Celebrating one year of the PRCA Public Affairs Board

Today marks one year since the PRCA Public Affairs Board was established, we represent the unified voice of the public affairs and lobbying industry. The scrutiny on the industry has never been greater and it is our responsibility to uphold ethical standards. It is also our role to promote a better understanding of the industry and demystify the myths around lobbying.

We represent a considerable majority of the industry: 124 organisations, 2000 practitioners, and 3000 clients. We represent a vibrant and growing industry full of talented and creative individuals. We should be proud of our contribution to public life and better policy making.

In June this year we elected a new unified Executive Committee. There are more women on the PRCA Public Affairs Board Executive Committee than in previous committees. The Committee identified four issues that it will prioritise for its term: diversity and inclusion, training, improved lobbying regulation, and advocating for the value of public affairs.

The Committee realised the need for improved data on the industry in order to understand the challenges it faces. This is precisely why we launched the first-ever PRCA Public Affairs Census at the first annual Public Affairs Conference, which provides us with a better understanding of those working in the industry. The Census revealed that the industry is overwhelmingly London-centric, male-dominated, and young. Ethnically, we are predominantly White British and only 10% of public affairs practitioners are from a BAME background. When it comes to educational backgrounds, 21% attended a fee-paying school, 14% higher than the national average. Mental health continues to be a concern as 21% of professionals suffer from mental ill health. Finally, the gender pay gap is 7%.

The lack of diversity and equality in the industry is concerning, the industry needs to respond to these issues as the business and moral case for diversity and inclusion cannot be ignored anymore.

We have delivered on our commitment to increase the number of face-to-face training sessions on the Public Affairs Code, running quarterly training sessions in London and yearly sessions in each of the nations. Members must understand and adhere to the Code which is why we will continue to deliver these training sessions.

On lobbying regulation, there is a general consensus that the existing statutory framework and the Register of Consultant Lobbyists is not fit for purpose. The Committee is developing ideas on a future lobbying framework to ensure it delivers greater transparency. We will also continue to engage with the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyist. We will voice our members’ concerns and ensure that they are compliant. We responded to ORCL’s consultations on Codes of Conduct and registerable communications. Our proposals would increase transparency and public confidence in the industry.

Finally, we cannot make the industry a better place if we do not collaborate with industry bodies in other countries. We decided to join Public Affairs Community of Europe (P.A.C.E.) as members in order to learn from other national organisations and share best practice.

Our work is not done. The PRCA Public Affairs Board has achieved a lot over the past year, there is a lot to celebrate but there is a lot more we can and will do. Rest assured that we will uphold ethical public affairs standards, build a more powerful voice for public affairs, and to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Emma Petela MPRCA and George McGregor MPRCA, Public Affairs Board Co-Chairs