What is Public Affairs and How Does It Link to Our Work as Communications Professionals?


What is Public Affairs and How Does It Link to Our Work as Communications Professionals?

What is Public Affairs and How Does It Link to Our Work as Communications Professionals?

To answer questions about Vero’s new Public Affairs services, we invited Nguyen Cam Van, Vero’s Director of Public Affairs & Hanoi Office Lead, to join us in Vero Sessions #12.  

In this session, Van uncovered the finer points of Public Affairs, what Public Affairs services Vero offers, and the links between Public Affairs and communications. 

What is Public Affairs and why is it so important? 

Politics is critical to business operations, but dealing with politics and policymaking can be challenging, and sometimes overwhelming for those who have no experience in this field.   

Public Affairs can be understood as efforts by an individual or organization that wishes to track, engage, and organize their external business processes. It combines strategies from various industries, ranging from government, communication, and social responsibility.  

Public Affairs professionals aim to influence public policy, build and maintain strong relationships with legislators, as well as to engage with and monitor stakeholders.  

With constant changes in the socioeconomic landscape, Public Affairs professionals help raise a flag for businesses and organizations to adapt to such changes and come up with better risk management strategies.  

Additionally, Public Affairs also help promote the public image and market proposition of the business/ organization. 

The ‘Love is Hard, HIV Prevention is Easy’ campaign between Vero and The Lab is a successful example of how Public Affairs and Public Relations can help to make an impact on the public through an advocacy campaign. ‘Love is Hard, HIV Prevention is Easy’ was a part of Vietnam’s 2021 national public health campaign that promotes the latest HIV prevention tools. It was designed to raise awareness about HIV prevention, reduce new HIV infections, and eliminate HIV stigma in Vietnam.  

For this campaign, Vero worked with government stakeholders, such as the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC), United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and with the Partnership of Health Advancement in Vietnam (HAIVN).    

As a result, ‘Love is Hard, HIV Prevention is Easy’ turned out to be a groundbreaking public health push that won Best Health and Pharmaceutical campaign at the Marketing Interactive Awards 2022 and resulted in positively shifting views amongst the target audience as well asencouraging those affected by HIV to seek care.   

How is Public Affairs different from Public Relations and what are the links between the two? 

Public Affairs often does advocacy work and lobbying on specific policies or regulations that relate to the business or their clients. They use the media or directly provide information to the stakeholders in order to influence them. They also monitor political activities and analyze them to raise any potential concerns to the business, as well as navigate processes and stakeholders. 

Public Relations, on the other hand, mostly involves a brand or an organization’s reputation in the public sphere, through the development and communication of a brand message; the monitoring of societal changes, and the re-positioning of them accordingly. PR also involves media and public engagement, and crisis management. 

What is Public Affairs and How Does It Link to Our Work as Communications Professionals?

Although the main work between Public Affairs and Public Relations may be different, there is a common ground between the two. 

Public Affairs and Public Relations both focus on interaction and building relationships with the public and serving business goals. While Public Affairs relates to matters that affect the public directly, such as legislation or public administration, Public Relations bridges the gap between the public and an organization. 

Public Affairs and PR professionals also share some common, important traits. They both help with the process of creating, developing and executing strategies that aim for public response.  

In short, Public Affairs advocates for brands at a government or policy-level.  

Public relations advocates for a brand amongst the consumers/the general public.

What is a day like for a Public Affairs professional? 

A day in the life of a Public Affairs professional should start with government stakeholder mapping, categorizing them according to the level of required engagement. For example, some stakeholders will require engagement daily while other stakeholders only need quarterly engagement. It is important to plan out and prioritize stakeholders based on their needs.  

A Public Affairs professional should also keep an eye on all related policies and then flag any political changes, from personnel to policy, even if the change has only just been raised (but not passed) in government. Any of these changes can be a risk to the company’s operations and strategies.  

Public Affairs, along with other departments, also work on corporate social responsibility (CSR) to make sure that they deliver the right messages and enhance the company’s image without opposing any initiatives from the government. 

As a Public Affairs professional, he or she should actively participate in providing constructive comments on related draft regulations that would affect the business. This is also considered advocacy and there are many tools for that. For example, he or she could help to influence public opinion through the media, or through direct representation to stakeholders by sharing purpose and expertise to drive them in the direction the company is aiming for. 

What Public Affairs services is Vero offering? 

Vero now offers consultation on government relations, public policy advocacy, policy research, trend analysis, and political strategy in Vietnam 

Vero’s Public Affairs services can also help map stakeholders, provide engagement strategy, political intelligence, and facilitate meetings. For organizations that do not have the capacity for Public Affairs yet, Vero offers Public Affairs training and guides.   

To learn more about Vero’s Public Affairs services, click here