At which time do you wake up in the morning?
Between 5.00-6.00 AM (US Eastern Time). That way, I can catch on the morning news and developments from Europe and elsewhere, get moving outside, and still be ready for the day before my 7-year-old son wakes up!
What is the first thing you do?
Grab my phone to check my email, calendar, various news sites, and Twitter. I know that I should do something more productive, but that process gives me a good sense of the day ahead.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I rely heavily on email alerts and morning newsletters from a wide range of political and business sources: POLITICO (US, EU, and Canada), Bloomberg Government, Axios, EURACTIV, FT, Semafor, GZERO Daily, Harvard Business Review, etc.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I usually start working remotely by 7.00 AM. This allows me to get some work done before seeing my son off to the school bus. For days on Capitol Hill and other in-person lobbying days, I try to be up and running on site by 8.00 AM or so.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Entirely too many!
When is your first meeting?
I try not to take European/international calls and meetings before 7.00 AM, but occasionally they can start as early as 5.30 AM. For US-based calls and meetings, usually no earlier than 8.30 AM.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I try to timebox and batch internal meetings and work to maximize the time available for external meetings, calls, lobbying appointments, etc. As ECA is a very entrepreneurial organization, flexibility and agility are prioritized, so this is more of a framework than rule to be followed.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
Most weeks, I endeavor for a 3:1 or greater balance of external to internal meetings. In public affairs, external engagement opportunities must be prioritized. Otherwise, it can be very easy for internal meetings to take up disproportionate time on your calendar.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I primarily rely on email and Twitter. (Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky’s book Make Time convinced me to turn off almost all of my phone alerts, which I highly recommend!)
How do you organize your calendar?
I am a big fan of timeboxing, and I have dabbled in day-theming, but I try to keep things somewhat flexible to take advantage of external opportunities as they arise throughout the week.
How do you take notes?
It depends. For in-person meetings, I still rely on pen and paper (either typed up or scanned afterwards). For internal meetings, I will type notes in Microsoft Word or the iOS Notability app. All to-dos, follow-ups, etc. are added to Trello, which is my go-to organization system.
What is your relationship to Excel?
Somewhat healthy! I use Excel quite a lot for internal work (budgeting, metrics, basic data collection and analysis, etc.), but not for anything external (stakeholder engagement, meeting tracking, CRM-like functionality, and the like).
What is your favorite app & why?
I am a huge believer in Trello for workflow, project management, basic automation, and more. I am working towards using it exclusively for all task management, but I slip up from time to time and revert to post-it notes on my whiteboard.
Personally, I also love the Cozi family organizer app, which allows me to synchronize calendars, lists, and more with my wife. It is a godsend for the many (many!) times where I am positive that I told her about something important coming up, but… of course… totally forgot to do so.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Depending on the week, between 1 and 3. With the proliferation of remote work, I feel like it is still less than it was before the pandemic, but the cadence is definitely increasing. (Same for coffees, meet-ups, etc.)
Which time do you go to bed?
Not early enough! As an early riser, I would ideally like to go to bed by 9.00 PM. The results of my ongoing advocacy efforts to convince my 7-year-old to go along with this plan remain mixed.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
One of my favorite things about the transatlantic public affairs ecosystem is the truly remarkable community of experts to draw insights from. From those actively blogging and posting on LinkedIn to the thought leadership coming from leading firms and consultancies to the great podcasts out there, there is no shortage of high-quality learning and knowledge sharing. A few of my favorites:
Organizations: National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics (US), Society of European Affairs Professional (Europe), PRCA (UK and beyond), and American Society of Association Executives’ Government Relations and Advocacy Professionals Advisory Council (US).
Podcasts: The Persuaders (of course!), Advocacy Help Desk, Facts About PACs, PLUXCAST, and Public Affairs in Practice.
