Digitalisation, globalisation and credibility are shaping the work of interest representation. It has become more and more apparent that the term “public affairs” is very unspecific, misleading, and partly useless for the global discussion. In addition to the traditional term “lobbying”, the term “global governmental relations” is increasingly used to describe the work of interest representation in an international context, but also in Europe and Germany. Increasing complexity, internationalisation as well as the acceleration of information flows and decision-making require new methods of analysis, dialogue formats, refined instruments and strategy offers as well as resilient networks from political consultants. In addition, in many democratic systems we are experiencing an increasing loss of trust in politics and its decision-making processes. It is also in the responsibility of interest representation to counter this development.
Against this background, we can identify four current trends in the discussion on “Global Governmental Relations”:
Orientation towards the common good
The concept of the common good has always been at the centre of political discourse. The definition of the common good, however, is subject to permanent discussion among a wide range of political actors in a democratic system based on the rule of law. While some consider the state as the guarantor of social services of general interest, others would prefer to hear as little as possible from it. Today, every actor engaging in the representation of interests must participate in this discussion of the common good to justify its position in the political arena. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a company, a business association or an NGO. Against this background, companies and business associations in particular are increasingly failing in the political consensus process due to their often predominant orientation towards particular interests. It is therefore crucial for them to master this difficult balancing act between the common good and particular interests in order to be able to successful position their issues in the political arena.
Globalisation requires stakeholders to not only look to Brussels, but to the entire world. Not only companies but also NGOs are internationalising their activities at a rapid pace with their headquarters observing and keeping an eye on significant political developments all over the world. Looking ahead, different political logics and narratives have to be understood and integrated into the daily governmental relations work. Public affairs must therefore develop new instruments of strategic navigation for organisations to meet this international claim of interest representation. This also means that strategic consulting is becoming increasingly important compared to the common “contact work”.
The global governance of governmental relations activities is an organisational challenge between globally centralised and nationally decentralised political action. Especially the “control” of conduct and the positioning on specific topics in the socio-political space is subject to a worldwide standardisation process in many organisations. This compliance process has meanwhile gained immense influence on the GR activities of the organisations themselves: Every agenda, every statement is subject to compliance control. The subsequent slowing down and juridification of the process of interest representation has a major impact on the success of any organisation’s political work. Strategic collaboration between compliance and governmental relations experts within an organisation, often supported by external advice, thus becomes a key success factor.
IT and Artificial Intelligence
Reducing the complexity of political processes requires the use of IT and AI. The use of technologies for routine work is already changing the job profile of a political consultant. If we succeed in integrating AI with learning systems in the foreseeable future, this will bring in a great support potential for governmental relations, as there will be more time for crucial strategic tasks in the globalised context. Of course, despite all the technical possibilities, we must still be aware of the humanity of politics, since in the end the core of politics are questions of power and decision-making. Therefore, the practice of the governmental relations of tomorrow will always depend on people.
A shortened German version of this article appeared in the September 2018 issue of the magazine Politik & Kommunikation.