At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I wake up at seven. I have breakfast, 30 minutes of exercise (if I feel like it), then shower, dress, and arrive at the office at nine.
What is the first thing you do?
When I arrive at the office, I make myself a coffee and then check my emails. Unless it’s Moday, in which case I like to draw my top three priorities for the week. I skim through POLITICO’s newsletter to see if there is anything relevant for me, then tackle the most urgent things.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I mostly get my information from POLITICO and Euractiv. I also set a Google alert on a few keywords related to my work at the UEF. Social media are not part of my business-information diet.
How many times a day do you check emails?
My mailbox is always open. I check my email as they arrive. My mailbox is my main tool. All the information I need to track is here. From my Gmail account, I can access my calendar, my list of to-dos, the emails I have to respond to, etc.
When is your first meeting?
I don’t have a fixed time for the meeting, although I try to avoid it first thing in the morning. I like to prepare meetings ahead of time, so I prefer to start at 10 a.m. at the earliest. The UEF is primarily an association of volunteers. It means that I must be available to follow meetings outside of working hours.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
I would say most of my meetings are externals. The UEF Secretariat is a small team, we coordinate ourselves directly. But our members and activists are located all over Europe, so we organise regular coordination calls. The UEF is quite active in the European civil society and political spheres, so a good portion of my meetings are with partner organisations, elected officials, organising events, etc.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
Institutional affairs are a rather slow approach. I am not wired to the news as I used to be when working as a PA consultant. I check the news twice a day: the morning and evening briefs of Euractiv and POLITICO. In addition to specific research when I need to, it is enough to make sure I stay on top of my files.
How do you organize your calendar?
As I wrote earlier, I start my Monday morning by highlighting my priorities for the week. Then I organise my agenda to block time specifically for these priorities. I tend to dedicate the morning for deep, focused work, and the afternoon for shallow work. On Friday afternoon, I usually conclude the week with a review of what has been done and what remains to be done. Outside of these fundamental rules, I take my work as it comes.
How do you take notes?
I always carry a few sheets of paper or a notepad with me to meetings. I jot down what is relevant, the questions that I have, and the information I want to remember later on. I also try to highlight the actions that I will have to take later on, which I add to my to-do list when the meeting is over. For online meetings, the only difference is that I take notes on a Google Document on the side of my screen.
When I read a document (book, reports, research papers, etc.) I underline the interesting passages, note my thoughts, etc. Then I can use these for an article on The Beubble or a social media post.
What is your favorite app & why?
Todoist. This is a to-do list management software that I use every day. I just type my tasks and give them a date, and I know it is stored somewhere outside of my brain, and that the app will remind me of it when the time comes. I’m such a fan of Todoist that I bought the premium version for all its useful features (unlimited projects, calendar integration, etc.).
How many external lunches do you have a week?
I’m a coffee person: let’s be honest, an espresso is cheaper and less health-damaging than a burger. I try to have two to three networking moments per week. Then there are evening drinks and the occasional breakfast, and some weeks where I don’t meet with anybody but my colleagues.
Which time do you go to bed?
At 22:00, I close all screens and leave my smartphone in the kitchen. Then I read for about an hour or have a chat with my better half. I got to bed at 23:00. That leaves me with 8 hours of sleep.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I read books and publications, and follow training when I can. But mostly, I keep developing my knowledge and skills through practice and writing for my newsletter The Beubble. Having this weekly objective to come up with Public Affairs content forces me to think about the job. Most of the time it just confirms an assumption. Sometimes (rarely), I find an interesting idea. I strongly recommend to anyone, not only PA professionals, to create regular content on a public platform. It helps clarify ideas.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
It is important to disconnect when work is done. When my workday is over, I close the computer and will take it up on the following morning. In the meantime, I work on my newsletter, see friends, unwind… Of course, I sometimes have to work outside of traditional working hours, and on weekends too. But on regular days, I try to make the distinction between personal and work lives as clear as possible.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I try not to. And I’d say I’m pretty good at disconnecting from work. But I don’t like to leave my colleagues helpless, so I remain available in case of emergency.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
Treaty change. The topic gained momentum in recent months, and much more so since the SOTEU 2023 address. Now, I believe that everyone understands that we need to reform the EU before we enlarge it, but that was not an easy fight. The UEF has been advocating for treaty reform for years, and now that the European Parliament is discussing the opportunity for treaty change, the challenge now is to make sure that it comes fast, that the Council approves it, and that the reforms will make Europe better for its citizens.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
Very interesting question. Both the general public and elected officials are asking lobbyists to show transparency, ethical behaviours, and overall professionalism. It means that in the coming years, Public Affairs professionals will need to step up their transparency game and be more “catholic than the Pope” if you will.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
Not a book, but I had a blast reading this article by Ted Gioia (a musician and art critic). This piece made me fall in love again with attentive reading, a concept also explored in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. Highly recommended.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become (and in some regards already is) a key aspect of policymaking and Public Affairs. I’m not talking about gimmicky “OK, ChatGPT, what are good amendments to propose to this report?”, but rather to use it as a tool to enhance and facilitate our job.
Then, the frontier between Communication and PA professionals will blur. We need to convey important political messages in an environment that is crowded with information. To have yours stand out, you need to wrap it around an excellent communication package. I don’t think it is a bad thing, as I believe Communication is a way for the good stuff to shine.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
I am the only employee in charge of public affairs at the UEF. But a lot of our members are politically active, elected officials, or hold influence positions within the European Institutions. Therefore, we could say that a lot of people are involved in public affairs, outreach and influence for the UEF. But so far, I’m the only one on the payroll.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
It depends on the organisation, its mission and strategy. For an organisation like the UEF, which is very political, Public Affairs is a critical aspect of our operations. But I can understand that for a more traditional business, PA can be just a department of the Communications branch. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all, and it’s the role of the management to define what the role of PA is.
Do you have an upcoming project you would like to talk about?
Yes. On top of my newsletter The Beubble, where I write about public affairs and EU politics, I am developing, with a few contributors from the bubble and beyond, a project on the European elections. It will be targeted at Public Affairs professionals, MEPs, and overall professionals of the EU bubble. If you are interested in the project or want to contribute, I suggest you follow The Beuuble or connect on Linkedin, as all the announcements will be made there when the time comes.
Alexandre Météreau is a Policy and Communication Officer at the Union of European Federalists. He is also the creator and editor of the newsletter The Beubble. Originally from the south-west of France, he has been living in Brussels since 2018. During his time there, he has worked with a variety of organisations around the EU institutions.