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Research Insight

Navigating the ‘New Normal’ of Multi-market Issue Management and Public Affairs

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For many years, the stereotype of the public affairs industry has been that it – by definition – is contact-based. The assumption has been that the policies can be changed simply by ‘knowing people,’ and policy-related problems can be ‘fixed’ through a simple phone call or behind the scenes meeting.  The logic has followed that, through these bilateral relationships, laws can be changed and a government’s approach can be shifted – even on significant issues or within multilateral institutions.

This stereotype and set of assumptions is not surprising given the history of our discipline. Public affairs started decades ago – before the internet, the emphasis on transparency, the growth in science to underpin policy making – and perhaps most importantly before the astronomical rise of stakeholder groups demanding a voice in government decision-making upstream.  The variance between the operating environment thirty years ago, and today just couldn’t be more different.

Today, at its best, public affairs delivers an integrated, and complex understanding of issues that impact society through multi-stakeholder conversations. Modern public affairs is a hybrid between ongoing reputation-centric engagement with a variety of stakeholders based on mutual interest, and specific interventions on active policy dossiers that have the potential to impact a company’s freedom to operate.  Policy is not made in a vacuum, it is made by a complex ecosystem of stakeholders with very different interests – parliamentarians, government officials and policy-makers, influencers, the media, NGOs, academics and scientists, industry organisations, and others.

In the history of public affairs as an industry, there has never been a consistent way to analyse a market’s public affairs environment, which has resulted in an uneven, inconsistent understanding across markets that is entirely dependent on experience and knowledge on the ground only. Edelman has challenged the status quo by creating Edelman Edge.

Why have we created the Edge? At Edelman, we know that the mechanics of social forces affecting public affairs have changed so significantly, that local public affairs environments can no longer be understood simply through even the most experienced individual’s experience or contacts.  There are many environmental forces at play – political, economic, social and cultural – that affect how public affairs is conducted locally, but also how individual market approaches can be laddered up to form a global strategy. The key to doing international public affairs well is to be able to profile the public affairs environment in a market, so that the key drivers of the environment are understood.  These include a deeper understanding of relationship building and cultural norms, the power dynamics in a society, the strength of individualism, the credibility of different stakeholder groups, and how issues are perceived through a local prism.  These are the critical factors that determine best practice in local public affairs and issue management, and underpin effective campaigning.

The Edge was created to provide a completely unique prism through which to understand the public affairs environment around the world.  The Edge provides unprecedented analysis of the diverse factors that impact the ability to do public affairs in a market.  Edelman Edge allows us to form a picture of the landscape of national public affairs environments and the factors that determine successful campaigning.  Edge analysis is consistent across all markets, science-driven and integrates both the mechanics of culture and the structural forces that shape policy-making.

Analysing 25 different drivers and over 130 sources, Edelman Edge provides a roadmap for senior public affairs practitioners who need to understand the diverse, multi-market/multi-regional landscape that they manage. Edelman Edge helps practitioners to understand not only the key public affairs attributes of each market, but also provides an explanation of WHY the market’s public affairs environment is the way it is.

For more information, please visit edge.edelman.com.

Stephanie Lvovich, Global Chair, Public Affairs Practice.

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