26 November 2021

What is public affairs?

Public affairs is the repertoire of strategic activities that an organisation deploys to influence political decision-making and its own position in the society. By building stronger relationships and exchanging information, you ensure a better understanding between your organisation and society, to reach your own goals.

Political lobby and public affairs, what is the difference?

What is public affairs? Public affairs is often compared with lobbying, but public affairs includes more than influencing the political decision-making process (legislators and policymakers). In addition to political lobbying, public affairs also include the representation of interests within a broader social arena of interest groups, industry associations, knowledge institutions, media and other stakeholders.

It’s about strategic communication with the outside world, but also about translating information from politics and society into its significance for your organisation. By clarifying developments, a start is made with a strategy on how to deal with politics and government, which issues to put on the agenda in the social debate, what to communicate with other organisations, and what place your organisation should have in the perception of stakeholders.

How can public affairs help to achieve organisational objectives?

Let’s imagine, legislation is being made that will affect your organisations business model. Or you want to use policy that will help your organisation to grow. Perhaps, you are looking for social partners to cooperate with, you need a subsidy to implement your suggestions, or you want to profile yourself as a ‘thought leader’ in the social debate.

With a public affairs strategy, you determine the most effective way to gather external support to steer policy in the right direction or to build a successful coalition. This includes formulating a convincing message, determining the interlocutors you want to convince, and finding the connection to the (common) interests of your stakeholders.

Keep control with political monitoring

In order to keep control on political and social decision-making processes that affect the organisation, it’s important to follow closely political decision-making processes, stakeholder activities and social discussions.

Monitoring (news) media and information from policy papers and political decision-making, from ministries, municipalities, implementing organisations, inspection services, advisory committees and the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, helps to provide strategic insights into at what moment you need to influence the political process. Stakeholders often communicate about their activities, through their own channels and the media. This provides insights into the opportunities and threats. The most useful information comes from your personal contacts with stakeholders.

Find allies for an effective public affairs strategy

To get a clear view of the political and social playing field, it helps to map out the themes which are relevant to your organisation. Afterwards, you investigate which stakeholders play an important role in the social debate. Especially at a time when developments in society follow each other in rapid succession, you need to monitor these stakeholders on a daily base to see the opportunities and threats. An overview of the stakeholder field helps to determine opponents and allies in the political and social arena.

How do you determine your stakeholders?

Your stakeholder field can be very broad: ministers, members of parliament, civil servants, branch associations, NGOs, think tanks, municipalities, provinces, trade unions, your neighbours, and so on. By mapping these and ordering them according to their level of influence and their positioning on a specific theme, you determine their relevance. Who are your potential allies and whose arguments do you need to refute?

Convincing your stakeholders

To create an effective public affairs strategy, a sharp eye for the dynamics of the social debate is essential. Based on the knowledge of the political monitoring and stakeholders in relation to the objectives of your organisation, it can be determined what the lobbying goals are, what the right lobbying message is, and which arguments will be most successful. Timing is very important here. The influence of your organisation increases when you convey the right message to the right recipient at the right time.

Convincing your stakeholders can be done in many ways; writing a position paper, organising working visits, having conversations with civil servants and members of parliament, and organising events to bring your stakeholders together.


If you would like to know more about public affairs, what it can mean for your organisation and how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact us. Fill in the form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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26 November 2021

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