Public Affairs: Soap Box - Alex Deane, head of public affairs, Weber Shandwick

PR practitioners are generally excellent at forward planning and selling: consider the fact that the Olympics was solidly hyped and flogged for almost a decade before this summer.

By contrast, the public affairs arena can be inclined to more short-term thinking - the next quarter, the next review, the next conference. Learning here from our colleagues across the PR space is not just good for us; it is in the best interests of our clients, too.

The environment in which businesses operate in this country is more directly and immediately defined by political decisions than ever before. The next general election will shake that political kaleidoscope just as much as the last one, which was seismic.

In 2015, we have to decide what kind of country we want to be. In the nineties and noughties, we moved steadily towards the European social democratic model, away from the traditional, so-called Anglo-Saxon free market capitalist position.

For some time, we have been hovering somewhere in between. In 2015 we jump off the fence - but in which direction? Thinking about that question and preparing one's organisation for both the debate around it and the ultimate answer to it will be vital for businesses in the UK. It's not 'just' an economic question, either. The political parties - including those in coalition - will start defining themselves and their positions well beforehand across every issue.

It will be relevant immediately. Agencies helping clients prepare for that, offering good strategic advice and fulfilling the paramount need for preparation and forward positioning will flourish; those offering 'more of the same' will not.

So while many of us may be feeling smug as we plan 2013 activity with clients, I believe it is time to lift our horizons, learn from the corporate/consumer/digitalists around us and draw a virtual circle around May 2015 in Outlook.

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