What is Public Affairs?

by | Dec 23, 2019 | Insights

Public affairs is a field that mediates between citizens, governments, and organizations.


It is about facilitating relationships, opening channels of communication, and helping to form public policy in accordance with public opinion. It is a rapidly growing field that benefits a number of causes, industries, and organizations.


Who is involved with public affairs?

Typically, it is larger organizations which are involved in public affairs, but among these organizations, there is a lot of variation. Organizations centered around social and political causes are the most likely to require knowledge of public affairs. Charities, trade unions, and interest groups are just a few examples of organizations that can benefit from the relationships that public affairs work seeks to cultivate.


Examples of public affairs work

A public affairs campaign will usually have the goal of influencing public opinion or policy regarding a certain issue, and may involve activities such as lobbying, consulting, or advocacy. Depending on the goal of the campaign, public affairs work may directly engage with the general public, as in grassroots advocacy.

The following are all examples of public affairs campaigns with different strategies:



  • A nonprofit organization dedicated to cancer awareness distributes information about the dangers of smoking.
  • An environmental advocacy group persuades legislators to reject a bill that it believes will lead to environmental harm, and encourages voters to speak out against the bill.
  • A pharmaceutical company issues a statement addressing safety concerns about a particular drug or device.


Who is involved with public affairs?

Public affairs is not marketing, although the two fields may intersect at times. Public affairs does not seek to persuade the public to buy a certain product or service on behalf of a company. Public affairs professionals may at times use the same strategies as advertising firms, like renting a billboard or other advertising space, but public affairs work is not commercial in nature.

Public affairs is not exactly the same as public relations, although the two fields overlap significantly. Some organizations will use the terms interchangeably, or they may consider one field to be a part of the other.

Public affairs, public relations, and marketing do share one thing in common: they both influence public opinion and are influenced by it. As such, professionals in one field will benefit from knowledge of the others.

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