Postgraduate Public Relations students spent two days (14
– 15 November 2013) visiting Brussels for a series of specialist public affairs and lobbying seminars organised by Dr Alenka Jelen, Division of Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling. The annual event aims to introduce students to the EU context surrounding public affairs and lobbying practice, as well as visits to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European External Action Service.
During the two days in Brussels students met with public affairs experts and government advisors who provided insights into what they do and how they do it. Key participants included Vincenzo Conforti (European Government Affairs Advisor, Eni), Jonna Byskata (Director Government Affairs Europe, United Technologies Corporation), Jill Craig (Deputy General Manager, Edelman), and Laurent Chokoualé Datou (Chairman EU Public Affairs, Weber Shandwick).
The seminar presentations were followed by a visit to the EEAS (European External Action Service), where Alessandro Lerario (Communication Officer) presented the service, its recent developments and communication activities.
Students also visited the European Parliament attending a presentation about the European Parliament by Ryan Meliak (EP Directorate General for Communication) and talks by Andrej Lavtar (personal assistant to Slovenian MEP Jelko Kacin), who addressed public affairs and lobbying practices from a political decision-making perspective, and Marie Thiel (Administrator responsible for Transparency Register in EP Transparency Unit), who discussed the relevance of the Transparency Register and ethics in public affairs and lobbying within the context of the European Parliament and Commission.
The final stop of the visit was the session at the European Commission, where Gaël du Bouëtiez (Member of the speaker team, Directorate – General Communication) presented the role of the European Commission in the EU and how it promotes the EU and European policies.
Feedback from our students has been great and they really enjoyed the experience! MSc Strategic Public Relations and Communication Management student Iain Kennedy from Scotland said: “Getting a glimpse of communications at an international level was fascinating, and it inspired me to consider how I can reach the same level of public relations practice in the future.”
Sophia Nass from Greece, studying a Double Degree programme MSc Strategic Public Relations with Lund University, added: “The Brussels seminar was an excellent addition to the program, and a really fun experience. The seminars gave us insight into the life of a PR professional, and showed us the practical application of the theories we have studied in class. All in all, the trip tied together our studies and gave us the opportunity to explore a fantastic city!”
The visit was also very interesting for students from outside the EU. Mia Raghavi from India, a student on MSc Strategic Communication and Public Relations (Joint Degree with Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), told us: “The trip to Brussels was a unique experience, even for a student from a non-EU country. I learnt about the ways how EU worked, which I was previously not aware of. Thanks to this experience, I have gained a lot of knowledge that will help to shape my career.”
The trip to Brussels is a great opportunity for students, not just in terms of enriching their knowledge of current issues and developments in the field of EU communication, public affairs and lobbying, but also in terms of networking and exploring their career opportunities in the EU.