Posts made in July, 2010

That Euroblog discussion from the perspective of a lobbyist

As always, I am a bit late at reacting to a discussion (well actually, i usually stay out of discussions in the blogging world ’cause that’s what I do as a living), but it has been a fascinating thing to look at two parallel and complementary discussions in the Euroblogosphere this week: on the one hand, the epidermic reaction by eurobloggers to the ivory tower report by Waggener Edstrom ranking the influence of euroblogs in what was quickly referred to as #bbs10 (depending who you ask, this refers to the acronym of the title of the study “Brussels Blogger Study 2010″ or “Brussels Bull S***”) in some lively Twitter exchanges and blog posts (by Jon Worth, Blogactiv, Mathew Lowry, Open Europe, The European Citizen, Bit More Complicated, Lacomeuropeenne (FR), and Ralf Grahn for the ultimate summary); on the other, the discussions initiated by the French blogger @samuelbhfaure regarding the need for a new/better collective European blog, and which is neatly summarized by @europasionaria here.

Good advice

Good advice

All of this lead also to the nomination of the top 30 Euroblogs by the team of editors at Bloggingportal, with your not very humble servant’s own blog being included in the list.

OK: so now I’ve summarized it all, what is my point you will think? My point is that I am not even sure what a “euroblog” is, and am slightly worried at the idea of “organising” and “specialising” things…dear I say it: “professionalising” it?

I blog as a cheap means of therapy. I don’t have time for a shrink, I am too polite too shout my frustration or worries in front of my kids, so WordPress and my PC are my two sanity vents when used in combination. I write in a not very professional way, with as little research as possible, and with no intention to influence anyone, because that is what I do as my day job and it’s the last thing I want to do when I write. I write to get things off my chest. And I self-censor myself by not writing about the dossiers I handle and the subject matters I deal with professionally just because my blog is not a lobbying tool to me. Except if you consider that a lobbyist writing about lobbying is actually lobbying for lobbyists (I know: I had a headache too when re-reading this).

Ranking blogs, discussing influence…why not…if it creates a buzz, that’s fine. But should we truly care about the “influence” of euroblogs? Is the whole purpose not to create an image of EU stuff that removes a bit of the dust and shows it can be fun, interesting, important, a source of a job, etc? Or is that influence and is my definition of that concept too tied to my professional perspective where influence = power = uses and abuses = egoland? Bloggingportal provocatively titled its post “My Euroblog is Better Than Yours“…hmmm:  mine is bigger than yours? Let’s hope the Euroblog does not become the Egoblog cause then I will have to find a new place to do my therapy :)

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The TESIS Factor of a freelance lobbyist

Image by sashjun from Photobucket.com

Image by sashjun from Photobucket.com

I have wanted to write this post for some time but even though I kind of knew what I wanted to say, the concept remained slightly vague and fuzzy (and yes, I know, reading policy material all day means I am normally very comfortable with vague & fuzzy).

But talking to someone today, I actually found what I considered a good way of putting it (and my lunch companion actually agreed, the dear soul): as a freelance lobbyist, I find my activities and availability to clients limited by (1) my capabilities (I’m too old to sell stuff I know nothing about and pretend I’ll wing it), (2) my ethics (don’t expect grand stuff here: my criteria are simply: will I continue sleeping well and can I look into my kids’ eyes) and (3) the TESIS factor. Being a bit of an EU geek, I think not in words but in acronyms, because they sound impressive whilst usually being meaningless.

TESIS simply stands for Time-Emotional Strain-Intellectual Strain. What it basically means is that:

  • T: I only have so many hours per day and so many days per week, even if the concept of “work days” does not exist for a freelancer as it would imply there are “rest days” (which there aren’t)
  • ES: people (especially clients) tend to underestimate (if they estimate it at all) the emotional strain you go through when advocating ideas, positions, etc. You are basically a salesman except that what you are talking about could affect a lot of people and a lot of companies. And if you’re really unlucky like I am, you actually believe in the stuff you advocate (I know: it’s of very poor taste for an industry lobbyist..), making your task even more energy draining. As my lunch companion pointed out: “it’s not the complexe stuff that is necessarily most tiring: it’s often the simple messages that you are going to explain to someone that you know will give you a difficult time and is likely to only agree with you after you’ve bended his arm violently” (by figure of speech, of course: I am not hit woman yet). On some dossiers, at peak time, the emotional emptiness you can feel at the end of a day spend in EU building corridors is daunting, to say the least.
  • IS: some dossiers are handled really easily because you know your stuff (or think you do). But every now and then, I just like to remember I’m a lawyer and a geeky one at that, and delve into 500 to 1000 pages of academic articles, books, blog posts, FCC filings, position papers, studies by regulatory authorities or their consultants, etc. to try to “get it”…and sometimes, the realisation that all of this effort makes me “get that I don’t fully get it” and that I will have to digest, synthesise and explain all of that in 30 minutes in the office of an MEP with a clearly short attention span is, well, scary, frustrating, slightly irritating, totally depressing, [fill in the blank as I am sure you got my drift]

But I don’t want to end on a negative note: all of these factors (well, not the T one) are what make me like my job and feel that, even if half if not more of what I say is lost in the Brussels ether, if I can only convince one person to come in my corner of the room and look out of the window to see things the way I see them, it was all worth it.

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OMG: I am a Labrador!

Regardless of the title of this post, please don’t read this thinking I have suddenly become very hairy with a tendency to drool and jump very high whenever someone says something half nice to me.

No, this title is all about my job as a lobbyist.

I always thought being a lobbyists made me have this mysterious and, dare I say it, intriguing job. After all, lobbyists wield this massive power, no?

But then again, a lot of my work consists in preparing dossiers, analysing lengthy consultation documents in order to produce even lengthier responses. As I am freelance, I obviously do this on behalf on clients (no one would do this as a hobby, believe me). Which means that, a lot of my time is also spent understanding my clients’ business, what matters to them and what doesn’t , what could impact them and what is less likely to do so, etc. In terms of drafting responses, this also implies a lot of back and forth of versions 1, 2, 3, N, final, Final2, etc.

I did not quite know how to qualify this process, until my husband brought back a toy for our new Labrador today, and I happened to read the description of what I would call an orange ball on the cardboard label attached to it (see picture below).

So the “thing-I-consider-an-orange-ball” has a name (it’s called Huck) and the guidelines for use are: float, bounce, chase, chew, repeat…with the additional guarantee that “We guarantee Huck against “Dog Damage”. A customer may return the toy to a local representative for a free one-time replacement”.

Hmmmm…Why does this sound so familiar? Wait a minute: float, bounce, chase, chew, repeat…that’s exactly what happens with every paper I write for a client... Oh my God: I’m a Labrador, and my every day deliverable in life is Huck, the “orange ball”! Just a clarification though, to any zealous client reading this: I don’t do one-time replacements (but then again I’ve noticed you tend to replace the Labrador rather than the ball anyway). Oh, and for anyone waiting for other labrador analogies such as wagging tails and dumb love for anyone feeding them, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

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