Stuart Thomson, Head of Public Affairs at BDB Pitmans in London, wrote on LinkedIn about the value of dispassionate public affairs counsel in times of political change. In his article, entitled How to challenge your political bias, Thomson makes the case for public affairs advisors to continue to strive to remain as neutral as possible to remain the best advisors they can be. Particularly, he notes, in times “when party politics looks like becoming more complicated and fractured…”
As Thomson explained in his article: “A key skill in public affairs is being able to understand and work with audiences from a range of political perspectives. [And] to deliver the best advice to address the challenge faced, you need to leave preconceived ideas at the door.” [emphasis added]
For this he recommends wider reading, listening to a diversity of public affairs-focused podcasts, working with colleagues from all sides of the political debate, and networking widely. “You have to know and understand the key audiences and be able to communicate with them through the right channels and in the right way”, Thomson explains. “If your own bias gets in the way of that then you have problems. Many issues need to work across parties. That requires a breadth of understanding and the ability to flex. Come at an issue from a particular perspective and that becomes much more difficult to achieve.”
I agree with Thomson. And I believe he’s highlighted here the unique value public affairs advisors bring to their clients. When politics is as polarized as it is today — not only in Westminster but also in Washington and elsewhere – a wise guide is invaluable to clients. Whether those clients be corporates or associations or even sovereign governments – the well being of their key stakeholders can be significantly impacted by the decisions of governments. Hence, the need for public affairs advisors to be as astute and dispassionate as possible. And these attributes at this time are something public affairs advisors shouldn’t be reticent about highlighting when it comes to articulating their value, either.
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