How to win votes? 5 golden rules we shared at the European Public Affairs Action Day

February 12, 2014

A few weeks ago, Aaron and I presented at the European Public Affairs Action Day, the “grand-messe” of public affairs professionals. We talked about different approaches to political communications and presented our 5 golden rules to political communications to win votes. For those who couldn’t join, here is a summary!

Aaron and I have been lucky to closely follow the recent reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy for the Swedish foundation BalticSea2020. After 2 years of intense campaigning, we could draw a number of conclusions from the success of the campaign (you can see what the campaign was about here).

fish

What made this campaign different? How did we win? You learn a lot spending 17,520 hours campaigning on one issue, but I think it can be summarised into 5 golden rules.

  • Find the Right People

The number of stakeholders in Brussels can be quite overwhelming – yet, once we had done the necessary background research and network analysis (a good book here on understanding the power of social networks), we were able to identify the maximum 200 people who mattered for our client’s issues, at the EU and national levels.

These are the ones we then focused on and built relationships with to create the broader winning coalition. Also, we realised it was not worth spending too much energy on the opponents, but rather help our supporters – which luckily we had with Fish For the Future, and also potential new followers.

  • Value Communication

This might sound simplistic, but understanding what makes people tick is your key to success. As Chris Rose explains in his book, you need to understand where your audiences are coming from and what will make them listen to you.

Being in the shoes of the politicians can be very useful – we are all too prone to use jargon and technicalities. To be fair to them, politicians cannot be experts in every issue they deal with on a daily basis, from banking regulation to horsemeat scandals and marine protected area. Being able to communicate important and useful information in a way they understand will make your contribution valuable and acted on. See here how fisheries can be made simple and sexy.

  • Be Reactive and Adaptable

Although it was tempting to have a two year strategy plan, we have to admit that we don’t have a crystal ball and we are not psychic. Instead, we had rolling three-month action plan which allowed us to regularly review our short to mid-term strategy, adapt to new opportunities, and adapt our work. The ability to adapt and react to changing situations allowed us to remain relevant to our audiences. It also allows any client to have a clear picture of how things really are progressing.

  • Have a Good Spokesperson

As Aaron likes to say: “telepathy doesn’t work”. You need to get out there, talk to the people who matter, hear their questions and answer them in an understandable way. We were lucky enough to have a client who was an excellent spokesperson for his organisation.

You need someone who can gather support, motivate and convince. Some people are naturally more at ease talking on behalf of their companies. In truth, with a small amount of coaching, most people can become persuasive advocates for their interests.

  •  Invest the Necessary Resources

Success requires resources: time, people, and money. It requires commitment and endurance. But, it is all worth it to win a vote :)

Sophie and Aaron

Filed under: corporate communications,European Commission,Fleishman-Hillard,public affairs,Uncategorized

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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.

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