Deverill Search asked just over a hundred Heads of Corporate Affairs and Heads of Government Affairs in nine locations across Europe to discuss perceptions around the Government Affairs discipline.  As 92% of those interviewed believe in the next five years they will be working in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, we also asked them to impart top level advice on how to survive and thrive in this field.

 Our respondents came from highly regulated sectors, such as pharma, FMCG, financial services, insurance, oil & gas, chemicals and tobacco as well as from the TMT, retail, automobile and leisure industries.

The overwhelming feeling around the industry is one of ambiguity.  One person compared working in some regulatory environments to playing a game of football with no offside rule, with high passes and dangerous tackles, with no obviously visible referee.   As companies become more global and engage with governments further away from their corporate headquarters, this comparison becomes ever more relevant.

The ambiguity continues through the terminology, as there is no real consensus among major corporations on what to call the discipline.  Descriptions for the industry include many variations, with Government Affairs or Relations; Industry Affairs; Public Affairs; Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs the most frequently used labels.

Whilst almost 50% of the discipline report to Head of Corporate Affairs, reporting lines are also disparate, with reports to CEO; Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Market Access and Head of Legal also common.

Regardless of where Government Affairs sits in the corporate structure, with the role becoming more globalised, and the rules of engagement more complex, the advice below from our respondents on how to stay ahead of the regulatory curve is increasingly expedient.

  • Ensure any argument incorporates both logic and emotion – if you lack one or the other you won’t get regulation past parliament whilst retaining your customer base.
  • Prioritise. Trench warfare over every issue simply isn’t sustainable.
  • Engage early in proactive advocacy for lighter and smarter future regulation.
  • Push for evidence-based legislation with thorough consideration of any unintended consequences, i.e. is the regulation really achieving the policy aim?
  • Mobilise your industry.  Governments regulate industries not companies.

Respondents agreed Government Affairs continues to evolve and needs to up skill. Compounded by an increasingly global environment, means practitioners have a greater responsibility than other communications professionals to better position Government Affairs as a strategic business tool.

To reiterate, 92% of respondents mentioned they will work in an increasing global regulatory environment over next five years.  Convincing the Board of the impact Government Affairs can have is imperative and will need to be supported by ever more competent Government Affairs professionals with global reach to ensure Government Affairs does indeed power growth.