Experts and thought leaders: Amy Showalter, Stephen Massey, Craig Fleisher, Mark Ames, Conor McGrath, Becca Bycott, Sherry Whitworth, David Lusk, Stuart Thomson, Joao Sousa, and at least 10 others who I will be embarrassed to have forgotten here.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
To avoid burnout, I work towards something closer to work/life integration. The work of public affairs, and the external events driving that work, often falls outside of ‘normal’ business hours. Similarly, parenthood… and many other things that make life great… doesn’t always take a break during the day Monday through Friday. Working remotely, allowing myself the flexibility (and grace) to focus on what’s important at any given time ensure that work doesn’t compete with my personal life and family, and vice versa.
What do you do to unwind?
My daily joy comes from spending time with my amazing wife, Jessica, and my 7-year-old son. Whether that’s just relaxing and reading together every evening or our summer holidays traveling around Europe, I love to unwind with them every chance that I get.
How does your desk look?
When I keep up with my digital organization efforts, my desk looks quite tidy. That said, when the sticky notes take over, patricianly during busy times, things get quite a bet messier!
Do you answer emails on your phone?
Only when I am away from my office and the situation demands an urgent response.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
Selecting only one is impossible. I would include all of the experts and thought leaders that I mentioned previously and add many more. Within the association and NGO sector particularly, there are so many remarkable public affairs leaders who are driving incredible societal impact on issues such as sustainability, gender equity, diversity, and more. It’s truly inspiring to see their work and learn from them.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
Yes. As a start-up association with only one employee (me!), it’s my responsibility to ensure that the important public affairs work and business operations of the association carry forward regardless of where in the world I am at any given time.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I just completed Tim Marshall’s The Power of Geography, which uses 10 maps to explain the dynamics of global politics past, present, and future. Highly recommended.
(That said, as someone who bought rock and roll from U2 back in the early 1990s, my favorite recent read is Bono’s Surrender. Such great stories and nostalgia!)
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
The future success of public affairs professionals will largely be determined by their ability to effectively link public affairs to organizational strategy. When conceptualized and delivered effectively, public affairs is a driver of enterprise value that can advance the mission of an organization in truly unique ways. This requires marrying business strategy and political acumen, as well as continually rethinking how the public affairs function can advance an organization’s goals while helping it see around corners to remain competitive well into the future.
Also, while I think it is far too early to make definitive conclusions, the adoption of generative AI will likely help separate great public affairs professionals from the peloton. While AI tools may be able to quickly replace low-value activities, it will be incumbent upon public affairs professionals to focus on delivering high-value work, insights, strategies, outreach, primary intelligence, and more that cannot be replicated by ChatGPT and others.
Do you prefer LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok, and why/why not?
At this point, I strongly prefer LinkedIn. It’s where ECA’s community is, so it is easy to reach our target audience. LinkedIn is also where public affairs professionals are sharing their insights and connecting with their colleague in a way that maximized value creation and learning.
I still rely (too much?) on Twitter for breaking news and hearing directly from public officials, newsmakers, and others who drive the agenda. I miss the community and sharing of the early days of Twitter. Same with Facebook, which I finally gave up on last year.
How big is your PA department?
It’s just me! After many years working, and managing global teams and efforts, for large associations and NGOs, I traded that in two years ago for the unique opportunity to help launch a new advocacy association during the pandemic. While I occasionally miss the resources of a large organization, the entrepreneurial experience has been amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
At ECA, the public affairs department is the organization!
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
As close to the organization’s leader as possible. For public affairs to achieve its strategic promise as an organizational value driver, it must be visible to the chief executive. If not directly, it needs to report into a C-suite executive. Unfortunately, I have seen otherwise-stellar public affairs teams and programs fail due to a lack of attention from senior leadership, especially during times of crisis such as the pandemic.
About Tommy Goodwin
Thomas F. (Tommy) Goodwin is Vice President for the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), a newly-formed association dedicated to the advancement of the business events industry. Prior to joining ECA, Tommy spent 20 years leading global public affairs efforts for several internationally-recognized organizations including Oracle, AARP, and the Project Management Institute (PMI). He has a B.B.A. from The George Washington University, an M.B.A. from Auburn University, and a Postgraduate Diploma in European Union Law from King’s College London.