Political Climate, COVID-19 Among Biggest Challenges for Public Affairs

22 Dec, 2020

December 22, 2020

Contact: Alaina Monismith
Communications and Marketing Manager
Public Affairs Council

Political Climate, COVID-19 Among Biggest Challenges
for Public Affairs

New report benchmarks top functions across the profession

Washington, D.C. – Navigating the current political climate and adapting to a COVID-19 world are the biggest challenges for public affairs professionals, according to a new benchmarking report from the Public Affairs Council.

Published every three years, the State of Corporate Public Affairs is the most comprehensive report available on how major corporations manage, fund, staff and evaluate their public affairs departments. Key findings include:

Current political climate is a major challenge. Associations are here to help.

  • The difficulty of dealing with the current political environment was the greatest challenge faced by senior public affairs executives, with nearly 60% selecting that factor as one of their top three challenges.
  • Trade and business associations help public affairs executives meet their objectives. Almost 50% said they rely extensively on trade or business associations to advance their public policy agendas.

COVID-19 is expected to negatively impact the profession.

  • Eighty-two percent (82%) of survey respondents believe COVID-19 will have a negative impact on business travel and/or in-person meetings in the coming year.
  • More than half of respondents (54%) think it will negatively affect initiatives/actions planned before the pandemic began.
  • Thirty-seven percent (37%) say the pandemic is one of their top three challenges.

Public affairs executives are working to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

  • More than 70% of respondents use formal or informal methods and practices for diversity and inclusion when hiring.
  • Only 15% are currently developing either formal or informal practices, but have not yet implemented them.

Budgets dip while staffing remains the same.

  • Median public affairs budgets dropped or were flat over the past three years, with the median budget decreasing from $3.8 million in 2017 to $3 million in 2020.
  • Staffing levels have remained largely flat since the last survey, with 38% reporting that staffing remained about the same in the past three years.
  • Nearly half of respondents (46%) report directly to the CEO, chairperson or president.

“As a profession, public affairs is growing in importance and complexity, and we’re seeing this reflected in the data,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “More practitioners are reporting to the CEO, corporate leaders are supporting public affairs programs and increasingly we see public affairs departments involved in business strategy and stakeholder engagement.”

The full report is available for purchase here.

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies, nonprofits and universities with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at pac.org.