New public affairs agenda prompts PAC's new panel

WASHINGTON: While public affairs practices and corporations are

scrambling to keep pace with changing legislative priorities, PRWeek has

learned that the Public Affairs Council (PAC) is creating an

international panel comprised of senior PA execs from multinational


"There is going to be an even greater focus, especially among

multinationals, on building stakeholder relationships, and how you

operate effectively in countries where you do business," said Doug

Pinkham, president of the PAC. The council will help members to "audit

how we are doing, asking if we are exacerbating the problems in the

nation's reputation."

The move comes in the light of a vastly changed public affairs

environment since September 11. "What we are finding is that a lot of

legislative and public policy agendas that were in place before

September 11 have been radically changed," said Richard Mintz, chairman

of Burson-Marsteller's public affairs practice.

"A litany of issues has been put on the back burner for a whole new set

of issues."

Legislative attention to issues like energy, telecom, and healthcare

policies have taken an indefinite back seat. As a result, corporations

and trade associations are focusing public affairs attention on broad

issues like the economy, international affairs, and security.

Bob Sommer, EVP of The MWW Group, said he is aggressively meeting with

legislators to discuss how his clients can help tackle areas like

homeland defense and international security. "What's different is

people's approach to the issues," he said. "There has to be a credible

case for how they can help in those categories."

Earlier this month, President Bush met with CEOs from a range of

industries - including AT&T's C. Michael Armstrong and Ken Chenault of

American Express - in New York to discuss the sagging economy.

As part of a highly regulated industry, AT&T already has significant

relationships with government officials. But the focus of AT&T's

in-house team has shifted away from lobbying and educating legislators.

"The issues are not as focused on the particular industry you are in,"

said Claudia Jones, an AT&T spokeswoman in Washington.

Among other operations adjusting their focus, the National Grocers

Association has been holding meetings with the Food and Drug

Administration to tackle questions regarding the safety of imported food

and country-of-origin labeling.

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