The fine art of Public Affairs

Public Affairs is the communication between an organisation and its various stakeholders. It is a discipline that is fluid in nature and whose definition or focus areas varies across organisations. To understand the role better it is first and foremost crucial to understand that every company has multiple stakeholders who may directly or indirectly affect the company such as customers, employees, government, shareholders, suppliers, distributors, community etc. The role primarily focuses on building long term trust with these key stakeholders and assisting the organisation navigate these relationships, engage constructively in discussions and build meaningful public and private partnerships.

Public Affairs focuses on the complex intersection of politics, business and society. The field of Public Affairs has no set form for job titles as it is a blend of functions such as policy making, internal and external communication, government affairs, media relations, corporate social responsibility etc. Sometimes the role may cater to all the above functions or more and sometimes less. There are a large number of professionals providing Public Affairs services while working under different job titles across a wide variety of sectors. An organisation’s goals, strategy and size play a key role in defining the focus areas for its Public Affairs department.

This role requires creativity and the ability to propose original ideas. Public Affairs has a distinct influence on direct strategy, campaigns, issues and overall communications. Therefore, this role is one of the most sought-after jobs in the business. Like every other major profession, digitalisation and the latest technological advancements have revolutionised Public Affairs to create positive disruptions. Digitalisation has meant using new methods and tools for communicating, viewing and analysing information. This means that Public Affairs professionals need to keep abreast about the new tools, technologies and platforms that can help them succeed in this digital landscape as well.

Public Affairs is a role that is often misunderstood for solely communication. One who aspires to be a specialist in this field needs to have several skills apart from strong communication skills – namely, a deep understanding of politics, policy issues and current affairs, time management and organisational skills. In industries and businesses, senior leaders require timely, well researched information and advice when making decisions that could affect the future of the organisation. Another important skill that future aspirants need to strive to develop is to work well under pressure, as crisis management is also one of the facets of Public Affairs. In such cases, Public Affairs specialists are usually the ones, working on mitigating issues, resolving conflict or negotiating on behalf of an organisation. A specialist in this field also helps play a key role in building relationships with other organisations that could potentially benefit the company.

I can describe my own role here, as the Regional Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Engagement at Grundfos for the Asia Pacific Region, I lead the company’s Policy Advocacy, Internal & External Communications, Media Relations, Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts across the region. This gives me the opportunity to work with a wide range of stakeholders, both external and internal in the region to promote key agendas like energy and water efficiencies. Through my Public Affairs work, I am also able help position Grundfos as a though leader promoting sustainability as well as a lead the pump / water industry. My team and I also help create visibility for Grundfos across various platforms, including thought leadership events, media, social presence and the community at large.

This Public Affairs path that I have chosen is definitely a challenging one, but it ensures that I am able to make a significant contribution to the company, stakeholders and community at large. The wide range of work you get to do here ensures that there is never a dull moment. All in all, I would say that this is a career that can help you truly reach your highest potential and be extremely rewarding.

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Mahathi Parashuram
Regional Head - Public Affairs, Communications & Engagement at Grundfos - Asia Pacific
Mahathi has more than 17 years of industry experience and has previously worked with Dow Chemical International (Dow India), Genesis Burson-Marsteller and other leading Public Relations firms. While at Dow India, Mahathi led the Public Affairs initiatives for their Centres of Excellence and headed Corporate Social Responsibility for the company in the country. She was also the Subject Matter Expert for Corporate Social Responsibility for Dow Chemical in Asia Pacific.

Currently at Grundfos, she leads the company’s internal & external Communications, Policy Advocacy, Media Relations, Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts across the region.

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