The current European Parliament is already in its final act. Between May 23- 26, more than 500 million citizens will be called to vote in order to redraw the distribution of seats in the European Union.
Throughout the corridors of Parliament, the concern about the lack of attachment to the European “club” is apparent. This feeling has ended up permeating society and encouraging nationalist and separatist feelings—Brexit, for example. But now politicians are worried about a possible contagion effect which could be reflected in the results of the upcoming European elections.
As a result, companies across Europe are currently facing what’s known as a VUCA environment: a situation of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This uncertainty is not only due to the current political environment—the disruptive movements of financial markets are also taking a toll.
It all means that companies in Europe will have to redouble their efforts and start seeking compromise among various interest groups, especially as new actors emerge following the upcoming elections. Lobbyists need to keep in mind that not only will new political forces be involved in the next legislature, but younger faces will replace older and more traditional generations.
Here are three trends public affairs professionals should keep an eye out for following the elections:
1. The Influence of Social Media
The change of generations will definitively alter the political playing field. New strategies to attract the attention of politicians will be driven by social media and online action. New social movements, formed both by companies and other institutions, will push lawmakers to take positions and take action on issues such as artificial intelligence or climate change. Those groups will develop policy papers laying out their positions and share them online and via social media in order to enlist citizens in their cause.
The game as we know it is changing. Technology is empowering people and the potential exists to create new pressure groups practically overnight, transferring power away from traditional power structures.
2. The Empowerment of Citizens and the Emergence of Corporations in the Political Debate
Companies across Europe are getting more involved in political and social issues. It is a way to connect with new customers, especially ones who are well informed and likely more demanding than previous generations. New customers are more committed to social causes and are more likely to base their purchasing decisions on those causes.
Therefore, some companies are creating new business models with a focus on improving the world with a commitment to core beliefs and ideologies. Future Corporate Social Responsibility plans should contain guidelines for integrating the expectations of company stakeholders in this regard.
Sustainability is the new value proposition, even surpassing quality. In this respect, the millennial generation is playing a significant role. We don’t have to look far to see it: Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old, is pushing the debate over climate change in Europe. She is now a symbol of the fight against global warming for many Europeans, inspiring thousands of young people to demand action to try to reverse the impact of climate change.
3. A New Actor: Corporate Diplomacy
As a result of all the above—new political forces, younger generations, a greater focus on social networks, and changes in business architecture—public affairs and public relations will be transformed. This evolution creates a fluid connection between new business models, service platforms, the media, influencers, and politicians.
As a consequence, a new corporate responsibility must emerge. This responsibility will be different from that of the communication or public affairs professional. This new fluid environment requires a corporate ambassador who can be the authoritative voice of a company and the community it serves. Ideally, this is a figure who can be proactive in all forums, promoting good relations and working to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Laura Casado is a Public Affairs consultant at MAS Consulting Headquarters in Madrid. She is a specialist in corporate lobbying strategies and provides institutional relations advice to senior executives. She holds a masters in Corporate Communication and Management at IE Business School.