Last week, my colleague James and I were invited to the London School of Economics (LSE) to present on politics, public affairs, and what it means to lobby in practice – both in the UK and the European Union (EU). It offered us a great opportunity to speak with students interested in our field of work, and all in all, I was hugely encouraged to see them raise an array of really thought provoking questions, and engage so openly with us, during our discussions.
We focused on themes such as the role of and dynamics between the EU institutions; the interplay between private stakeholders and public organisations; the ins and outs of engaging with the media, politicians, and third parties; how the changing domestic and international political landscape influences GPLUS’ outlook and approach; some potential outcomes from Brexit and what it could mean for the industry; and finally, the impact all these interactions could have at a UK/EU level.
For us, consultancy work is closely tied in with politics, and the day to day activities that go on in and around Westminster. We used this discussion to emphasise the impact political uncertainty can have on a successful advocacy campaign, and why as a consultant, it is important to be able to read the political environment carefully. It was also important for us to highlight the various tools both in-house and private consultancies (such as GPLUS) use i.e. print and social media, grassroots campaigning, parliamentary meetings, third party influence etc to shape opinion and influence decision makers.
As practitioners in the field, there are a handful of skills we feel are important to excel in a consultancy role. We thought we’d spend some time discussing these with the students too, and there were many interesting suggestions which the students touched upon i.e. adaptability, organisation, critical thinking, and communication just to name a few – all of which can transform a public affairs campaign.
Towards the end of the session, we took the students through some case studies – offering them an insight into EU, UK, and pan-European focused work. We thought it would be fun to get their thoughts on how they would develop a strategy to meet the stakeholder’s objective. Being put on the spot is never easy, but the LSE students demonstrated that they could think outside the box, and in fact came up with some really interesting suggestions!
Overall, GPLUS would certainly welcome the opportunity to speak with LSE students again, and look forward to hearing from those that attended this year.