The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place substantial strain on economic and social systems. Among other things, the crisis is posing a raft of human, political, business and reputational challenges that are unique in their breadth and depth.
As social distancing and reduced mobility have suddenly become a painful reality for many people in Europe and around the world, these much-needed health and wellbeing measures have had a dire impact on jobs, industries and entire economies. Public affairs professionals are far from immune from this revolution. While also now working from home, they need to figure out how to fulfil their roles without being able to take advantage of one of the most important aspects of their jobs: social interaction.
It has long been argued that cultivating professional relationships, undertaking face-to-face meetings and attending and organising events are fundamental activities for the public affairs community. Indeed, the importance of information exchange and direct interaction around policy negotiations on sensitive topics cannot be matched through indirect means.
However, these activities have been drastically impacted as a result of COVID-19, and so the public affairs community, like so many around it, has to be innovative and flexible in an uncertain world.
I have been heartened to hear and see so many taking the opportunity to do things differently, amidst the challenges that COVID-19 has presented at our doorstep. The relevance of public affairs practitioners has never been higher, as businesses and institutions struggle to navigate the world in which we live. More than ever now, companies need to communicate with decision-makers about their specific struggles, their efforts to fight the spread of the virus and to protect their employees, and the support that they need to get through the crisis.
Last month Edelman launched two separate reports looking at the impact of COVID-19. Our work has importantly identified that this is now a time for government and business to team up to develop the best response to the crisis.
In doing this work our team has also developed some basic rules that all practitioners should be thinking about as they continue to drive value for their organisations on legislative issues and COVID-19 related issues.
- Navigating the “new normal”
To assess how COVID-19 impacts the political, legislative and regulatory timelines, it is key that public affairs practitioners are able to get real-time data and information to communicate internally. Our team can help monitor key developments, and track issues both online and through bilateral information exchanges.
- Innovating how you do advocacy
With so many meetings and events being cancelled, it is key to continue undertaking as much public affairs activity as possible. Therefore, some questions to ask yourself include: can I replicate or replace advocacy events through online activities? Or should I reassess the activities I had planned for the year and find creative solutions to achieve my objectives?
- Broadening advocacy online
So far, many companies have underestimated the possibility of activating online advocacy strategies. This is the time to re-think Digital Public Affairs and how to make the most out of it. We can help you think through broadening influencer engagement, setting up online conversations and creating digital policy campaigns.
- Building the case for support
Build government support for business/industry packages and make sure decision makers understand the specific challenges your industry is facing. This is vital as the world grapples with the fallout from COVID-19. Whilst these conversations are already likely to be advanced at this stage, do come speak to us if helpful to understand how and where we can add value.
If you feel we can be of support then contact us today by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally please contact my colleagues email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Edelman we have a full suite of services that can help you navigate through these challenges and ensure you are effectively communicating during these difficult times.
Global COO, Public Affairs Practice & General Manager, Brussels