Authors: Iskander De Bruycker (Political Science, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands and Aaron McLoughlin (Senior Advisor, FleishmanHillard, Brussels, Belgium)


  1. Who are potential allies and opponents?
  2. What are their financial and organisational capacities?
  3. What strategies and political contacts do they typically mobilise?
  4. What are they saying about you and your position? If you know their game plan, you can anticipate it and make contingency plans.

Checklist for the situation analysis:

  • Include a short description of the issue.
  • Why is it important for you (e.g., policy impact, financial impact)?
  • What priority is this issue?
  • Background on the development of the file. What is driving the issue? Where is the file in the policy cycle?
  • What type of legislation is it? Ordinary or secondary legislation (Regulatory Procedure with Scrutiny, Delegated Act, Implementing Act).
  • What is the schedule for adoption of the file (e.g., initial debate in Committee, schedule of Council Working Group discussions, EP Draft report, deadline for amendments, deadline for compromises, vote in Committee, vote in plenary)?
  • How many votes do you need to win? What are the implications of previous or similar votes?
  • Who is your public affairs team leading work on the issue? What are their roles?
  • Who is paying for the work?
  • Who are your opponents? What are their positions? What are they saying about you/ your positions? List their contact details.
  • Identify key journalists, academics, think tanks and issue experts on your file. List them, their position and contact details.
  • Who are the key decision-makers working on the file? List them, their position and contact details.
  • Key decision-makers in the Commission: Drafting or negotiating team, Inter-Service Steering Group, Inter-Service Group (service and cabinet).
  • Key decision-makers in the Council: Council Working Group, COREPER, Member State issue expert.
  • Key decision-makers in the EP: Lead Committee—members, substitutes, and political advisers, coordinators for Groups and national groups, Committee officials, Opinion Committee—Rapporteurs and Shadows.


Checklist for defining objectives:

  • What are your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) objectives?
  • What are the short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives?
  • Are these acceptable to members or clients? 
  • What are major risks to achieving campaign goals. How to mitigate against them?


Checklist for building coalitions and alliances:

  • Will you lobby alone or in a Coalition? What are the costs and benefits? Who to include?
  • Will you take a leading role in the coalition?
  • How will you mobilize your allies?
  • How will you leverage your network?


Checklist for identifying key audiences:

  • Who will be targeted when and why?
  • How to balance targeting friends and foes?


Checklist for identifying key messages:

  • What are your key messages?
  • What is the evidence to support your key messages?
  • What policy alternatives will be proposed?
  • What are your key materials (one pager, key messages, Q&A, amendments, standard letters, emails, evidence, studies and data)?
  • Which content will be sent to whom, when and how?


Checklist for Identifying communication channels:

  • Identify your plan of action: Which channels will be used to contact whom, when, with what content and for achieving what goal? Include this in a timetable or flowchart.
  • Make an overview of the cost of each item in your plan of action.
  • Adjust your plan of action in light of your available budget.


Checklist for impact monitoring:

  • Establish pre-mortem, continuously, and post-evaluation impact assessments.
  • Where the SMART objectives achieved?
  • Was the achievement of a SMART objective the result of your campaign?
  • How do internal and external stakeholders assess your campaign's impact?
  • What lessons can be drawn for future campaigns? Communicate these.


The above identified seven steps should not necessarily be executed in the order that are presented , and they cannot always be neatly separated from each other. Three principles are key throughout this seven-step process. First, all the components of the lobby plan are interrelated and should all be attuned to one other. For achieving a particular SMART goal, specific audiences will have to be targeted via carefully selected communication channels through a customized yet authentic messaging strategy. Each objective serves as a red thread throughout the different components of the plan. All strategic decisions in the plan are interconnected and coupled to at least one of the objectives. Second, the plan should be realistic in terms of goals, time and costs. It should be carefully designed with all relevant exogenous, budgetary and time constraints in mind. If you have not worked out a good estimate of the resources in advance, in terms of human resources, costs for reports, websites and material, it makes winning a lot harder. Third, the plan should be flexible. Available resources, costs and time constraints are in constant flux and the plan may turn out to be unfeasible or too expensive due to unanticipated circumstances. Crisis can emerge, opponents may gain in strength and new foes may pop up on the horizon. The public affairs plan should therefore be considered as a living document, which should more often than not be finetuned along the way. Planning is everything. A public affairs plan rooted in scientific, evidence-based and practical insights is essential for any organisation to prevail in their competitive battles for policy influence.

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