Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Berenschot is a leading consultancy firm in the Netherlands and Belgium and employs more than 350 consultants, covering all levels of the public administration sector and the business community. Berenschot is experienced in raising the standard of communications within government organizations, institutions and companies. We help our clients to increase their impact by improving the strategic position of the communications department.
Robert Wester is managing director EU at Berenschot consultancy. He has been leading the sector government and is strategy and communication expert. Wester has ten years of working experience as a consultant at Berenschot and has been working for 18 years as a communications or policy director for seven different departments of the government in the Netherlands.
Robert Wester will give a lecture at the PRO.PR conference, which will be held from September 29 to October 2 at the Breza Hotel, Terme Olimia, Podčetrtek (Slovenia).
Media Marketing: Brussels and the institutions there were the first ones to go into lockdown. What did it mean for your company which is involved in consulting, lobbying and project management? Was that a good move or a bad one? Could it have been done in another way? Did it slow down business in general?
Robert Wester: The Covid-19 crisis has unmistakably affected the way in which activities take place in Brussels. Before the lockdown, it was easier to build up your network by attending events and arrange meetings with relevant actors within the European institutions. It is unfortunate these events are now on hold, but we believe governmental measures such as the lockdown are necessary means in this pandemic.
Currently, we see that most companies have adjusted to the contemporary situation and shifted their focus to digital events such as online seminars and conferences. For example, Berenschot has successfully organized webinars on hydrogen or European defence with relevant stakeholders. These events are easier to organize and can attract large numbers of online visitors.
Even though the lockdown in Brussels has reduced the opportunities to meet and discuss business with potential clients or partners, the need for expertise on consulting and project management has not declined. For example, many consulting firms have assisted in advising on covid-19 related policy issues. As Berenschot we have for instance worked for the crisis organization of the government in the Netherlands.
Media Marketing: Everyone is talking about the ‘new normal’. Online communication has definitely turned into a new standard. Did it accelerate the decision-making processes or did it slow them down, taking into account that the costs of travel, etc.?
Robert Wester: The way in which we communicate with our colleagues has drastically changed in this last year. With the social distancing and lockdown regulations, we have adopted online communication as a new standard. We are fortunate to have an excellent online infrastructure in place which allows the communication to take place smoothly. To compensate for the missing informal moments with colleagues in the office, we are structurally organizing online events with the whole team, such as events concerning the recent Dutch elections and interviews with relevant Dutch policymakers.
While we miss the informal moments with colleagues, we believe the time efficiency of our work has not been decreased as a result of the online communication. Our projects usually concern conducting many interviews and these all take place online these days. This means that the time spent on travelling has drastically reduced. While we hope that the restrictions that make online communication mandatory are over soon, we expect that online communication will stay an integral part of our business.
Media Marketing: What does, in your opinion, political communication lack? What should mayors, ministers, etc. have in mind when leading a country, city, region? Citizens always come first. You come from one of the most transparent administrations in the world, in which political ethics is on high levels. What does it mean for real life? Is it taught or is it simply a lifestyle or, maybe, imposed by the law?
Robert Wester: We believe that communication is key in finding support for any kind of policy. Therefore, investing in political communication is an important lesson for political actors on all levels, national, regional and local.
That said, political communication requires more than just an attractive message. We have identified that communication is increasingly fulfilling a strategic function, focusing not only on communication but also reputation and positioning. We have identified that building a strategic communication department requires three things: strategic stakeholder management, long-term vision and a suitable organization.
Strategic stakeholder management is necessary to understand the playing field in which the actor acts and what messages will resonate with the relevant audience. This means that political communication is also about identifying potential competitive messages and recognizing stakeholders who are willing to collaborate.
Adopting a long-term vision is needed to identify which topics will still be relevant after this week and the ability to stay consistent in your messages.
And finally, a suitable organization of communication teams in the heart of policy making process of organisations is a necessary premise to develop strategic communication.
Robert Wester – lecture at PRO. PR
Strategic communications is at the top of the European Commission’s agenda. To achieve results such as Green Deal, public consent and stakeholder engagement are considered key topics. Member States are faced with the challenge to build and maintain commitment for the EU among their citizens, which requires communication efforts and a participative government. In turn, these challenges also require capacity building – an investment in the size (number of communications professional) and quality (professional level and scope) of communication departments. Main challenges are:
- Strengthening the strategic position of the communications department
- Adapting technological tools and tapping into the potential of data
- Investing in participation and stakeholder alliances
In an interactive presentation, Robert Wester will elaborate on five roles for organizing strategic communication in your organisation – he will invite you to develop a step-by-step approach in achieving a modern communications team.