The three core values of the Public Affairs industry
And how they will help you lobby better for the causes you defend.
What is The Beubble about, really?
Although I am still trying to figure out completely what I can bring to the EU public affairs industry, I aim at helping public affairs professionals, from policy experts to campaigners, to advocate better for the cause they defend.
Because policy work is a job with meaning, whether it is to defend the automotive industry, the Amazonian forests, social justice, or European federalism.
We lobbyists have the responsibility for representing businesses, citizens, consumers, the environment, minorities, etc. Therefore, and to represent them to the best of our abilities, we have to respect a few values.
That is what this article is about.
I talk about expertise at length (here, here, or here) because I believe it’s the best thing you can provide others.
How can one represent an interest group if one does not share an understanding of the problems it faces, the solutions put forward to improve things, and what the overall sector is about?
Fortunately, there are many ways to develop expertise. An expert in chemical regulations can work for many organisations, from chemical industries to packaging, toys, automotive, chemical-free transition, etc. But without this initial expertise, there is no hope to advocate effectively.
This goes with the previous point: once you acquire expertise, you must live by it.
Stakeholders want to see you as an expert they can trust, someone they turn to for insight, truth, and facts.
In the book Influence, Robert Cialdini explains that to be recognised as such by the people they try to influence, experts must, from time to time, give information that contradicts their own arguments.
This might be counterintuitive but is actually very logical. If one gives only elements that go in the direction of his or her cause, then one just appears like a “salesperson”, trying to sell an idea no matter what’s right and just. By adding clever mentions to the drawback and shortcomings of one’s position, an honest expert reinforces his position as an honest and sincere broker of trustful facts.
Now, I’m not advocating that you should do it on purpose. That would defeat the point. Rather, when discussing with stakeholders, open up to faults, issues, or problems with your proposal.
Because no solution is perfect in itself, and by acknowledging the weak points in your position, you offer your interlocutor an honest position that they can elaborate on.
And for this honest effort, you will be recognised as a trustworthy and reliable expert.
Lobbyists are often attacked by those who don’t understand our job in policymaking, assuming that we go for backroom deals and shady corridors (did anyone say lobby?) negotiations.
And the recent Qatargate scandal does nothing to improve the perception of the public on public affairs. Public affairs professionals have a duty of transparency.
I would argue, in a way, that lobbyists should be more transparent and truthful than the actual people we try to influence.
If you defend a position, you should walk the talk, especially when defending an “unpleasant” position.
Now, think about the opposite position, lobbyist that actually works solely with unrecorded meetings, unclear positions, and strives by revolving as many doors as they can.
How long do you think this person is gonna last in the industry? Sure, he might get a few deals early. But would any consultancy, company, or trade association be happy to hire someone that is such a liability to their reputation, with no regard to who he meets, talks to, etc.? I wouldn’t. Would you?
Sure, transparency—as the other values above—is not easy to live every day. It requires daily effort. But as unpleasant as these can be, they are necessary for the success of your work.
And furthermore, wouldn’t be better for all—I mean lobbyists, policymakers, and the public—if we did our job under complete faith, trust, and public scrutiny?
I believe that we would all enjoy walking the talk.
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