Spotlight: Brussels

Gregg Svingen, UPS' international director of PR and communications, says Brussels attracts top PR talent due to its status as a European powerhouse.

What makes Brussels a great city?
The region is a confluence of business and politics, given the European institutions, diplomatic representations from around the world, NATO, and the many international businesses who have their European headquarters here – as UPS does – or some form of representation. 

Throw in a vibrant international press corps of more than 1,000 journalists and you have a city teaming with interesting, switched-on people.

There are many cultural attractions that the city offers between the arts, architecture, and a great restaurant culture. The live music scene here is brilliant, with small venues where you end up meeting many well-known bands.

And, logistically speaking, it is also a fantastic location as Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Cologne are all within reach, less than 200 miles away with great transport connections. There’s always a great mix of languages and cultures, whether you find yourself at external work events or at dinner with friends, where the mix of nationalities exceeds the number of people at the table.

What sectors are experiencing the most growth?
As a political capital, it comes as no surprise that the services industry is thriving – this sector represents about 75% of Belgium’s GDP.

The Information and communication technologies and biotech sectors seem to be doing great, as well. Belgium is world class for logistics and distribution and I am also doing my best to personally contribute to the steady growth of high-end chocolatiers in the region.

What does being the ‘capital of Europe’ mean for the communications and PR industry?
It is a challenge to work in the de facto capital of the European Union because of such a heterogeneous audience. In Brussels, you have 28 European member states represented. Add in the many languages spoken and the fact that business and politics sometimes also speak different languages than one another, and you quickly see why it is not so straightforward to peg your audience.

How does Brussels’ linguistic diversity affect communications?
Brussels is already a complex city given the co-existence of French and Flemish speakers and German makes up the third official language group in the country.

In the business community, English is widely spoken and the EU policy community is a colorful mix of polyglots who will quickly put you to shame with the number of languages that many speak with ease. Knowing your audience can require having quite a few different language speakers in your organization.

At UPS’ European headquarters, we have about 40 different nationalities and about 25 different languages are spoken. Water cooler chats can be entertaining to listen to.

How hard is it to find PR talent in the city?
It is a smaller market than London or New York, yet it is not uncommon to hear of people who have moved here from great distances. There is a huge amount of talent and you find a lot of eager, highly educated individuals looking for employment – and they are often successful. PR talent in a city such as this requires having a nose for politics, too.

What role does social media play in comms?
It’s probably as central as email. Twitter stands out as the network where journalists, communications pros, consultants, companies, government officials, and NGOs go for ideas, news, and views. Having a good network is important and LinkedIn is good for keeping track of the many connections made while doing business here. 

What do you love most about Brussels?
When I interviewed for my current job, I asked quite a few people what they considered to be the most important selling point of a company that operates in 220 countries. Everyone had the same answer: The people. The same goes for Brussels. So many of us are expats, away from our families. The importance of good friends could not be greater. 

Check In

European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association
2 Avenue de Tervueren, B-1040 Brussels
Tel: (+32) 2230-0814

Chamber of Commerce and Union of Enterprises in Brussels
Avenue Louise,
B-1050 Brussels

De Persgroep media
Brusselsesteenweg 347, 1730 Kobbegem

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