Public Policy

March 5, 2018

An Interview with Public Affairs Pro Lucy C. Cronin


In the latest instalment of Media HQ’s “PR Pro Perspectives” series, Lucy C. Cronin from Instinctif Partners Dublin discusses the difference between PR and PA, the role of social media in the Public Affairs industry and why many Irish people perceive lobbying as a murky business, even though it actually isn’t.

How did you come about working in PA?

In the 1990s, I did my undergraduate degree in European Studies at Trinity College in Dublin. Every year, one internship to the Council of Ministers is given to one student and I was fortunate enough to be awarded that. In 1996, during the Irish presidency of the Council, I interned in Brussels and was hooked within two weeks. I was totally fascinated and captivated by the world of policy-making and simply knew that I’d never want to do anything else.

What does your current role involve?

I am the managing partner at Instinctif Partners in Dublin, which is a global business communications consultancy. We have over 20 offices worldwide and employ between 400 and 500 people. I myself am responsible for the strategic direction of all Public Affairs campaigns in our office, as well as for growing the consultancy’s footprint in Dublin. In addition to that, I work on quite a few pan-European campaigns with colleagues from all over the world.

I’ve been working in PA for over 20 years and if I have learnt one thing, it is that to run a campaign you need many different skillsets, but someone has to have the strategic oversight and keep an eye on the objective and direction of the campaign. This is where my strengths come in. If only one person organised the whole campaign, it would probably not end well, because you can’t ever be equally skilled at everything. Some people are extremely good at research and others are perfectly suited to be the face of the campaign. The point is that a mix of skills is required for the whole endeavour to go well.

What is the main difference between PA and PR?

In Brussels, you can run a whole PA campaign from beginning to end and you may or may not engage with the media at all. In Ireland, on the other hand, a PA campaign won’t be successful if you don’t include the media element. On the national level, the media is much more important than on the EU level.

I suppose it boils down to this: the skillset you need for Public Affairs is a completely different one to the one required for Public Relations. In PA, having a legal, political science or economic background helps a lot. Policy changing is a very legalistic, very procedural process and the roadmap is already set out for you by the policy procedure or landscape. You have to fit yourself into where a bill is or is not and you have to be creative, too.

Public Relations professionals, however, need to be extremely creative, because there is no timeline, no roadmap for you to tag your campaign to. All that lies in your hands.

Would you say that PR and PA intersect at any point?

It depends on the PA campaign you are running. If it is a very specific article in one piece of legislation, you may or may not need to use PR at all. It could really be a very technical discussion and in those cases, the work is done in isolation and there is no media element at all. When you are trying to start a debate on something, on the other hand, PR does intersect with PA, because creating a bit of noise in the media about an issue can kickstart a PA campaign. If you have no draft bill or revision and therefore nothing to work on, the media can prove to be a very useful tool.

This is an abridged version of Lucy C Cronin’s full interview with mediaHQ. For the full article, please click here.