Public Affairs pros should plan for shift in public debate from covid management to stimulus: CIPP's K Yatish Rajawat at PRmoment Weber Shandwick Chai Talk

In June 2021, PRmoment India and Weber Shandwick India, kicked off Chai Talk in its first online avatar.The central theme was : 'Evolving Role of Public Affairs in Shaping Boardroom Strategies'.

The concluding session under the main theme was an in-depth conversation K Yatish Rajawat, CEO, Centre for Innovation in Public Policy, former CEO, Centre for Civil Society and former Editor-in-Chief, DNA India on changing landscape of policy-making, in wake of the second COVID wave.

Shrinking space for 'Policy Making'

In his opening remarks, Yatish Rajawat stated that if you hear the debate on Covid, words such as 'war like situation ' have become common as it is an unprecedented situation. In a war the whole country is preoccupied with fighting, but that is not what should happen with Covid now after 18 months.

He added that this demonstrates how the mind space for debate on policy making and actual policy making has been limited to just the immediate task of Covid management.

A number of big policy decisions have been taken without sufficient debate. Rajawat pointed out that steel prices have been steadily rising for the last 18 months and yet there has been limited debate about it. Such a rise will have an inflationary impact across the board affecting core sectors such as auto and construction. But the government is yet to take an official position on controlling these prices.

Shrinking media space for expert policy opinion 

Due to advertising being impacted during Covid, the number of newspaper pages have shrunk including editorial pages. Rajawat cited the example of 'Business Standard' where the editorial pages have shrunk from two to one page in recent times.

At the same time, Rajawat said that today a number of politicians are writing articles in edit pages of newspapers. This has led to the edit pages being increasingly dominated by ideology , rather than opinion from subject matter experts.

Covid: Tipping point for Public Affairs Professionals

The next few years are crucial for public affairs professionals and could prove to be a tipping point for their role in the boardrooms.

Rajawat shared that public affairs professionals should help the board prepare for the deliberations by giving them inputs not only on the policy front but also on the narrative developing. They should provide the board a glimpse of how the narrative will change in the medium term so that the board can be cognizant of their decisions."

Yatish Rajawat advised public affairs professionals to employ visual led, short documents for their policy advocacy. As they are likely to get much more better mind space with the policy makers struggling with Covid.

Policy hooks for the short, medium and long term

Rajawat laid out ways for public affairs professionals to track the policy making trends in the short, medium and long term.

He said that in the medium term (next 5- 6 months), policy debate will include the stimulus and the need for it.

In the medium to long term, in about 18 month, Rajawat shared that the attention will shift to large welfare schemes to boost the income of the poor.

Subscription based media and public affairs

Rajawat also outlined the emerging subscription media model, indicating that when product reviews become subscription based it will transform reportage on sectors such as auto and consumer technology

He said India is moving to a hybrid of pure play subscription media such as 'The Ken' and 'Morning Context' as well as subscription based online models such as 'ET Prime' (part of Bennett Coleman) which do not rely on advertisers.

The discussion concluded with a quick poll on the main takeaways from the session. Here is what the audience prioritized:

Partnership Content

Chai Talk is brought to you by Weber Shandwick India in partnership with PRmoment India

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