supporters in the hope that the passion for the former might be mirrored in support for latter on November 4.

Obama’s use of digital tools provides interesting insight into political campaigning in the 21st Century. His website has links to no less than 16 social networking tools, as well as the now almost standard TV channel. Whilst not all of the platforms are likely to appeal to the European voter (indeed British iPhone lovers are unlikely to fall for a ‘Brown 08 Phone App’), the US election does offer innovative ideas for politicians on this side of the Atlantic.


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October 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm 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

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