Five ways public affairs is adapting to a COVID-19 world

Public affairs has always reacted immediately to the situations around it and, in doing so, is one of the fastest-moving communications specialisms. COVID-19 demonstrates this.

Reputations will be made and broken, warns Nick Williams
Reputations will be made and broken, warns Nick Williams

1. Keeping the country running

Key worker status, the continuation of essential supplies, and financial support for companies have been some of the most immediate PA activities. PA has been at the heart of some of the most important issues of the day. Whereas companies sometimes had to develop campaigns over months to achieve decisions, these approaches have now had to take place overnight. Thankfully the Government has been in full listening mode with lives at stake.

2. State involvement is back

The Government was forced to change its entire economic policy and philosophy to protect British people, economy and jobs, with long-term implications. To get anything done – now, and in the future – will require government engagement. Enhanced state involvement is here to stay.

3. Reputations will be made and broken

Companies need to be aware that how they act throughout the crisis could potentially have long-standing impacts on how they are perceived and on their future reputations, both with government and wider opinion. Major government inquiries and select committee sessions will scrutinise everything and everyone after this is over.

4. Future opportunities

Moving forward, there is likely to be lots of opportunity for our clients to shape the regulatory environment in their favour as the Government seeks to kick-start the economy and encourage businesses to flourish in a post-coronavirus world.

5. Influence is not just through meetings

Under today’s environment politicians still recognise the importance of the role they play in this new coronavirus world, and the number of MPs who are willing to engage on video has been refreshing. This may well have a long-term impact on future engagement.

Nick Williams is managing director of issues and public affairs at BCW

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