Trends in the Public Affairs Industry

May 13, 2024
Trends in the Public Affairs Industry

The 2024 election is likely to shift the lobbying and public affairs landscape once again. It’s a good time for government affairs professionals to take stock of the factors impacting the industry and shaping public policy in 2025 and beyond. Understanding these emerging trends can help you better anticipate what’s ahead and devise a strategy for organizational success – and your own professional advancement.

In our survey of public affairs professionals, we identified the top factors shaping the public affairs sector and career growth, including top policy priorities, the biggest threats, the most sought-after job skills, salary and bonus growth, and satisfaction.

[Download the Trends in Public Affairs Report to see the trends impacting the lobbying industry.]

Public affairs industry hiring and employee retention

During the height of the pandemic, employees across industries left their jobs in droves to seek new opportunities with higher pay, better benefits, and greater flexibility. The public affairs industry was no exception.

Like other industries, lobbying and public affairs organizations saw far more employees change jobs in 2022 than in 2020. Nearly four in 10 respondents reported a job change in 2022, up from 22% in 2020. Men were three times more likely than women to leave their public affairs job. In general, more respondents reported major changes in 2022 than in 2020: a move to a new location, taking time off to be a caregiver, completing a degree or certification, or the birth or adoption of a child.

As the Great Resignation evolved into the Great Reshuffle, organizations were forced to fine-tune their approach to workplace culture and benefits to attract and retain talent. Nearly all survey respondents reported that their organization allowed employees to work either fully remotely or on a hybrid basis during the Covid-19 public health emergency, which may have helped workers stay put in their place of employment during the pandemic. However, as employers continue to update their remote work policies and in-office requirements since the expiration of the federal public health emergency, we may continue to see an upward trend of public affairs professionals moving to different organizations whose remote work policies fit their preferences.

Public affairs salaries and bonuses

Because of a tight labor market and high inflation, public affairs salaries increased for both men and women in 2022 – and by more than they did in 2020.

Among survey respondents, the average base salary in 2022 was $177,155.

However, the gender wage gap still pervades. Female respondents reported an average salary of $167,311 in 2022 compared to $193,908 for men.

Comparing average base salaries for men and women in public affairs

While women’s base salary remains lower than that of men’s, their average salary increases were much higher than for men: 10.6% growth compared to 1.1% growth, on average. Those with lower-level titles, with less experience, or in midsize companies reported the highest salary increase.

Eight in 10 survey respondents received a cash bonus in 2021, averaging $38,734. Both the proportion of public affairs professionals receiving a cash bonus and the amount they received increased year over year.

Average cash bonus amount and percentage receiving bonuses

Respondents 2022 2020
All 81% | $38,734 70% | $34,952
Men 81% | $45,400 74% | $45,198
Women 80% | $34,747 67% | $27,973

As with salary raises, women drove the significant increase in the number of public affairs professionals who received bonuses in 2022 from 2020. But the increase in salaries and cash bonuses hasn’t been enough to retain top talent, especially among female employees. Satisfaction with compensation is lower across nearly all demographic groups but is more pronounced among women; 37% reported being dissatisfied compared to 20% of men. That said, many public affairs professionals are taking advantage of a hot hiring market and seeking new job opportunities.

Top strategy challenges and priorities for the lobbying industry

Every election cycle, public affairs professionals know that there will be many newly elected officials to meet in the coming year. Most lobbying professionals say their top post-election priority will be relationship building and engaging with the right audience. However, they feel the biggest challenges to a successful public affairs strategy will be:

  • Congressional inaction
  • Election outcomes
  • Inflation
  • Energy and climate issues

Top policy targets

Rising global temperatures, air and water pollution, and extreme weather events have made energy and environmental policy a top priority for federal and state public affairs professionals. While a shift in the congressional balance of power could change both state and federal upcoming legislative priorities, survey respondents identified these top policy areas of focus as presenting the greatest opportunity in the future:

  1. Energy and environment
  2. Health care
  3. Tax
  4. Transportation and infrastructure
  5. Labor and employment

Top skills for public affairs professionals

To tackle the policy areas of focus and strategic priorities, lobbying and public affairs organizations are expected to increase their staffing and budget to handle increasing workloads. As these organizations look to hire new staff – and for professionals looking to change employers or job roles – it’s important to understand which skills will be in the greatest demand for government affairs professionals.

While public affairs professionals need to be multifaceted, our survey respondents identified these skills and attributes as critical or required for a public affairs professional to be successful:

  • Ability to develop and maintain relationships
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Team and department collaboration
  • Leadership and managerial skills
  • Knowledge of federal legislative and executive processes
  • Research
  • Proficiency in tools and resources for government affairs
  • Industry-specific experience (health care, defense, etc.)
  • Grassroots/advocacy campaign management
  • Knowledge of state legislative and executive processes

Bloomberg Government can help you prepare for what’s ahead

While every industry continues to adjust to a post-pandemic reality, the lobbying and public affairs industry has the added uncertainties of election cycles and sudden shifts in policy priorities. This makes it imperative to understand what lobbying professionals believe lies ahead in the near term and what it will take to succeed in this ever-evolving sector.

Download the full Public Affairs Survey Report for more data and key insights into the top trends shaping public affairs strategies, careers, and industry growth to help you better prepare for success – regardless of what changes the coming year brings.

Bloomberg Government provides government affairs professionals with expert analysis, real-time news, and legislative tracking and intelligence to help you anticipate and respond to legislative developments and strengthen your public affairs strategy. Request a demo to learn more.