People often ask what public affairs is, and for that there is not a simple, clear cut answer.
Public affairs combines government relations, media communications, issue management and strategic communication. Some of the more common forms of public affairs include policy, parliamentary relations, lobbying and political campaigns. Public affairs also includes the offices and politicians of every different city, county and state.
As an intern for the Mayor’s Office in a major suburb of Portland, I am exposed to the behind the scenes of how a city operates. My typical day includes e-mails getting me up to speed on the current events; checking the local and national news to see what is going on around me and in the world; checking the calendar to see what events are happening when and what needs to be done for each event; keeping up to date on the latest City Council events and what the City is currently working towards.
I write press releases announcing events happening in the city; research information for events the Mayor is speaking at; write media alerts; and maintain relationships with office staff, City Councilors, other businesses and agencies, and the media.
Another big part of my days is trying to figure out where social media fits in and how to carefully use it, because when it comes to government, there is a lot of risk with broadcasting anything on the Internet. At the same time, it has proven to be a great and powerful tool to get the word out about what the city is doing and interact with the community in a positive way.
One of the most important aspects of any area of PR including public relations is professionalism and relationships. In public affairs this means knowing how to communicate with City Council members and other people of importance. Relationships are the key to successful PR.
Working in public affairs prepares you for work in government and politics as well as other areas of PR. I have found that my skills from public affairs even transfer over to non-profit and agency public relations.
Ultimately, to be successful in public affairs, you need to be willing to keep up with the latest news, be able to maintain great relationships with those around you, have strong writing skills, and have a basic knowledge of political events. Whenever breaking news hits, working in a government office is always exciting and unpredictable.
Working in public affairs has been an exciting opportunity and a great learning experience.
By Shawna Haynes, PDXSX Intern