At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I get up at 6.30 during week days so as to ensure my kids get up in time for school. I wake up the same time during weekends since my cat vocally reminds me that he eats breakfast at this time seven days a week.
What is the first thing you do?
Check the weather forecast. Swedes can be rather obsessed with the weather and I am no exception. Also if there is one thing living in Belgium for more than 20 years has taught me is that the weather can change very quickly. I prefer to be well prepared for that probably due to the fact that I have been a dog owner for many years and hate being caught out in the rain.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I always check the Guardian at breakfast and during the day I browse various sites from Politico to the Brussels Times.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
My company does not have a Brussels office so I work mainly from home and start sometime between 8 and 9. If I go to the office in Rotterdam, which I try to do once a week it takes me two hours from door to door, but I start working at nine when I will be on the train.
How many times a day do you check emails?
I check it far too often than I probably should, but for me it works well since many important discussions happen over emails and cannot always wait half a day for an answer. However, if I need time to concentrate on a specific task I ignore my emails, and more importantly, block time in my calendar so that I do not get pulled into internal meetings during that time.
When is your first meeting?
Since I am always up rather early I do not mind to have a meeting at 9 or even earlier, but I know that is more a Nordic approach than a Brussels one. I do try to avoid meetings on Friday afternoons since at time I find that my attention span and engagement levels are getting very limited at that time of the week.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I would have liked to say that I have a structured plan here (I have tried), but in advocacy, agendas change every week and even if I try to stick to a plan I made for the week, something will always derail it. When something urgent comes up it often needs to be dealt with rather quickly and cannot be delegated to specific days or times of the week. Also in an international company there will always be invitations to online meetings you cannot foresee. I do, however, try to be strict on which meetings I need to attend, and block times in my calendar for tasks I have to get done that week. While everyone a few years ago used to say that emails could be a meeting for efficiency reasons, I can now at times feel that an online meeting often could have been an email exchange instead…
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
I have a team of three people and we work very closely together and typically have several online meetings on different topics every week since we do not work in the same location. 1/3 of my meetings are in general external, but that also fluctuates depending on the external policy agenda and developments.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I have no notifications on my phone for anything but messages, but do check in once a day or twice at BBC or similar. I also check Linked In a few times since I find that I get a lot of interesting news and thought pieces relevant for my work on that channel.
How do you organize your calendar?
As I said, there is no set task for a certain day of the week, but I do try to get a few hours blocked in my calendar every week to read up on longer reports since that is otherwise very difficult to do effectively if you only can grab 15 minutes here and there. I also try to have a weekly updated To do list structured along the lines of strategic, important, urgent etc.
How do you take notes?
Pen and paper. I fill notebook after notebook with illegible scrabble that no one except for me (and barely that at times) understands.
What is your relationship to Excel?
I recognise what a great tool it is, and as someone who loves organisation and structure I highly appreciate that, but I have never learnt to use it properly so get rather frustrated if I need to use it. Luckily I have colleagues who are Excel wizards.
What is your favorite app & why?
It is not an app, but professionally we use Teams a lot internally and I find that very useful when it comes to having quick chats about topics rather than have to send an email, or arrange yet another meeting. Privately the one app that I use the most is Bookbeat and I very often listen to an audio book during dog walks or when commuting to meetings.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Not as many as I used to before covid. These days I would say there is one lunch per week maximum. With online meetings being so common now I find that there are fewer face to face meetings in general. While that might be efficient in terms of time I am a strong believer in the value of also meeting up in real life every now and then.
Which time do you go to bed?
Normally around 22.00 with a book.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
The so called Brussels grapevine is always a useful channel to get the behind-the-scenes intel. When it comes to Best Practice in advocacy I get a lot of useful material from various people and channels on Linked In.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
Finding the right organisation to work in, where there is a genuine focus on the wellbeing of the employees, is a good start, although not always that easy to find in the fast-paced world of advocacy where so many issues are deemed urgent. It is also important to be able to say no if the workload gets too demanding rather than starting to work all hours to keep up. I find that having planned activities outside of work helps.
What do you do to unwind?
I have always been a big reader and have at least two physical books and one audiobook on the go at any given time. Being a dog owner I have always also done a lot of walking. I go swimming 2-3 times a week and find that a very good way to clear my head while also getting some exercise in. Helping out as a volunteer at a local cat shelter is also very rewarding and so different from my day job that it immediately relaxes me.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
Trying to get policymakers and stakeholders to better understand what sustainably sourced and recyclable bio-based plastics is and to convey the role it can play in accelerating the transition towards a net-zero circular economy. There are a lot of misconceptions of the sector that needs to be addressed and we need to step up and better address those.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
The fast-paced EU policy environment we currently find ourselves in. There are currently so many important policy initiatives that are coming out in the circular economy field that it is difficult to find the time and resources to properly analyse and respond to them. With a new Commission and European Parliament in 2024 we also need to go beyond the short-term and develop our policy asks for this next political term and that needs to be done pretty soon if it is going to have an impact.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
The late Tony Long from the WWF EPO. He was passionate about what he was doing and always took the time to engage with the person behind the position, no matter if you were an intern (which is when I first met him) or a managing director. I have also great respect for Aaron McLoughlin at FleishmanHillard who shares a lot of good practice about what makes a successful lobbyist, as well as quite a bit about what does not, on his personal blog. Very on target and often hugely entertaining.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I try not to since there is no need. I have a great team who are perfectly capable of dealing with all scenarios without me, but it does happen occasionally.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I am still in my holiday mode of reading crime novels, but am just about to start Adam Grant’s new book ‘Think Again: the power of knowing what you don’t know’. I loved his book ‘Give and Take’ so am hopeful this book will be as insightful.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
What is already needed now is the ability to better tell the story around your policy positions and recognise that this narrative needs to be different depending on which policy maker audience you are talking to. It also needs to better shaped around the needs of that audience rather than only focusing on what your organisation wants. This still needs to be combined with better evidence-based advocacy materials than just position papers with a few footnotes, particularly when it comes to having a good dialogue with the people drafting policy proposals, i.e. the Commission.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
We are four people in Europe and out of those four, two are technical advocacy experts, which is very helpful for a data-driven advocacy approach.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
We are placed within one of the core business units, which places us very close to both higher management as well making sure we are always being up to speed with crucial business developments.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
It would be ideal if it was an independent function and have a direct reporting line to the top management, but that is rarely the case. Being in a business unit can therefore be helpful since you will be close to business developments. I would also like to see a close connection with external communications. Finally, it is very important to get exposure and discussion time with the top management and CEO so as to both have a good understanding of the company’s needs and corporate strategy as well as to ensure that advocacy efforts are recognised and understood.