New survey reveals European business associations need to improve their lobbying capabilities

An article by Mark Dober

In April 2013, Mark Dober launched the findings of a new survey on lobbying and business associations at Kellen’s EUROCONFERENCE on behalf of specialist recruitment firm Ellwood Atfield. The research showed that association members and secretariat think NGOs and companies are more effective lobbyists than European business associations.

The research indicates that achieving favourable EU policy outcomes is the primary expectation of a European business association among its members, ahead of even promoting an industry and its reputation. Brussels is home to some 1,600 European business associations with an average annual budget of over €1 million.

Having the right spokespersons and efficient teamwork between members and secretariat are very important but timing is critical.  Our survey showed that ensuring effective process to make timely decisions and positions is the most important success factor for associations’ lobbying efforts.  Being too late in the process is the main criticism of associations.  Business cannot afford to wait for governments to come up with a legislative proposal, associations have to put down what they want ahead of time to have the most impact.

The survey showed a surprising high number of respondents (24%) believe lobbying should be more tightly regulated; while only 13% believe the fault lies with politicians in lobbying scandals.

The research proves that associations should measure their public affairs activities by being consulted on policies before they are drafted and real achievements against a strategic plan; rather than traditional analysis based on cost savings or additional revenues for the industry.

Our survey showed that the three top internal obstacles to associations lobbying efforts are; a failure to unify forces and harness potential of membership support; lack of EU level expertise or awareness of key issues amongst association decision-makers; and a restrictive governance structure impeding swift and efficient decision making.

Associations need to convey clearer messages and avoid lowest common denominator positions if they want to be more successful in their lobbying. Building coalitions with other affected Industry groups and stakeholders beyond an association’s narrow interest are increasingly important according to the survey, while integrating digital elements and social media are relatively unimportant.

For further information download the report for free here:  
http://www.ellwoodatfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Ellwood-Atfield-2013-Association-Lobbying-Effectiveness-Survey.pdf

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