Skip to main content

Putting Value Front and Center: Building on a Strong Year

Putting Value Front and Center: Building on a Strong Year

January 2024

By Roi L. Ewell,
Board Chair, Public Affairs Council

In 2023 we leaned into the value the Council is known for — and that you expect. That value promise came down to growing our executive education offerings, providing guidance to help you thrive in a business and political environment rife with risk, and bringing together (many times!) the best and brightest community of public affairs professionals.

Thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Council staff led by President Doug Pinkham, Immediate Past Chair Mary Moore Hamrick and the Board of Directors, we are well positioned to face what promises to be a turbulent election year ahead.

A Professional Development Game Changer

As members, you rely on us for strategies to build smarter campaigns, get the attention of policymakers and engage numerous stakeholders, and this is an area where the Council is the clear market leader. Our strong membership renewals and participation rates prove that investing in executive education and training to develop and retain your key team members is crucial.

Understanding that exceptional education is non-negotiable to your success, we enhanced our offerings through the Membership Plus+ program, which gives your entire organization unlimited access to our workshops.

This program has been a true game changer for members. Last year, thanks to your commitment to ensuring your team has access to premier professional development, Membership Plus+ enrollment grew by an impressive 50%. What’s more, over 25% of new members signed up for Membership Plus+ when they came on board.

These workshops, along with our free webinars, packed real nutritional value with timely topics on environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and the impacts of artificial intelligence on public affairs, as well as core programming on PAC management and political compliance; crisis communications, risk management and stakeholder mapping; and compliance and regulatory updates. The value was clear. Nearly 7,800 of you registered for these events, an increase of more than 100% in the past five years.

And more of you started or earned one of our certificates in 2023. With programs in PAC & Grassroots Management, Lobbying & Government Relations, and Public Affairs Management, these certificates are a smart gateway to professional growth.

The Best Community

Nothing compares to gathering in person. In 2022 we stepped away from our Zoom conference grids and enjoyed a long-awaited return to in-person conferences. In 2023, we took that experience to the next level, fully reconnecting the Council community of friends and peers for the idea sharing, problem solving and joy that occur when we come together.

Thanks to you, we saw growth across all our signature events and record attendance at the Digital Media & Advocacy Summit, the rebranded and reimagined Government Relations & Policy Conference, the STRIDE Social Impact Summit and our Brussels Study Tour.

When we weren’t meeting in person, you kept the dialog going through our Council Connect online platform, connecting with peers, crowdsourcing solutions and taking advantage of our vast library of articles, research, tip sheets and so much more. In 2023, more of you used Council Connect than ever before.

Networking and catching up at The Advocacy Conference

Thinking Like a Think Tank

As public affairs management becomes more complex and high-stakes, companies and associations are counting on the Council even more to provide strategic advice and valuable polling and benchmarking. When you take full advantage of your member benefits, we become your personal think tank.

Part of our long-held value promise to members is to provide expert advice that’s just a phone call or email away, a unique benefit that has always set us apart. This is a critical way that we provide thought leadership and guidance customized for you. Another way is through our extensive research, and 2023 saw publication of five important reports.

staff contact

The Council staff ready to answer your questions

We released the latest editions of our largest benchmarking studies. The corporate and association PAC Benchmarking Reports showed us the latest data on candidate support strategies, peer-to-peer solicitation, leadership involvement and the bipartisan nature of PACs. The State of Corporate Public Affairs included new insights on remote and hybrid work models, and the challenges of political polarization for public affairs teams.

The update of the popular Foundation for Public Affairs study Measuring and Communicating the Value of Public Affairs shared new guidance on demonstrating the value of public affairs work to leadership and stakeholders. And our 2023 Trends in European Public Affairs report examined the impact of geopolitics, sustainability, technology and diversity in public affairs.

Our annual Public Affairs Pulse Survey included important findings going into election season, such as data showing that just 37% of the public believe the 2024 elections will be both honest and open to all eligible voters and that 63% think disinformation will be a factor in the outcome of the elections.

We continued to build on our status as a trusted authority through strong media coverage that focused on our expertise and research findings. Axios ran an exclusive on the Pulse findings in its AM newsletter, and Council President Doug Pinkham was interviewed about the survey on Washington, D.C.’s Fox 5 On the Hill political show. Forbes cited our Pulse data on trust, and Bloomberg Government talked to us about how lobbyists are using AI and about our PAC Benchmarking data.

