Brussels, 15 July 2021 – The European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA), the representative trade body for public affairs consultancies working with EU institutions, publishes research report into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Brussels public affairs sector.

“EPACA is delighted to announce this research report, which we hope will help shed light on the evolving needs and trends of the public affairs sector. At the crossroads between businesses and policy makers, EPACA is in a unique position to gather and share the views of its members, as well as the challenges facing the sector,” said Isabelle De Vinck, Chairperson of EPACA.

With the aim of gathering multi-faceted insights into the effects of pandemic on the sector, the study examined four main areas: the impact on engagement and political stakeholders, the organisation and attendance of events, economic impacts, and effect on employees. The research report outlines the results of a study launched among EPACA’s members, and reflect 37,5% of EPACA’s membership.

Oliver Drewes, Senior Executive Director, Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick and member of the EPACA Management Committee, said “Public affairs has a long tradition and pattern of work, which has been shaken up over the past year, requiring a level of adaptability that is seldom seen in the sector. This could open interesting perspectives in the long run: will there be faster and more diverse digital engagement, will access to policy makers become simpler, will EU public affairs become more open to engagement across borders? As an industry we have an important role to play in ensuring that the best elements of digital lobbying are kept and improved, whilst embracing that which only in-person interactions can offer.”

Kerstin Duhme, Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting and member of the EPACA Management Committee, said “The effects of this extended pandemic and lockdown will undoubtedly continue well past any ‘recovery’. What is difficult to measure in surveys and analytics is the impact on people, on motivation and satisfaction; EPACA’s survey has shed interesting light on just this, highlighting the need to support those we work with, not just as colleagues but as people. The trend towards flexible work location and hours is likely to continue, and businesses across sectors should lean into this new trend and harness the potentials it brings.”

EPACA is the representative body of 40 public affairs consultancies with offices in Brussels, and has worked over the past 15 years to advocate for positive engagement and ethical lobbying within the public affairs sector of Brussels. Aiming to foster an environment where the role of public affairs consultancies is valued, trusted, and held accountable, EPACA provides members with a Code Of Conduct, an online e-tool, training programs and events, and contributes to relevant policy files. The survey is the latest of EPACA’s initiatives to support members and the sector as a whole.

“As an association, EPACA strives to give members and stakeholders the relevant tools to ensure that public affairs activities are conducted ethically and transparently. Part of that is also linked to being able to provide a broad view of our membership, so that members can learn from and exchange with each other. In this anonymised research, we see that many realities and views are shared across respondents. It is the strength of an association that we can gather this kind of information, and use it to help support our members and drive our association’s work,” concluded De Vinck.