How would you describe the perfect competencies for a Public Affairs professional in your organization? For many this is a difficult question, as Public Affairs can comprise a broad range of tasks - each defined by the individual organisation. But through more than 500 conversations with Public Affairs and Government Relations professionals Ulobby CEO Anders Kopp Jensen has identified the 5 core skills most sought after in a PA professional. Presented here in an abstract from his book The Public Affairs Engine:
A PA professional must be able to network and engage with stakeholders. This does not mean you have to be an extreme extrovert to be successful, but you have to be able to round up support for your cause. Many falsely equate this with hiring people with a large network (like, for instance, a former politician), but this can come at a large expense on other competences.
A PA professional needs to be able to keep an overview of all the elements relevant now and later for the political issue, which means an analytical mindset is a given. This also includes the need for a general level of understanding of economics and legislation. Superficial and “cowboy” sales methods rarely work in PA.
Being able to present and explain your case is also very important and goes hand in hand with networking skills. To communicate entails many things, and doesn’t just mean the ability to sell sand in the Sahara, but also writing skills, observational skills and – perhaps most important – the ability to listen!
Something often mentioned among both CEOs as well as politicians in describing an important skill for a PA professional is simply not to be a jerk. You may be able to fool a politician once, but not twice! Your reputation precedes you and if you get a reputation as a jerk who simply cannot be trusted, you will have a hard time regaining what is lost. For many professions it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be a jerk, but as a PA professional it is not something to downplay – and this is not only externally, as it’s important as you don’t want to get the reputation internally that people working in the PA team are jerks – you rely on their help and teamwork. So simply put: Don’t be a jerk!
Is another critical skill set and perhaps also why the reputation of PA as a business enabler has been unclear or maybe even questionable. Strategic acumen is not only about reading the political agenda, but also about thinking in a more holistic way about the business. To look up above your nose tip, department and responsibilities and prove that PA is more than just the old 1:1 meeting with a politician, but has much more to offer!
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