Public affairs industry

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The public affairs industry has developed over the last 50 years from being an ‘optional extra for the PR department’ to ‘an operational necessity in the boardroom’. [1]

There is some disagreement over exactly what the public affairs industry encapsulates. While often equated with the lobbying industry, the public affairs industry is far broader. Lobbying is in fact only one element of what a public affairs practitioner does.

Likewise, Public Affairs should not be confused with Public Relations. PR initiatives can be integrated into the Public Affairs campaign but should be used carefully. PR should not strain political relationships.


It is difficult to determine the size of the public affairs industry in the UK. Studies suggest the industry is becoming more professionalised, and that it is more widespread than often assumed. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) estimates there are around 48,000 people involved in PR, 30% of these are involved in Public Affairs. But it only measures specific job titles and those who declare themselves to be working in PR. There are large numbers of professionals providing public affairs services while working under different job titles across a wide variety of sectors. [3]

Issues of contention in the industry[edit]

The majority of controversy surrounding the public affairs industry is concerned with how compatible public affairs and lobbying are with democratic ideals.

Professional lobbying goes against the grain of democracy as it allows big business to buy power and influence with well funded campaigns which dwarf public interest.[4] Steps are being taken in several countries to attempt to increase levels of regulation and transparency in the public affairs industry. Several states including Canada have introduced a mandatory registers for lobbyists. The EU has been working with a voluntary register since July 2008, and its 1 year anniversary has sparked further debate about its success and the possibility of extending it to a mandatory register. Many other governments including the UK are currently debating a register of some kind. [5]

Since coming to power in the US, President Obama has introduced several measures in an attempt to increase transparency in public affairs. In an attempt to close the revolving door of lobbyists, he passed a law dictating a two-year ban for former top executive branch officials lobbying on any issue that they worked on during their final year in government. He also introduced a ban on verbal communication between lobbyists and the federal agencies tasked with awarding economic recovery funds. These measures have proved controversial and while some argue they are a positive and necessary step, others have deemed the policies as failures due to various the loopholes they include.[6]

Role of a Public Affairs Practitioner[edit]

Public affairs practitioners are engaged in a variety of roles. These can include lobbying, monitoring and predicting political, legal, economic and social developments, and providing political intelligence and strategic advice. In addition, public affairs practitioners partake in media relations:


Central to all of these areas are stakeholder relations. Building relationships and partnerships is key when engaging with policy-makers.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [Lord Tom McNally in P.Harris & C.S.Fleisher, The Handbook of Public Affairs]
  2. ^ a b [1]
  3. ^ [Philip Paruin, Hansard Society, Friend of Foe? Lobbying in British Democracy]
  4. ^ [Philip Paruin, Hansard Society, Friend of Foe? Lobbying in British Democracy]
  5. ^ [Philip Paruin, Hansard Society, Friend of Foe? Lobbying in British Democracy]
  6. ^ [Philip Paruin, Hansard Society, Friend of Foe? Lobbying in British Democracy]
  7. ^ [P.Harris & C.S.Fleisher, The Handbook of Public Affairs]