Global boom in public affairs matched by regulatory clampdown

Growth in the global public affairs market is set to be matched by an increase in regulation, according to an Interel survey.

Regulation: A lobbying bill was recently passed in the UK
Regulation: A lobbying bill was recently passed in the UK

In the survey of 29 agencies across the globe, 86 per cent of respondents pointed to growth in their local market, with nearly half – 45 per cent – stating that their work was unregulated.

Meanwhile, 33 per cent said their market was self-regulated, with 22 per cent saying they were formally regulated through legislation.

However, it seems the trend is towards more oversight. Nearly nine in ten said regulation had increased in the past five years, while 50 per cent expected its growth to be a main driver of change for the industry. 

The findings come as the UK industry awaits the roll-out of the controversial statutory register of lobbyists, though some PR practitioners argue this will fail to regulate the market more efficiently. 

A clear majority of nearly 83 per cent told the survey they were not required to declare their clients on a public register, compared with 17 per cent who said they were obliged to do so.

Among those who were not obliged to declare clients, almost 92 per cent of respondents said they did not declare them voluntarily, while eight per cent said they did, and 63 per cent of respondents said government policy was making it more difficult to do business.

Iain Anderson, chair of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, pointed to a high level of transparency in the UK, with eight in ten UK consultancies registered to its association and declaring their clients on the APPC register.

Stating that the UK was "significantly ahead of the curve on this issue", he nonetheless acknowledged that "there is a long way to go to encourage transparency" in some other countries. 

But Interel’s group practice director, Lindsay Paterson, countered: "What we don’t know is whether those who did not declare clients voluntarily had the facility to do so."

Looking at growth more closely, 69 per cent of respondents said in-house public affairs teams in major companies were growing, while 31 per cent said they had remained static.

Nearly 69 per cent of those surveyed expected in-house public affairs work to increase over the next five years, while only three per cent thought it would decrease.

Seventy per cent of professionals in the industry expected public affairs budgets to increase over the coming year, while 11 per cent said they would remain the same.

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