Many global companies are flying blind when it comes to managing their in-country public affairs activities. According to the Washington-based Public Affairs Council, most country managers who are business heads in a particular host country, lack consistent public affairs training. Yet they are often responsible for the public affairs function.

Country managers need to be trained on how to engage political leaders and confront public policy challenges. Yet, fewer than 20% of companies provide regular (at least annual) training on company or industry-specific business issues. Only 18% of the companies provide skill training in advocacy. Only 14% of companies provide education programmes on the inner workings of government and national decision-making processes and only 10% of companies do teach coalition building skills.

This lack of training is puzzling because when asked to identify key political challenges in the international markets where they operate, companies indicate that managing legislative and regulatory processes in host countries is the most difficult. If that's the case, then it would stand to reason that firms would want to ensure the people charged with managing public affairs activities had the necessary political knowledge and tools to do their jobs.

It is very likely that if a similar survey was undertaken among European companies the results would be the same. Yet preparing country managers well has become critical because of the growing global cynicism about the role of corporations in society. Therefore the public affairs function is becoming more important than ever and according to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, the majority of companies (two-thirds) believe government's role in their industry will increase in the next three to five years.

When one considers the cost of a negative public policy outcome, a missed opportunity to open a new market, and most of all the damage caused by major ethics scandals, it's short-sighted not to equip executives with the information they need to be effective.

AALEP is intent on bringing awareness on this most important issue and contribute to the training requirements of EU global companies. 

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