Council President Doug Pinkham speaking on Fox 5’s “On the Hill” about the Pulse Survey findings

In 2023 we redesigned our website to further enhance our search engine optimization (SEO) and create a more seamless and personalized experience for members and visitors. Our SEO analytics show the Public Affairs Council has a very high “authority” rating, meaning that well-respected academic and media sites (New York Times, Politico, Stanford University and the Financial Times, to name a few) have linked back to information and expertise on our site.

Advancing Social Impact

In 2023 we also continued our important social impact work. In April, the Foundation for Public Affairs announced the inaugural class of Hogans Fellows. This program supports emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop the skills needed to excel in the profession.

The 12 Fellows have participated in small group mentorship sessions with seasoned professionals as well as exclusive professional development and educational offerings. They are an exceptional group who give back as much as or more than they receive and have been an inspiration to us all. We look forward to honoring them at the Spring Executive Conference this April in Washington.

Many of this year’s Fellows attended our signature events, including the STRIDE Social Impact Summit in December in Washington. It was our largest gathering since we launched the summit three years ago. Sessions focused on working with a diverse Congress, ESG in the states and managing reputational risk.

The inaugural class of Hogans Fellows

Ready for 2024!

How will we continue to provide exceptional value in the year ahead? By being nimble and meeting the varied and often changing needs of each of you. That means preparing you for rising political risk at a time when polarization is increasing and discourse is not always cordial. It means giving you the tools to plan your campaigns and programs with insights to course-correct as needed. And it means providing you with the intelligence and research to spot and respond to trends.

We can do all this and do it even better! One of my priorities is to promote and leverage a broader definition of public affairs to help you respond to reputational risk and navigate the challenges of political and social unrest. Expanding our reach and community benefits all of us.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s ahead:

  • Developing more programming for senior executives, another of my priorities. After the debut of a successful Masterclass with Christopher Graves this past fall, we’re developing a full series and recruiting prominent speakers.
  • Delivering nearly 100 webinars, workshops and large conferences with new topics on investor relations, employee resource groups and issue advocacy, congressional investigations, election year PAC prep, communicating to Gen Z stakeholders, strategic planning, and corporate responsibility.
  • Honoring our inaugural Hogans Fellows and welcoming the next class.
  • Producing new research on trends in political involvement strategies and a study that looks at the training and knowledge needed for today’s public affairs professional.
  • Leveraging the expertise of board members through regional speeches and presentations to business schools and other organizations.
  • Expanding partnerships and collaborations with industry-related and professional development organizations.

A Remarkable Career

There’s one more reason 2024 will be a year to remember. Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham will be retiring at the end of December after nearly 28 years of extraordinary leadership. Doug came to the Council in 1997 and has been just the third president to lead the association since it was formed in 1954.

Doug oversaw significant growth in member education and engagement, increasing event participation by 650% during his tenure. He took our thought leadership standing to the next level by expanding the research arm of the Council, producing industry-leading benchmarking surveys along with research that looked at the issues of the day, whether that was the impact of the internet on policymaking in a groundbreaking study in 1999 or more recent studies focused on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on government affairs, business responses to the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and corporate involvement in social issues. In 2011, Doug developed the landmark Public Affairs Pulse Survey, an annual poll measuring public opinion on issues intersecting business and government.

Doug expanded the Council when he opened its Brussels office in 2015, and he made sure that in both Washington, D.C., and Brussels there was always a talented team of public affairs experts on staff to provide one-on-one guidance to members. He also significantly increased the Council’s authority and brand awareness through expanded media outreach and coverage of our research, programming and expertise. Please join me in wishing him a wonderful year ahead.

The Board of Directors is committed to ensuring a seamless leadership transition. A committee to search for the new president has been appointed, and we will keep you informed throughout the process.

Thank you for your support and for being an active member of this wonderful community.

Council President Doug Pinkham announced he will retire at the end of 2024

Featured Event

The leading annual event for digital comms and advocacy professionals. Hear new strategies, and case studies for energizing grassroots and policy campaigns.

Washington, D.C. | June 10, 2024