Insights into the public affairs arena

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Last March 14th, a new Regional Event of the European Association of Communications Directors (EACD, @eacdonline) took place in Madrid. The subject to debate was lobbying and public affairs and how communication professionals participate in these processes. The Spanish members of the EACD and APRI (@Lobby_ES, Asociación de Profesionales de las Relaciones Institucionales) analyzed the importance of societal and political developments in communications and what it means to communicate with political organizations, public administrations, trade associations, or any other relevant stakeholder either to pursue a business or regulatory objective.

Through the session, it was clear how public affairs work combines a diverse range of areas such as government relations, issues management, strategic communications advice and CSR to promote and protect an organization’s interests effectively.

Our speakers illustrated how public affairs serves as an important societal function by putting forward the views of stakeholders to policy makers and ultimately contributing to the change of legislation.

Maria Rosa Rotondo @mrrotondo, Managing Partner at Political Intelligence and founding member and President of (APRI), described the origins of lobbying in the US and the UK, as well as its current situation in Europe and Spain. This topic is of extraordinary relevance at this time in Spain, since several political parties have presented initiatives in the Spanish Congress to regulate the activities of lobbyists. For example, a few weeks ago, a draft law against corruption was submitted by Spanish liberal party Ciudadanos that would make possible the creation of an official registry for those who want to lobby the Spanish government. If approved, Spain would become the first European country to have a register that covers meetings with any public official, not just politicians, as has observed Brussels-based magazine Politico. And the very same March 14th, the Spanish Congress approved to debate a proposal of the Popular Party –in Government—which intends to regulate and disclose the meetings with parliament representatives.

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Pedro Fernández @Pedro_Fdez_M, Director Legal & External Affairs at British American Tobacco (BAT) shared his advocacy experience during the lobbying process around the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive. Much of the effort was done through a coalition named Spanish Tobacco Round Table, a working group that included companies and associations involved in the tobacco value chain. Created in 2011, its goal is to defend the industry’s interest in front of Spanish and European institutions and communications is present both at strategic and tactical level.

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Finally, Teresa Millan @teresamillanr, Corporate Affairs Director, Lilly Spain and Portugal, analyzed the peculiarities of the pharma and health industries, a complex market where a proper approach to regulators and the right communication strategy plays a key role, since European, national, and regional governments regulate their activities. Given Millán’s wide experience in the area, including being a member of the Board of the Spanish Medicines Agency and advisor in the Office of the Spanish Prime Minister, Lilly’s case study was of great interest to all EACD members.

As EACD Regional Coordinator in Spain, I had the pleasure to open the event, which was organized in cooperation with the Spanish Public Affairs Professionals Association (APRI) at Deloitte’s offices in Madrid.

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