Being a professional communicator in Brussels and the EU political system can be a challenge, and those of us entering this world for the first time can be forgiven for thinking that communicating with EU policymakers should be more straightforward than it is.
The EU has an important election in May this year. There has never been so much interest in European Parliament elections. For the first time, anti-establishment parties are expected to end the dominance of mainstream politics in the EU.
The next European Parliament will not have a clear majority and the real challenge will be to find compromises among more than two big mainstream groups.
Nowadays, humanity is facing enormous challenges such as climate change, food security, protecting freedom and democracy, demographic change, well-being, poverty, globalisation, regional conflicts, populism and migration.
Public policies are developed by officials within government institutions and MPs to address public issues through the political process. Policy-making is not an entirely rational business.
Those who want to influence need to understand the citizens and master the complex processes that lead to change. To be successful, you need to be open to different ways of working.
Here are five steps you need to take if you want to influence policy:
1. Identify what you want to influence
The first step to effective policy influencing is being clear about the policy theme or process you want to change. Define the facts and values associated with the policy. Find out if there are any results of previous evaluations about the same issue.
2. Identify who you want to influence
Depending on your campaign strategy you might want to identify and create relationships with civil servants, government departments, ministers and MPs to advocate your cause. You need to be clear whom you want to influence. It is helpful to identify who can indirectly influence your target audience. It can be for example an academic, an influencer or a journalist.
3. Outline when you want to influence
Timing is essential. You need to reach your target audience at a moment that they can take action. It can be in the lead-up to elections, during budget talks, ahead of a relevant summit or after elections.
4. Outline how you want to influence
Make sure that a constructive approach to public affairs is an integral part of your strategy plan. There are different approaches you can use to influence decision makers but have in mind that policymakers listen more to people they know. It is useful to highlight what you can do for them as well as asking what they can do for you.
5. Develop networks and relationships
Build networks, partnerships and alliances. Find other organisations that share your policy vision and cooperate with those. Consider which strategy can help influence change: personal communication, media campaigns, events, social media, etc.
Influencing public policy change can be difficult, particularly for those with limited power and resources. By investing in relationships, advocates can develop trust and increase credibility with stakeholders which can lead to alliances; identify potential policy supporters; gather intelligence on policy challenges and opportunities, and also the values and convictions of decision-makers and key influencers and; gain an understanding of the arguments of antagonists.
Gaining the support of the public is a critical factor in policy change. However, ensuring that there is a political will is essential, and any advocacy strategy has always to be developed in an ethic and transparent way.
Stavros speaks regularly on how to communicate policies in an efficient way. He is available to speak locally in Brussels or internationally.
If you are interested in booking him for a presentation, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org