Public Affairs: Soap Box - James Frayne, associate partner, Portland

The public affairs world in the UK has always borrowed heavily from politics for its approach to communications, not least in polling, messaging and marketing.

But one area where we will look in vain for inspiration is scenario planning and strategy development.

For this, we need to look to the world of foreign and security policy. I recently travelled to Washington to take part in a 'war game' looking at challenges facing the UK and US in a particularly turbulent part of the world. The session gathered together experts in foreign policy, security and politics to play out various potential events. I was struck by the ability of these sessions to produce clear strategic recommendations.

There is no set format for war gaming sessions; they are constructed purely to fit the circumstances of the problem being discussed. But the focal point is structured role-playing, with different experts representing the views and likely actions of the key players as various events are discussed.

- This is a model that could and should be applied in public affairs. We regularly get asked by clients to create campaigns to deal with complex, fast-changing problems, which often have multiple players. These sessions do not predict the future but they give us an edge in creating effective strategy, which is half the battle.

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