The L word, part 3
As I mentioned in part 2 of my “The L word” rant, I was pleased by the results put together by Burson Marsteller and PSB this year following a survey they conducted on the effectiveness and perception of EU lobbying, the results of which were issued in powerpoint format in August by the German office and as a full “Guide to Effective Lobbying in Europe“ in October 2009 by the Brussels office, with European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas as keynote speaker.
I actually smiled when I read the coverage of these results by EUobserver, in an article by Leigh Phillips titled “Fancy lobby receptions don’t work, say Brussels politicians“. I smiled because this article seemed to consider that the fact MEPs and other EU lobby targets do not enjoy a “wine and dine approach” was a “counterintuitive and startling conclusion” (sic.).
It’s been personally my impression for years, but it’s nice to be able to refer my clients to these study results to alleviate the pressure of some, that still believe Brussels decision-makers have nothing better to do in the evenings then raid cocktail receptions in a desperate quest for free food. Or that chatting casually with a glass of white wine in one hand, a canapé of foie gras in the other, a napkin squeezed beneath and crumbles of toast at the corner of one’s mouth, is the most efficient manner to (1) convince someone of an issue at an hour of the day where he/she would like to talk about anything but his/her day job and (2) in a location filled with noise, hysterical bursts of laughter and eavesdroppers.
It is true that if you want to live off mediocre wine / orange juice / sparkling whatever every evening and a selection of shrimps / mini-quiches / salmon toasts, you have every opportunity to do so in the EU bubble, as every evening and every lunch offers its choice of reception and events to attend.
But at the end of the day, decision makers want to hear your arguments, and noise-filled places are just not the appropriate location for that exercise.
So what should you do to be an efficient lobbyist?
Well part of the recipe is outlined in Burson Marsteller’s reports:
1. BE TRANSPARENT, KNOW YOUR STUFF, AIM AT THE MOON BUT BE PREPARED TO SETTLE FOR A STAR
I do not understand why a lobbyist would not divulge who he/she is representing when talking to others. Does anyone think a lobbyists would meet them just on their own, with no one asking him/her to do so? Same thing with the myth that a lobbyists is someone you give a 2-pager and tell him/her to repeat it at nauseam to anyone willing to listen (and many unwilling souls too). If that’s your approach, you’d better start praying no one asks questions or, worse, challenges your “messenger”. And finally, and it’s often the biggest issue when discussing with clients: Brussels is about managing the nuances of gray. We don’t do white, we try to avoid black, but we excel at discovering the multiple facets of gray. So no one wins, many can lose…
2. IF YOU WOULDN’T BUY IT, THEY WON’T EITHER.
I guess you could say EU decision makers are like animals or babies in one respect (and only one, be reassured): they sense it if you’re not sincere. And it takes ages to get a good reputation in Brussels but only seconds to rip it apart!
So if I agree partially with this bit of the movie “Thank you for smoking”:
I definitely do not share this approach to lobbying: