Today’s Rules of Engagement in the Public Affairs Debate Preparation Means Survival
Speaking to the industry at PMCQ’s February 27th meeting, Doug Grant, VP, Public Policy and Communications, Bayer Healthcare presented cogent arguments for preparedness in the public affairs arena. Mr. Grant feels that the industry needs to re-examine its approach to public affairs, suggesting that we are not keeping pace with changing attitudes on the part of governments and the population in general.
The microscope that health policy and our industry finds itself under today and the fact that businesses are expected to incorporate the values of society into their operations makes it imperative that we are ready for any public debate.
By recognizing the cycles – starting with changing public expectations to the politicization of issues – that may include legislation and possibly litigation
By taking responsibility for becoming involved in public issues and developing strategies to act and respond efficiently. “You can’t manage a situation, but you can manage your company’s response to it” says Grant.
By preparing for a possible crisis, which means assuring consistency in every message you put forward, preparing your team, and having a crisis messaging formula that is straight forward and transparent.
Mr. Grant cited Bayer’s own experience with Cipro and the anthrax threat following the events of September 11, 2001. Bayer wasn’t sufficiently involved in public affairs work related to bio-terrorism. They were not fully aware of the public mood, or the Liberal government’s agenda.
The result: a serious threat of loss of their patent, and increased public scrutiny of their day-to-day operations. Bayer was successful in handling the situation by relying on long-established principles and maintaining a consistent message throughout the situation… responding rapidly, engaging their customers in dialogue, communicating openly with the media, and resolving the core issue to the satisfaction of those concerned. The importance of public affairs in today’s marketplace is such that companies who don’t have the manpower internally to ensure that their positions are presented effectively should consider using outside public affairs companies to help them access the media.
Marketing departments and public affairs activities must work together to insure that a consistent face is presented to the public. When internal affairs become public, it is essential that everyone is on the same page – and preparation, consistency and flexibility are key to winning the debate.
By Patricia Brown of MANX Communications.