Public affairs, a marathon for the attentive

You can't lead a public affairs project straight down the thread to the ball, because these 'threads' to zcatching are many. However, when you manage to capture them all and find a the right path in the maze of numerous variables, the results will benefit all process parties.


A 'win-win-win' - a win-win for business, the social and administrative environment - is the most desirable outcome of public affairs activities. The key to success here, as in classic public relations, is relationships. However, you will not build them without a solid analytical approach, detailed monitoring and a flexible strategy that is adapted to the changing environment.


Check out the "who is who"

Mapping stakeholders (both individual and organisational partners), their affiliations and interrelationships is key to formulating an effective strategy. It is not enough to know exactly who is responsible for what, as the human factor is also important - and sometimes even more important - in decision-making processes. Personal motivations, aspirations and concerns, as well as the relationships between the various stakeholders, have a huge impact on whether procedural paths are straight or rather bumpy. Only when the mapping is complete, reliable and continuously updated can we anticipate different scenarios and adapt plans A, B and often C to them.


Identify needs

The PR classic takes on even greater meaning in PA. If you want to drive the environment to behave in a certain way - to support an investment, change a law or accept certain decisions - you must first look at your business plans through the eyes of your stakeholders. If the majority of the inhabitants of commune X are farmers and a car factory is to be built right next to them, they will not be convinced by the argument of creating a thousand specialised jobs. When decision-makers are concerned about the social consequences of a particular legislative solution, help them implement a strategy to build acceptance for the measure. Only by having a good understanding of the characteristics of your environment can you reach your audience with the right arguments, language and thus build in them the sense of security necessary for effective change. How do you get to know this perspective? It is good practice to start a project with opinion surveys. Qualitative research is of particular value in this case - depending on the specific task, individual interviews (IDI) or focus groups (FGI). They allow you to best 'get inside the heads' of your target group, understand their point of view, learn about their needs and adapt your communication methods. This is knowledge that pays off at each stage of the project, as it helps to influence not only behaviour, but also attitudes.


Link values

We already know that a public affairs strategy must hit the needs of the target group first and foremost. However, it is difficult to be authentic with a partner if the organisation does not conduct the dialogue in line with its own values and identity. Therefore, while on the one hand we need to calibrate our point of view according to the audience's perspective, on the other hand we need to link it skilfully to our organisation. More and more corporations starting out in Poland understand that they cannot simply impose their system of values, but build an understanding two-way - learning the local specifics and communicating their own identity. However, this is not always obvious. It still happens that foreign corporations try to build relations with their environment based on their own cultural patterns, which, when translated into Polish, generate additional conflicts instead of understanding. Intercultural communication must in such cases be an integral component of public affairs consultancy and cover not only the external environment, but also the internal environment of the organisation.


Take control, even if you have no influence

Is this possible? From a public affairs strategy perspective, not only possible, but necessary. In this case, the key word is: anticipate. On the one hand, we draw on the abecadal of anti-crisis communication and, based on the available data, generate possible scenarios of how things might unfold. Such communication 'black-boxing' pays off when we are operating in the midst of many variables beyond our control. Secondly, because public affairs strategies play out in a network of multiple stakeholders and relationships, all pieces of the puzzle must be taken care of. Even when one stops working, we can then influence another and thus secure the gap. Finally, it is worth noting that in order to achieve public affairs goals, we often carry out activities over several years. Sometimes an action taken, for example, at the beginning of a project, will turn out to be crucial to achieving an effect several years later. Therefore, we need to be alert to the long-term effects of our actions (and possible omissions).



Monitoring for public affairs activities cannot be locked away in a drawer labelled 'keywords'. It is necessary to make friends with the Public Information Bulletin (and anyone who has had the opportunity to scour municipal BIPs knows that UX is not their strong point) and/or the Official Gazette, while also keeping an eye on what decision-makers have to say during parliamentary, municipal or provincial sessions. For more complex legislative projects, it is necessary to work closely with the legal or industry departments. It is the public affairs expert who should be alert to what in the documents is likely to raise concerns in the environment and prepare an appropriate response. Monitoring of the media, social media, forums, as well as meetings of parliamentary committees, city councils or public speeches of stakeholders is also an important area. Monitoring also has a second dimension - the ongoing verification of effects. If the strategy is built on the basis of research, it is worth repeating it regularly in order to notice changes. If we do not have such a tool at our disposal, it is worth doing a regular checkpoint of effects based on the KPIs formulated at the beginning. The intensity of public affairs projects can be high, which makes it all the more important to find a moment to verify whether we are still on the right course and, if necessary, correct it accordingly.