Public affairs gets ‘reinvented’

The European Centre for Public Affairs (ECPA) sixth annual conference, ‘Reinventing Public Affairs’, took place in Brussels on 8 March 2007, bringing together top-level thinkers from the field.

ECPA‘s annual conference, “is designed as a space in which the public affairs function can examine its own health and effectiveness”. EURACTIV was one of the media partners.

A CommunicateResearch LTD survey formed the backdrop to the day’s discussions. 

Overall, the poll found that the sector felt more mature, confident and robust, with budgets appearing favourable, despite the continuing failure of many to measure progress. There was also a greater comfort expressed concerning use of relevant public-affairs media, with an increase in respondents indicating that they had used modern tools such as blogs, wikipedia etc in their work, or at least signalled their intention to do so in the next 12 months. The future looks sustainable and media-driven, by all accounts: Media representatives are apparently now trusted more than lawyers, according to the questionnaire, a finding that numerous conference attendees found surprising.

There was a session on public affairs in multicultural companies, with representatives of Toyota (Stephen Stacey) and Arcelor Mittal (Roland Verstappen), corporations that rely more on relationship-building than anglo-saxon grouping.

And the final session gathered input on key events and public-affairs scenarios for the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, with participants acknowledging that PA professionals need to enagage their clients and organisations into assessing and anticipating possible case-scenarios. While there may be a risk of a worsening EU mood on the external relations front, there are also several potential upsides, such as climate change becoming a truly global priority and EU institutions benefiting from step-by-step reforms.

ECPA Executive Director Tom Spencer said: “This year’s conference was a fine example of a collective effort to think about the future of the public affairs function.”

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