What is Public Affairs?
Public affairs refers to the relationships a company builds with governments, politicians, public institutions, policy decision-makers, segments of society that are interested in or affected by the company’s performance (think tanks, grassroots groups, charities, unions, business groups, associations), as well as the media. The purpose of public affairs is to influence policies and the general perception of a certain industry or activity. Public affairs often aims at advocating for a certain cause that benefits an entire sector or industry. As such, public hearings and focus groups are often used in such endeavors. Because public affairs relies on a combination of PR activities and media relations, some of the tools that are often used in public affairs include: press releases, press conferences, launch events, TV appearances, blog articles, position papers, research reports, statistics, etc. Whereas some companies have their own public affairs departments (also known as government relations, regulatory affairs or parliamentary affairs), other companies work with PR companies specializing in advocacy/lobby activities or public affairs companies.
Do you need a position paper to back your request for more favorable environmental policies? Is your company affected by the lack of policy in a specific area? Is there any fiscal reform that would benefit your company and your stakeholders? Public affairs activities allow you to engage in a meaningful dialogue with other companies, as well as business support organizations that are interested in the same public policies. They can provide a gateway to building industry coalitions and gaining more leverage in your dealings with decision-makers. Do you need to get the general public and the media to stand behind a Labor Code amendment? Public affairs specialists can help you communicate effectively with a variety of audiences. Do you want to make sure that your public policy recommendations get priority attention from decision-makers? By using research-backed reports and statistics, but also effective communication, you can make sure that your priorities also become issues of concern for the relevant authorities.
PR companies can help you draw a map of all relevant stakeholders, including the media, the non-governmental sector, and the general public. They can craft a communication strategy centered around each category of stakeholders, as well as a set of coherent messages for each of your target audiences. Apart from helping you advocate for an important issue, PR companies and public affairs companies can provide you with an opportunity to improve your reputation, establish your authority in a given industry, and contribute to a more effective public-private partnership that is ultimately conducive to a more productive business environment.