What is Public Affairs?

Public affairs is a term used to describe an organisation’s relationship with politically related stakeholders. It is also closely related to ‘Public Relations’ which uses similar tactics including media relations, issues and crisis management.

As a rule, political stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest in the organisation’s affairs, such as politicians (MPs, MSPs, AMs, MLAs, MEPs), local communities, civil servants, clients, shareholders, trade associations, think tanks, business forums, charities, unions and also the media.

Public affairs practitioners engage stakeholders to convey the policies of an organisation and their specific opinions on public policy issues, assisting policy makers and legislators in changing and improving legislation and policy.

The aim is to influence public policy, build and maintain a strong reputation and find common ground with stakeholders.

What does a Public Affairs practitioner do?

Public affairs jobs in London are varied and require a mixed skillset. Here are some of the activities and skills a practitioner would be expected to learn:

Lobbying:  According to the Cambridge Dictionary. “Lobbying is the art of trying to persuade a politician the government, or an official group, thatparticular thing should not happen, or that a law should be changed”. With the aim to influence existing or create new policies and legislation.

Practitioners are there to influence stakeholders on specific legislation or policy proposals, which can be at:

  • Local government level: action groups, pressure and community groups councils
  • Central Government/National Level – Parliament which is normally Westminster or Whitehall.
  • International level – for example: The European Union and related institutions.

They will put together campaign strategies on who to lobby and liaise with, as well as on what issues, and to advise at what stage in legislation process they should get involved with.

Monitoring: This involves reading up on the latest information, trends, opinions in the media that has an impact on legislation and regulation. In addition to the daily news, you are expected to check statements and releases from Whitehall, Parliament, European & Devolved Institutions, political parties, local government bodies such as councils, think tanks, community groups, pressure groups, debates and committee inquiries.

Media Relations: This is a lesser part of a public affairs practitioners daily remit, in comparison to lobbying, however, it is seen as a traditional PR activity but with a political focus because, in many cases, the media is still big stakeholder. Day to day tasks include; writing press releases and articles, researching, copywriting, producing annual reports and building relationships with relevant media contacts/journalists.

Organising and attending events & Conferences:  Practitioners are likely to organise events to meet with stakeholders. Initially, the relevant stakeholders will need to be identified, as will the issues that the organisation needs to bring to the attendees’ attention. You will be expected to attend parliamentary committee meetings, party conferences, seminars, conferences, Government Department stakeholder meetings and Party Parliamentary Groups.

Networking and Relationship Building: An essential part of Public affairs.  practitioners need to be confident at face to face networking in order to build up a list of media, parliamentary and industry-based contacts.

Political Marketing: Many big corporate companies want to sell their services and products to the public sector which means gaining the attention and favour of the government. Therefore, public affairs practitioners are often asked to raise the profile of a company or service provider in order to get the government to buy their clients services or products.

Providing information to stakeholders: It is essential in public affairs that practitioners can convey information to stakeholders in a succinct and straightforward way. This can be done through submissions to government consultations, answering letters from MPs writing internal and external briefing papers, and producing leaflets and newsletters or via face to face meetings.

How do you get into Public Affairs?

Public affairs is a sought after profession, and competition is tough to gain entry at a junior level. Here are a few tips on what you need in order to break into public affairs:

  • Study for an Undergraduate or Master’s degree in politics or international politics or related subject
  • With the right qualifications you can then build your skillset to secure entry level public affairs role, this can be achieved by applying for internships at a public affairs consultancy or undertake voluntary work on internships working as a researcher for MP’s MSP’s or MEP’s.
  • Useful sites where internships are posted include: http://www.w4mpjobs.org/
  • Experience can also be gained from work placements as part of your degree with a European Union organisation.
  • If you are politically active it’s worth getting involved with your political party, alternatively you could volunteer as an activist to do work for pressure group, charity trade union, think tank or employers’ organisation.

Public Affairs Jobs 

If you are looking for a public affairs Job in London or nationwide, they normally fall into two categories.

  • ‘Inhouse’ Public affairs jobs.

A public affairs practitioner can choose to work for one company, third sector or trade

organisation which is referred to as ‘in-house’.  It is usual to work in an issues rich or highly regulated private sector company such as big pharma firm or a tobacco company. Equally you could work for a trade union, third or public sector organisation.

Job titles for ‘inhouse’ positions Public affairs roles can vary in form; here are some examples:

policy advisor, government affairs manager, parliamentary affairs officer, European affairs officer, regulatory affairs advisor, senior political advisor, political researcher, external affairs officer, campaigns director, advocacy officer, corporate affairs director, stakeholder relations officer, community relations executive and stakeholder manager.

  • Public Affairs Consultancy Jobs

An alternative option is to work as a consultant for a political consultancy working across a range of clients. Public affairs consultancies normally have a sector specialism that tends to be issues rich and regulation heavy.

Sectors that are popular for Public affairs consultancies to focus on include:

Education
Healthcare
Financial and professional services
Property and planning
Energy and industrial
Technology
Consumer industries such as gambling, and sport/leisure

The biggest Public affairs consultancies have multiple sector teams. Equally large Public Relations consultancies (of 100+ consultants) have a dedicated public affairs team.

Job titles are normally standardised in agencies to the following level and salary bracket:

Account Executive                  £22-25K
Senior account executive       £25-32K
Account Manager                  £32-38K
Senior account manager        £38-45K
Account Director                     £45-60K
Associate Director                   £60-80K
Director                                    £80K +
MD of Practice                        £100K +

Who are the Biggest Public Affairs Consultancies?

PRWeek  https://www.prweek.com/uk is the Main industry publication for PR and public affairs practitioners. They produce several annual table rankings for various types of PR and Public affairs sectors. Below is a table for the highest revenue earning Public affairs consultancies in the UK highlighting the percentage in growth change from 2019 to 2020.

The largest and most successful Public affairs consultancies are all based in the Capital. another reason to look for Public affairs jobs in London.

PRWeek UK Public affairs Consultancies 2020:

Rank Company 2019 revenue (per % change Location
1 Havas PR* (Cicero) 7.3 million 0% London
2 Portland* 5.3 million 6% London
3 BECG 5,22 Million 4% London
4 FTI* 5 million 25% London
5 Hanover Communications 4,89 million 1% London

Want to find out more?

If you are interested in Public affairs jobs in London, please call or email Louise Hannant or Sam Parker senior members of the team at Premier Resourcing 0203 9841080 or email [email protected]/

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