As the saying goes, if it’s not measured, it’s not truly managed. Measurement is said to be the first step to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it; if you can’t understand it, you can’t control it; if you can’t control it, you can’t improve it. Public Affairs teams and their advisers must add measurable value to the organisations they represent, or face the consequences.
There has been the tendency of public affairs, in-house and externally, to define their value in terms of how many millions of euros they saved or gained through influencing EU legislation. However, given the glacial pace at which EU legislation can move sometimes, it can be difficult for an organisation to put a specific euro value to its lobbying activity during any given year. Moreover, many factors and stakeholders outside an organisation will influence the final shape of legislation.
According to our research everybody agrees that in terms of influencing final legislation, “getting in there early” is vital. Being consulted before legislation is even drafted is the greatest measure of successful public affairs. Indeed, EU legislation is much easier to influence when it is an idea in the head of a Commission official, than when the European Parliament and Council of Ministers are debating a written proposal. This important observation has an important consequence for clients in hiring the kind of personalities with the right mix of skills and knowledge not just in their own teams but with their consultants and legal advisers. Implementing a strategic plan with clear milestones and near-term achievable goals are also critical success factors.
The author has looked at measurement, notably in the reports on ‘Key Success Factors for European Associations’ and ‘High Performance Secretariats’. For instance we asked hundreds of experts on how to measure an association’s public policy activities and objectives:
Which would you consider as the most effective way for an association to measure its public policy activities and objectives?
Some of the best freely available thinking on measurement has been published by the Public Affairs Council. “Considerations for Measuring Public Affairs’ Value” identified a list of “value drivers” to measure which should reflect value drivers (e.g., freedom to operate, cost avoidance or market opportunity) and speak the language of senior management.
Preventing future increases in operating cost, such as a tax, or increased resources to obtain permitting, or just everyday costs of doing business.
Market Opportunity or Advantage
Enabling or encouraging a situation that allows enhanced competitive advantage, such as shaping a business climate that is more favourable to your company than it is to competitors.
Responding more quickly to marketplace needs or producing enhanced business performance sooner.
Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of company employees, for example, through internal communications that provide information that helps people do their job better.