Public Affairs Practitioners in India and the road ahead
(A note prepared by Ajay Singha, member PAFI,
former Executive Director AMCHAM & Deputy DG Indo-German Chamber)
Public Affairs practitioners are now the external face for a corporation which has multiple stakeholder engagements across functions. In a fast evolving economic-political landscape in Emerging Economies like India, the Government, Regulator, NGOs, Media and institutions play a crucial role in economic policy formulation and impacting the business landscape. The Public Affairs professional has become the fall guy for countering all challenges faced by a corporation in its growth and business expansion plans in the country.
Today the pace of change in the economic policy environment has further accelerated and continues to evolve the world over. Real time monitoring of change and managing the subsequent reactions by managements has become a daunting challenge for Public Affairs practitioners. The PA function has therefore become critical to the success of the corporation and is being accorded increasing importance by the corporate leadership across continents.
In order to be effective the Public Affairs practitioners must strive to maintain relations either directly or through multiple intermediaries to:
· Political leadership at the Local, State and Central Government levels.
· Bureaucracy at various levels and at multiple geographical locations.
· Consumer organisations, Local communities, Trade Union leaders, Pressure groups.
· Mainstream media and Social media.
· Prominent client leadership.
· Chambers of Commerce and Industry associations.
· Not-for-profit organisations and NGOs.
· Think tanks, Foundations and Policy Advocacy organisations.
· Parliamentary committees and empowered committees.
In carrying out their duties the PA practitioners must oversee the following functions either directly, through designated colleagues or intermediaries:
· Guide and oversee writing of briefing papers and research documents as inputs for senior management.
· Produce media briefings and if required act as the Spokesperson.
· Interact with and ensure compliance for Regulatory Affairs with various Regulators.
· Network with stakeholders and public policy influencers.
· Create and maintain channels for public outreach and stakeholder participation.
· Initiate and manage Events and related activities for stakeholder and public outreach.
· Oversight on corporate communication and ensure homogeneity.
· Participate in public debate on issues of importance to the corporation.
· Maintain a line of communication to think tanks and policy influencers.
· Public Advocacy work and related coordination with external partners.
· Monitor and guide economic policy legislation and ensure policy issues are addressed well in time.
· Keep a tab on international treaties, bilateral, pluri-lateral or multilateral arrangements impacting trade policy, market access and related business in the near and medium term.
· Influence public perception, image and reputation of the corporation.
· Articulate and explain the organisation’s point of view on emerging government policies.
· Assist the top management to take studied and balanced stands and positions on policy announcements by the Government.
· Provide strategic advice on issues of economic importance with political undertones.
· Provide strategic advice on issues of political importance with economic undertones.
· Check counter lobbying efforts of pressure groups and competitors.
· Build a public narrative or a counter narrative to address emerging policy challenges.
· Coordinate the crisis management team and work closely with media and PR outfits for strategic government and media intervention during crisis situations.
· Build a common ground for taking industry positions and collective stands on issues of common interest to industry, trade and globally acceptable business practices.
· Care for the overall reputation of the organisation in the public domain and stakeholder perceptions.
· Maintain real time communication with the corporate leadership on issues strategic importance.
· Promote transparency and internal compliance as per international standards.
The strategic importance of the Public Affairs function is now deeply embedded in every aspect of a corporation as the fast evolving economic-political scenario requires speed and accuracy in policy development, compliance and subsequent course of action. In view of the changed, expanded and evolving work profile of Public Affairs, professionals in the field must deliberate and discuss issues enumerated above and find synergies for working together to collectively address common challenges. They must move to consolidate their thoughts and develop a consensus on the course of action for the PA profession in general. The PA professionals must collectively indulge in some “Crystal Ball” gazing to figure out the future direction and work trajectory which they are expected to take globally.