Public Affairs is a part of Public Relations

Introduction

Many researches conducted in European countries and some basic data received by CERP from
National Associations (full members of our Confederation) indicate that the highest rates of
growth of the PR profession are with Public Affairs, Internal Relations, Consumer Relations,
Financial Relations and PR associated with environmental issues.

Meanwhile the PR business is likely to prove stronger in a period of recession of any kind than in media advertising, which, in many European countries has a decreasing share in the Corporate Communication’s budget.

The need for effective relations between a company, an organisation and government is becoming more evident: no business can be managed in isolation from the political process and governmental issues are growing and influencing Corporate Communications.

The 1993 European single market itself will require a further increase for the need of specialised Public Affairs. Therefore the different processes and methodologies, that management applies must be properly developed towards all Public Affairs publics involved including government, parliament, local authorities, public servants.

Public Relations implies the capability to analyse publics, define criteria, handle relations with all publics, assure a full respect of ethics and principles of behaviour, choose appropriate media to communicate, and both to substantially develop and manage total communication programs.

The PR profession is especially qualified to take action in many ways, to influence public opinion and society in its totality.

The role of the total communication of a company, any organisation or an individual, is defined by its ability to build and develop relations with all publics, internal or external.

Relations with internal publics, relations with external publics, relations with consumers, with the media, financial relations, community relations all belong to “Corporate Communication” and are handled by Public Relations because they must be considered only as a specific part of a whole, within the framework of Public Relations. Public Affairs is therefore a part of Public Relations.

Public Affairs is only one of the many different aspects of Public Relations and makes reference to defined publics given by government, parliament, local public authorities and so forth.

When someone refers to “PR”, he is making reference to a profession which uses its own proper methodologies and techniques to manage Corporate Communications, the total communication needs of a Company or an Organisation. When we, as PR professionals, refer to “Public Affairs”, we make reference to a specific professional experience which is a part of the PR function. According to the problems or the dimension of a company or organisation, the PA function maybe assigned to a specialist but it is always within the PR system or function.

If we consider Consultancy, specialised PA groups of consultants or agencies operate in many European countries but more frequently PA programs are managed by PR agencies covering the specific requests of their clients.

The main responsibility of a Public Affairs specialist is to represent the interests and concerns of a company or organisation toward national or regional government, municipality, public bodies and public servants, with the objective of establishing a two way communication process. Another aspect of Public Affairs is responsibility for handling relations with industrialist associations or other groups which represent a specialised sector of production, trade or services.

The basic duties determined for each PR professional practitioner is the Code of Ethics and the Code of Professional Conduct established by CERP and adopted by the National Associations, must be strictly and fully applicable to a Public Affairs specialist also.

Meanwhile, the European process of integration, demands of global business, the harmonisation of legislation in each country, are suggesting the analysis of all above aspects and definition of new, more detailed rules of professional conduct applicable to them by PA specialists.

Public Affairs definitions

Defining Public Affairs as “Relations with Public Bodies” definitions such as the following are proposed:

1. Public Affairs are the planned and formalised efforts of a Company to exercise its rights and duties as a Corporate Citizen in the community, the nation and the society and to encourage employees to discharge their rights and duties as individual citizens.

2. Public Affairs is defined “as significant and substantial” concern and involvement by individuals, business, labour, foundations, private institutions and government with the social, economic, and political forces that singly or through interaction shape the environment within which the free enterprise system exists.

3. Public Affairs is a Corporate activity designed towards:

4. a) improving the business climate surrounding corporate operations to the extent by which that climate may be influenced by government, thought leaders, and the general public

and

b) minimising the adverse effect of government’s involvement in matters of economic and social concern to the corporation in question.

5. Public Affairs are relations between an organisation and government, parliament, civil servants and special interests and pressure groups at both national and trans-European levels.

Public Affairs basic contents

In keeping with above definitions the basic content of Public Affairs may be summarised as

* analysis and management at international or national levels of relations with communities, public bodies and scientific associations.

* the exercise for a company or organisation of its own rights and obligations in the country in which it is a good citizen.

* the representation of positions of a company or organisation to business, economical, social and political issues.

* the legitimate representation of the interest of a company or organisation to legislative bodies at international/national national/regional/local levels by proper communication actions.

* the system of relations of a company or organisation handled with civil or public bodies which may influence business effectiveness.

* all the activities carried out to inform and represent private interest with government bodies and non government organisations at an international, national or regional level.

* the monitoring of environmental issues and appropriate actions developed by a company or an organisation.

* the implementation process of European single market and EC directives, which influence the long term planning of a company or organisation as for example, financial relations, consumer relations and internal relations.

* the handling of participation’s and memberships of a company or an organisation in industry associations, locally, nationally and internationally.

The Public Affairs specialist’s profile

A Public Affairs specialist needs full experience in global corporate communications as Public Affairs is only one, relevant aspect of Public Relations.

The growing importance of Corporate Communication and the challenges that industries have to face, require from a PA specialist a good knowledge of the legal system, nationally and internationally and an adequate background of his own company’s production and financial topics.

The PA specialist must be strongly motivated to handle interpersonal relations. Verbal and written communications skills are also required to a high level.

The professional frame of PA is always represented by honesty, intellectual integrity and loyalty towards, both the company and the publics involved.

The effectiveness of Public Affairs are strictly related to the honesty, the intellectual integrity and the loyalty which the PA specialist demonstrates.

Whatever relations or actions are handled by a PA specialist, must be conducted openly, with immediate identification of the subjects and their contents. A total respect of public institutions and public servants integrity must be always demonstrated by the PA specialist.

European Charter for Public Affairs

Successfully to handle Public Affairs proper rules of behaviour are suggested strictly in keeping with the Code of Ethics and the Code of professional conduct adopted by CERP and by each National PR Association. The following principles of an “European Charter for Public

Affairs” are suggested:

General Principles

1. In his professional conduct, the Public Affairs practitioner must demonstrate honesty, intellectual integrity and loyalty. In particular he undertakes not to make use of comments or information which, to his knowledge or belief, are false or misleading. (Clause 3 CERP Code of Conduct)

2. Public Affairs activities must be carried out openly: they must be readily identifiable, bear a clear indication of their origin, and must not tend to mislead third parties. (Clause 4 of CERP Code of Conduct)

3. In the practice of his profession, a Public Affairs practitioner must observe complete discretion. He must scrupulously respect professional confidence, and in particular must not reveal any confidential information received from his clients or employers, past, present or potential, or make use of such information without express authorisation (Clause 7 of CERP Code of Conduct).

4. Any attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives is forbidden. News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use of publication. (Clause 15 CERP Code of Conduct)

Principles of conduct towards public bodies, public institutions and public servants

5. The internal rules of public bodies, institutions and parliament must be as respected by a PA specialist as his own rules, always understanding the special duties of Public servants.

6. the practice of bribery is never permitted, directly or indirectly

7. all lavish entertainment’s and gifts are prohibited apart from the normal common courtesies.

8. hiring consultancies advice from government officials and public servants is strictly forbidden, if the consultancy services requested conflict or interfere with his/her own public duties.

9. no funds or assets of value shall be promised, offered, paid, loaned or given directly or in indirectly to any government official or public servant.

10. no payment or gift shall be made directly or indirectly to any government official or public servant or to any organisation in which that person has a material interest, if these payments or gifts are illegal purpose or are offered with the scope of influencing a decision or inducing such a person to do or omit to do any violation of his/her own responsibility.

11. no funds or contributions shall be made to political parties, groups or persons, directly or indirectly, if they are not admitted by law.

Adopted as “recommendation” by CERP COUNCIL, Tampere, October 19, 1991