Public Affairs in Brazil: It Is Necessary to Diversify

Moments of crisis, transition and uncertainty are fertile ground for creativity and good ideas. This is also the case for Public Affairs professionals in Brazil. The current turbulent political scene will bring changes in the political institutions and policy priorities of the country, as well as in strategic government offices. All of the above reaffirms the imperative need to change the future of the practice of public affairs. In other words, the practice of public affairs needs to diversify the scope of the campaigns and services offered to our clients.

The constant movement of people and ideas facilitated democratic institutions gives way to a permanent rotation in the roles that stakeholders hold in society. Communities, third sector organizations, professional associations, trade unions, universities and its professors, opinion leaders, media, public authorities, investors and shareholders are permanently shifting roles in the policy-making process. In this context, the proposed marketing communications that Edelman develops for its clients has special value for the universe of Public Affairs, especially in the situation that Brazil is experiencing nowadays.

It is necessary to navigate this complexity. Thus, public affair’s professionals must explore the different variables present in their countries to diversify strategies, bringing variety and balance to the recommendations given to their clients. The goal is to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities of campaigns.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, annual survey conducted by the agency, regarding the issue of how credible is a Spokesperson, despite the increase in trust in CEOs and board members - both trusted by 52 percent of the respondents in 2015, and now at 66 percent and 63 percent, respectively, the public trust more in those considered as someone like you. In other words, ordinary citizens are increasing their importance when it comes to influence. The ratio of respondents who prefer someone like them as a source of information, which was 78 percent in 2015, rose to 82 percent this year. Hence, to diversify channels of engagement has become a necessity and this realization has shaped the new style of Public Affairs "made in Brazil".

The country lives a period of democratic transition in which the environments where relationships are built are strongly influenced by a growing range of information channels and interest groups. This occurs especially due to the popularization of the internet and, therefore, social networks. These channels opened the doors to the creativity and agility of campaigns, as well as for the mobilization for issues of public interest. However, it is also correct to say that, most likely because the Brazilian democracy’s young age, this environment still presents some remnants of a past based on centralized power, in which interpersonal relations and the need to have a connection with the stake-holder to be engaged still carry some weight.

Yet in this effervescent moment of the Brazilian political-institutional context, it is possible to see how institutions are changing their ways to connect with stakeholders, in a search for self-knowledge. The more independent stand adopted by legislative branch, the growing influence of the judiciary in ensuring the implementation of public policies and the new style of actions adopted by the Prosecutor’s Office, faster and less procedural, are examples of this.

In this context of transformations, surrounded by a growing coverage of stakeholders’ actions and platforms of engagement, relationship management will become more professional, in detriment of personalized management. This will mark the difference between brands. The challenge of companies and organizations, in general, will be to anticipate to this latent trend and to integrate these changes in their engagement platforms. As for the practice of Public Affairs, the challenge is to combine the profiles of different professionals, in order to build a unit able to successfully navigate the extensive network of Public and Institutional Relations, as well as in Government Relations. The final objective is to better assist different types of clients in the construction and management of their relationships.

Filipe Duarte, Gisela Martinez, André Machado and Jakeline Pablos, Public Affairs practice, Edelman Signifca.