Four Skills to Excel in Emerging Public Affairs Domain

Public affairs and advocacy is a rapidly evolving area within the communications spectrum. It involves external affairs, stakeholder engagement, research & analysis, crisis communication, and media management. Public affairs focuses on monitoring the political/social/regulatory landscape and influencing public perceptions through engagement with key stakeholders. A public affairs expert is responsible for liaising with the government, regulatory authorities, media, industry associations, NGOs and other relevant bodies. Public affairs has gained prominence over the last few years. Several companies have dedicated resource to formulate sound public policy to manage external stakeholders and address their business concerns. Most of the functions of public affairs overlap with corporate communications, however, it is a more specialised domain that focuses on the legal/regulatory aspect of the business concern.

Communication professionals who want to expand their horizons and take up challenging roles can explore this field for wider exposure and growth. To enter the public affairs field one should have a bachelor’s degree in public administration, PR and mass communication, journalism, political science, or a related field. Considering the future prospects in this field some educational institutions such as Takshashila University have started graduate and postgraduate courses in public affairs. One can also associate with forums like The Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), a non-partisan, not-for-profit society for public affairs practitioners in India. While having academic experience is an added advantage, here are certain skillsets communications professionals can acquire to excel in this field.

Interpersonal Skills: Like communications, networking, engaging and managing relations are the key aspects of the public affairs mandate. While corporate communications is largely focused on consumers, media and investors, public affairs targets a larger group of stakeholders (mainly government and regulators). Public affairs officer build relationships with policymakers, industry groups, associations, media, and NGOs to understand their sentiments and educate them about certain positions in their respective organisations. They also provide insights to the leadership about the market scenarios and trends in their respective business vertical that might have an impact on the company’s business and future roadmap. One should possess solid networking skills and the ability to engage with people from diverse backgrounds.

Research and Analysis: One of the aspects of public affairs function is to influence key stakeholders such as government, regulatory authorities, and lawmakers on certain positions of the company in a respective industry domain. This requires a strong foundation of research and data analytics to present authentic information to the concerned authorities. Public affairs practitioners should be well-versed with different research methodologies and data analytics. Along with proficiency in research, public affairs specialists also require command over languages as the role involves a lot of content generation for diverse groups of people in different formats. Knowledge of multi-media technologies is an added advantage to present a compelling brand narrative to the key stakeholders.

Domain Expertise: Public affairs requires compliance with various regulatory frameworks and procedures. Hence, public affairs specialists should possess the domain expertise of the industry verticals they represent. A person should have a sound understanding of the industry vertical, market trends, and external influences on the business such as inflation, recession, geo-political scenarios etc. They should also have an understanding of the regional and national political landscape. It is important to stay updated on current events that might affect the public sector and your company. Networking can help to gather information from different sources and analyse its impact on the business.

Crisis communication: Like corporate communications, crisis management is an important aspect of public affairs. However, public affairs experts focus on the legal and compliance aspects of the crisis, which requires engagement with government authorities. Effective crisis management requires collaborative efforts between the public affairs department and the corporate communications team. A strong media network and solid crisis management plan can help navigate the challenges efficiently.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Priyanka Pugaokar
Priyanka Pugaokar is a communications professional with expertise in internal and external communication, crisis communications, content generation and media relations. She holds over ten years of combined experience in communications and business journalism. She is currently associated with Rashi Peripherals Limited as Corporate Communications Manager and leads several strategic projects. She is an avid travel explorer. A lifelong learner, she holds interest in yoga, naturopathy, energy healing and crystallography.

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