From Brussels to DC: Just a Quick Connection Away
Touching down in Washington DC from Europe, I had a full calendar, high expectations, and a fair bit of nervous excitement. During that week, I would get an up-close and personal look at the core of what makes Erste Lesung tick and continue ticking: business development. Or, as I quickly figured out how to describe it: making connections and building trust.
Throughout my week in DC, I found that one word kept popping up over and over again: connections. Whether mentioned explicitly or implied, the concept of connections was what tied together our meetings, conversations, planning, and overarching strategy. For me, figuring out how to make those connections was helpful not only for understanding how the process of business development in a Public Affairs agency works, but also for developing myself professionally.
First and foremost, we were making connections in the most common sense of the word. We were meeting people, organizations, and companies for the first time to get the name Erste Lesung and Krautshell on as many individuals’ radars as possible. We also used our time in DC to reconnect with those we already knew well, as rekindling or keeping a connection is just as important as making new ones.
While the word “connection” in this sense is relatively straightforward, I was surprised to find out how the concept of connections is something we kept coming back to even within the individual conversations. When we were in these meetings with connections old and new, we sought to pinpoint exactly how the work of the person across from us connects with what we do or who we know. As Anna, Senior Consultant at Erste Lesung, taught me this week, getting to that point requires a fair amount of listening and asking the right questions to move the conversation forward.
As part of this process of always being switched on, the quintessence of these meetings was finding an answer to the question: “How can we help each other?” Answering this question is at the very core of what connections in the field of public affairs are. In the simplest terms, it means figuring out what moves that person across from you, presenting what is important to you, and finding a way to meet in the middle that both sides have a feeling of success. Even if that person across from you can’t help you directly, maybe they can connect you to someone who can. And as a result, the chain of connections is endless.
Making connections with people is something that has always seemed relatively straightforward. However, this past week I was made acutely aware of the fact that these interpersonal skills can and should always be sharpened, particularly when working in a field that relies on connections to this degree. My week in DC was the best possible example of learning by doing, an opportunity I am immensely grateful for. And, also equally as important: I really had fun.
Mats Najberg is a Junior Consultant for Erste Lesung