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What lessons can we learn from recent public affairs campaigns in Europe?

The original of this article appeared here.


There’s one campaign which I would highlight: not on the positive side but something that didn’t work so well. We can draw certain conclusions and lessons from it. It’s about a credit card company which was very, very vocal in the “credit card interchange fees”, which is quite a technical matter but it does affect end users and customers.


The European Commission, and namely the Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market who is responsible for this specific file, was very critical about this particular company. They did a campaign in mostly French newspapers and other media outlets, which sort of infuriated the regulator in charge. On top of it, he very much perceived it as an American company trying to pass its message on the European market, which was not very well received… to say the least.


So a certain campaign that was going on actually backfired, and it didn’t help the Public Affairs’ efforts of this particular company.


The lessons to learn from this are multiple: I think one lesson is certainly on the level of perception because regulators are humans, they have their feelings just like anyone else, with their understanding of the company and the stakes. They perfectly respect that the company wants to run the Public Affairs campaign but when it becomes personal, and especially when it becomes negative against a particular person in charge of that file, that can certainly backfire. So: talk about the issue but don’t talk about the person regulating that issue.


Number two: since this was an American company, there is by default a certain perception issue at stake because we are talking about the European market where this company is extremely important both for jobs and for the economy. When it comes to that specific issue, it needs to overcome a bias that this is a company from overseas which may not understand the way we regulate their business right here.


Posted in EU Affairs

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