Lobbying is a matter of “how” …
An interview of Francisca Melia by Alessandra Zocca, PWI
Mrs. Francisca Melia- EU-Relations Manager at European Petroleum Association, EUROPIA- was interviewed by Alessandra Zocca (PWI).
The term “lobbyist” has been traced to the mid-seventeenth century, when citizens would gather in a large lobby near the English House of Commons to express their views to members of Parliament. Can you please define - for people who are unfamiliar with the term - what is “lobbying” nowadays?
I would say that “lobbying” is a specific trade, which allows you to position your messages, influence decision-makers and maximize your impact. Lobbying puts you in a position to advocate a defined interest that is affected, actually or potentially, by the decisions of governments and, in the case of Brussels, the European institutions. The end-aim of lobbying is, therefore, to influence and advance the messages on your agenda.
In other words, lobbying is not so much about the “what”, which can be very different (for ex. defending the environment, limiting emissions, advancing the fight against climate change, more competitive industries, better legislation, etc) but lobbying is about the “how”: Its added-value is supporting you in how to exercise influence, tracing a plan for your to position your views and messages powerfully and effectively.
Lobbying includes envisioning your desired outcome, planning, coordinating, implementing, building consensus, identifying potential allies, using synergies, the strength of numbers and collective actions: it is a real team work exercise!
I believe that lobbying is good for democracy. I feel that people and stakeholders’ participation should always be encouraged. In order to participate you need to be aware of your possibilities and potential you have to shape and influence decision making, such as lobbying. You are more powerful, if you gather together and take action.
Lobbying is also about the “where”, if we talk about European legislation, the “where” is Brussels because it is where most of the European institutions, European Commission, Council and the European Parliament are located.
So, Francisca, lobbying is a profession that has strong geographical implications, meaning predominantly close to political institutions?
Brussels indeed hosts a huge concentration of lobbyists … it might look very funny, Alessandra, but the number of people working for the European Institutions in Brussels is about 30.000 more or less, and the number of lobbyists - trying to influence them – is growing from 15.000 to 20.000! Obviously the reason why there are so many people engaged and doing lobbying in Brussels is that it makes a lot of sense. It is a good investment!
What are the core skills and qualities of a lobbyist?
Lobbyists are networkers and connectors. Lobbyist connect people, identify and use the inter-linkages and connections between issues …Therefore the ability to connect very quickly with people, to develop trust, to develop and nourish good, long-term relationships is important: everything is based on confidence and reliability. Flexibility and adaptability are also crucial skills to cope with the “tempo” of lobbying, meaning that for some issues you are under a tight calendar with lots of time pressure while at the same time other dossiers are dragging on and you have to show resilience and work for the long-term. I would also add the ability of juggling with several subjects at the same time. As a lobbyist in Brussels, it is also very useful if you speak several languages so as to facilitate connecting with as many nationalities as possible and - ça va sans dire – you must master oral and written communication. Good lobbyists also value and use the huge diversity in the EU, must understand and anticipate counterparts positions and also manage “egos” … In a nutshell the top ability is to know how to develop good strategies and reach consensus and then navigate through the lobbying process, anticipate, create momentum and take the key people with you.
Francisca, have you noticed significant differences in lobbying style between women and men?
Alessandra, you know, lobbying is very much about process. Women are great at that. You have to have the determination, the resilience and focus. You must keep the process and the relationships going, you have to quickly notice the windows of opportunity available along the way, use, coordinate and implement necessary actions, build bridges and, very much in Brussels, where you have so many stakeholders involved, it is all about finding win-win solutions. As a woman, I feel that many of those skills are natural to us. We must exploit those natural strengths. Women do have very many of those qualities, which make for a good lobbyist!
Do universities support the preparation for the lobbyist profession?
Actually, until recently “lobbying” was a “metier”, a craft which was mainly acquired through “learning by doing”…
Often people have landed in lobbying by chance, rather than as planned career choice.
Fortunately now more and more there are new education opportunities being offered to learn the lobbying practice and relevant tools.
For example? Any best-practice?
The IE Higher Education “Lobbying & Advocacy” program is a brand-new master which started in March this year. It is offered by IE, a leading international Business School located in Madrid, dedicated to educating business leaders through programs based on the core values of global focus, entrepreneurial spirit and a humanistic approach.
The “Lobbying & Advocacy” program is a real novelty European-wide: it is actually the first time that there is a Master purely dedicated to lobbying. There was indeed a lack of education for lobbying and it is good to have a choice now. It is great to offer the possibility to learn the skills of “lobbying” in a systematic, professional way in a leading Business School. Frankly, I am very happy to teach classes in this program!
Francisca Melia giving classes on lobbying in the Higher Education program “Lobbying & Advocacy” at the IE Business School, see more
IE is a leading international Business School located in Madrid. Click here for more information
| Short Biography
|Francisca’s education comprises: a Law degree at the University of Navarra and a European Law degree at the Universität des Saarlandes (Germany) and Karl-Franzens Universität (Austria), Francisca has more than a decade of experience in „lobbying“in Brussels in different functions.
At present, she is the « EU- Relations Manager » at the European Petroleum Federation (EUROPIA); she worked previously as a « Senior Adviser » with the European Enginneering Federation (ORGALIME); as Secretary General with the European Fire and Security Council (EFSAC); as expert for the « European Economic and Social Committee» (CESE); and as an external adviser for the European Commission in cooperation assessment projects.
Before starting her „lobbying career“ in Brussels, Francisca Melia worked for a number of years as a trade and investment adviser in Germany for the Spanish Regional Development Agency IVEX and as a consultant and a European lawyer for the German law firm «Feddersen, Laule, Scherzberg & Ohle, Hansen, Ewerwahn“.
In parallel, since 2009 Francisca is Adviser in European issues to the Spanish Engineering Institute and has been a member of the Executive Committee in PWI during the period 2008-2009.
Francisca is the mother of two sons,and further to her Spanish mother tonge, speaks four other languages, German, English, Dutch and French
Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of European Petroleum Association -EUROPIA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.