Although 2024 still seems far away, now is the time to step up your public affairs and lobbying efforts. Parties and politicians as well as civil society are already thinking about the next elections. So the basis for your lobbying up to 2030 must be laid today.
2 years from the important election year, the focus of politics shifts from realizing election promises to push forward new priorities and promises to charm voters.
“Parfum de crises”: the context of your public affairs strategy
Pre-election fever continues to rise due to a combination of fiscal, economic, and environmental crises.
For instance, the budget is turning blood red after 2 difficult corona years, with an expected federal deficit of more than €30 billion in 2023. Regions and communities are not in much better shape.
So politicians do not have much margin to fight the energy crisis while implementing socio-economic reforms to meet climate targets.
Besides, the polls do not bode well for the traditional parties. Rather, it seems that the far left and the far right are heading for a major victory. That, in turn, promises archly difficult coalition formations after 2024.
This cocktail of major challenges, limited budgetary margins, and the prospect of an electoral beating is causing great nervousness in the Rue de la Loi and in the Village.
Politicians venture into uncharted territory and seek attention with wild ideas, which others are just as quick to counter or criticize.
What does this mean for your public affairs?
One thing is clear: policymakers are – perhaps more than ever – looking for ideas to tackle societal challenges that are also politically relevant.
Moreover, sooner or later, politicians will have to look for additional sources of revenue and/or a reduction in current spending.
Over the next 12 months, political parties will start writing election manifestos containing proposals for the period towards 2030.
With this document, they will then go to the voters and, if the party is part of a governing coalition, the party positions will find their way into the governing agreements.
So the next few months will be decisive in determining political priorities after 2024, and those who want to weigh in on policy best not wait too long.
We list some ways you and your company (or sector) can weigh in on the party programs – and ultimately the coalition agreement:
5 public affairs tips to weigh in on elections
1. Get in touch with your mandataries (local, regional, federal and European)
Start at the beginning: make sure you know your local mandataries and that they know you.
All politics is local: if you want to be heard, you need to know who to contact and why. Identify the politicians who are from your region and contact them or their staff. Write to them or speak to them at debate nights or face-to-face meetings.
Prepare your conversation by finding out about their role, powers, and interests. Understand what their priorities are and what issues they want to raise their profile on. Make sure you can deliver your message in a short and simple way.
Always follow up an interview in writing, highlighting your files with additional information.
2. Invite mandataries to a company visit
To discuss challenges and opportunities with decision-makers, company visits are an ideal way to introduce them to the reality of the field. This allows them to see for themselves what is happening and how work is being done in their field or region.
Making policy is often abstract. By inviting politicians, you make your reality tangible for them. A site tour or presentation is a perfect opportunity to make your wishes known. (The photos on social media are free advertising too).
3. Become active in a sector federation
Sector federations professionally defend the interests of a group of companies.
To do its job, a federation needs guidance and input from members to know what is going on in the sector and what positions the federation should advocate for policymakers.
The more active you are in the sector federation, the more likely your views will be adopted. In doing so, your company rises above its weight. Therefore, join a sector federation and participate in member consultations, working group meetings, or stand for a board mandate.
4. Public affairs are also public relations: seek out the media for “outside lobbying”
Unknown is unloved: do you have news or are you a leader in your sector? Then invite the press for a visit or an interview and increase your visibility in the (local) media.
Your representatives keep a close eye on the press and are always looking for winners to profile themselves with.
It is best to apply the following rule.
Outside lobbying (in the press or in the public debate) is very useful for “sympathetic” positions that a neutral observer readily endorses. Think renewable energy, cycling infrastructure, and employment.
For sensitive dossiers where you can expect opposition from interest groups or activists, you are more likely to resort to inside lobbying. Think, for example, of environmental permits or tax rulings for your sector or your company.
5. Come up with solutions, not (only) problems
Politicians are inundated with complaints and problems. Unfortunately, there are no ready-made answers for many problems.
Politicians are therefore only too happy to accept suggestions for solutions. So prepare for your interview well. Frame the problem and its social relevance and then propose a concrete and calculated solution with a real impact on people and society that a policymaker can advocate.