Directory of the Top 150 EU Public Affairs Consultants – Methodology and Selection Criteria
- Brussels Experience – Experience in the EU Capital may be measured in years, intensity and diversity. As a famous politician once said “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.” Rich, long and varied experience singles out some of the Top 150 EU Public Affairs Consultants such as Jonathan Faull, Robert Madelin, Jacques Lafitte, Martin Bresson, Frederic Soudain, Sebastian Remøy, Jill Craig, Alfons Westgeest and Kerstin Duhme.
- Sector Leadership – Clients look to advice from the top practitioners in their sector, on often complex questions of policy affecting their particular sector. Brussels sector leaders stand out for not just their relevant knowledge and skills, but also the breadth and depth of their client relationships. For instance, nobody would dispute the financial services expertise of Donald Ricketts, Hans Hack, David Reed and Nickolas Reinhart. Similarly Emma Eatwell, Laura Batchelor, Elaine Cruikshanks, Antoine Mialhe, Francesca Scassellati Sforzolin, Nicola Schocchi and Nicholas Elles are all acknowledged healthcare policy experts, as evidenced by the clients that seek their counsel. When we ask clients in the food & beverage sector who they rate, only a few people are mentioned frequently such as Rocco Renaldi, Vinciane Patelou and Nick Blow; similarly in the tech space, names such as Andrew Cecil, Damir Filipovic and Claudia La Donna are often cited.
- EU Affairs Expertise – The individuals that are leaders in the public affairs arena seem to have embraced the idea that to be successful, you need to understand the importance of and excel in each of these four P’s: People, Policy, Process, and Politics. Whether James Stevens on REACH or Richard Steel on the European Parliament, few would question their expertise on the finer detail of certain aspects of EU Affairs.
- Consultancy Leadership – You know good leaders when you see them – they are often defined by positive traits around enthusiasm, communication skills, loyalty, decisiveness, managerial competence, integrity, empowerment and charisma. Simply put being part of the management group or leading a major practice group of one of the Top EU Public Affairs Consultancies may earn a seat at the top table. However, we nominated Consultants rather than just managers as the people that still provide public affairs value to their firms’ clients. Some individual’s track record put them ahead of the pack in terms of what they have achieved, such as Julia Harrison who built Blueprint into FTI’s leading position today; or Gregoire Poisson’s achievements in growing Interel’s EU practice more than 50% since joining and now becoming the firm’s CEO. Other top EU Public Affairs Consultancy leaders such as Philippe Blanchard, Mette Grolleman, Russell Patten, Laura Batchelor, Karen Massin Victoria Main and Christian Hierholzer continue to be deeply involved in client work.
- Peer Recognition – Public affairs consultancy is a very competitive business so when individuals are recognized by their peers it says a great deal about them. For instance, Isabelle de Vinck and previously Karl Isaksson being chosen by their peers to Chair the European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA), or Tom Parker elected as President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium says something about their leadership abilities. We also asked leaders of public affairs consultancies to nominate who they respected within and outside their own organisations. In this process, some younger and different faces emerged as some of the Top EU Public Affairs Consultants and future leaders. Awards also say something about how Consultants are regarded by their clients and peers.
- Influential Personality – EU public affairs is all about influencing decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. When you talk to corporate affairs and association leaders how they measure influence and public affairs success the response is usually being consulted on policies before they are drafted. As we have discovered over many years as headhunters, the key success factor for recruiting successful Consultants, personality is essential for any given role. People want to listen to influential personalities and follow what they say. Knowledge and skills can be acquired and strengthened but personality is deep-rooted. For lobbyists to secure a place in the room having a trusted conversation with policy-makers requires special personality traits. In our experience people who are able to bring about change at a very high level commonly share three important personality attributes; trustworthiness; proactivity and resilience. These are attributes that clients should look for in their lobbyists and tend to be shared by Top EU Public Affairs Consultants.
So all of these factors came into play in the selection of the Top 150 EU Public Affairs Consultants.
Some may complain that a particular consultancy is under or over-represented in the Directory but there will be a reason. Notably, some firms such as Brunswick, Kreab, FTI and FIPRA have a deeper senior bench than most other consultancies and so have a relatively high number of Top EU Public Affairs Consultants. There are also some Top Consultants who would normally feature here but they are between jobs or starting In-house roles in the near future.
We also decided on several other criteria that excluded potential contenders, notably:
- Not focussing on EU public affairs. There are some great senior Consultants in Brussels, who don’t really practice public affairs but rather communications or other disciplines, including working in law firms which will be the subject of future attention of BestinBrussels.eu editions. We do highlight, however, a number of senior Consultants focussed on the association sector, for instance in the Kellen and Interel teams, as this is a very important branch of EU public affairs. Indeed while corporates spend more money than associations on consultancies overall, the association sector dwarfs EU corporate affairs in terms of staff employed in Brussels almost 10 to 1.
- Not working in Brussels most of the time. Almost all the Top EU Pubic Affairs Consultants live and work in the Brussels region. However, a special few live in other countries on the weekends and commute to Brussels during the week. Although there are a number of skilled EU Public Affairs Consultants based outside Belgium, often with first-hand experience of having worked in the EU capital previously, this Directory and Guide covers the Best in Brussels, not elsewhere.
- Not featuring on the EU Transparency Register. As BestinBrussels.eu wishes to promote best practice and transparency, early on we decided to exclude any Brussels consultancy which has not signed up to the EU Transparency Register. Amazingly in 2019 there are public affairs consultancies who have still not registered. Any potential or actual client should ask themselves serious questions about doing business with such a firm, including fundamentally about how can they adequately represent their interests if they are refused access by high-level EU officials like Commissioner cabinet members?
- Not working full-time. There are a number of part-time Senior Advisers working with consultancies, often as part of a portfolio of different interests, and after a distinguished career in politics, business or administration. The 2019 Directory, however, honours full time professional EU public affairs Consultants. Senior Advisers may be a segment of the Brussels bubble that we look at in the future.