by Ceyhun Emre Doğru
Public affairs and strategic communications professionals might find it hard to demonstrate the value that they are bringing to their company. It’s hard to measure their achievements compared with other departments (such as production, supply changing and sales) that operate on hard metrics. Yet, in today’s world, it’s not possible to mitigate external risks without a thorough understanding of government relations and stakeholder management.
The data also proves this point. According to the PwC Global CEO Survey, a great deal of the issues that keep the CEOs awake at night are related to their company’s external affairs.
As the research demonstrates, issues such as over-regulation, policy uncertainty, trade conflicts, geopolitical uncertainty, protectionism and populism significantly affect a company’s business objectives. Therefore, a great deal of senior management’s attention and resources should be dedicated to these matters.
However, few companies have the required capabilities and resources to properly address them. This creates a weakness in their competition strategy. Especially in countries such as Turkey, where policy-makers and regulators closely monitor and regulate the markets, no company has the luxury to ignore their political and regulatory environment. The risk of not managing government relations is too high.
This brings the question of whether companies should develop public affairs and government relations practices, or whether they should work with external advisors. For most senior managers, it is hard to decide. And rightfully so. There are pros and cons of working with a public affairs agency.
Based on CORPERA Consulting’s experience of working with Fortune 500 companies, we have seen that there is no one-size-fits-all model. Therefore, we suggest the following principles to make the right decision:
- A public affairs agency can bring an outsider perspective to your company and help you understand your external environment. However, an agency will not be privy to your company’s culture and business practices.
- A consultant will help your company cut the costs and work with a variety of professionals who have the skills to conduct your government relations. Yet, your company should dedicate a senior manager (preferably at C-level) to oversee and coordinate all external affairs activities.
- Do not forget that your advisors are not entitled to speak or give commitments on behalf of your company. Therefore, your government contacts and stakeholders will prefer to directly deal with a company executive. Make sure you arrange your exchanges according to these expectations.
Last, but not least. When it comes to public affairs and government relations, your consultants should not be considered as “external agents.” Rather, they should be working in a “trusted advisor” spirit and hold the highest ethical standards.