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Managing Public Affairs in Brazil (O Momento Mágico) by Elizabeth Judd

Government Affairs: An Emerging Profession in Brazil Increasingly, multinationals are viewing their South American government affairs programs holistically — and some have chosen to run their entire South American government affairs programs from Brazil. That’s what Dow does, and so does Novozymes, which combines its longstanding local presence in Curitiba, Paraná state, with an office in Brasília. “Brazil is a cornerstone for us in terms of South America and in terms of understanding regional dynamics,” says Perrettson. Signs are everywhere that the fledgling government affairs profession in Brazil is becoming better appreciated. As of the spring of 2011, Franco had spent one year working at Cargill; before that, she performed government affairs for four and a half years at 3M. “Government affairs is becoming more recognized as an important role in the Brazilian political scene,” says Franco. “If you’re dedicated, there are great opportunities [for employment]. Many companies are developing their government affairs units now.” When Patri’s Ricardo started his consulting firm 25 years ago, he had no opportunity to learn the public affairs business at university because the discipline simply didn’t exist. “In Brazil, we have media relations and lobbying but no true government affairs,” says Ricardo, noting that he opened a Washington, D.C., office to keep abreast of the latest developments in the discipline. Although awareness of government affairs is growing in Brazilian culture, “there are a lot of companies that aren’t used to going to a public hearing in Congress and do not understand the importance of talking to congressmen about their issues,” says Renata Jara, a longtime government affairs consultant. “Not everyone knows they can go to Congress or to the executive branch and explain their issues and advocate in their favor.” Jara notes that with the international spotlight on Brazil, foreign companies are sending more non-Brazilians to work there, and “the understanding of public affairs is growing.” She continues: “There’s a lot more awareness of what government affairs can really do.” Some common strategies within American-style government affairs, such as grassroots organizing, are rarely seen in Brazil, according to Carlos Correcha, vice president of public affairs at Edelman in São Paulo. “In Brazil, interests are discussed mostly from the top down: What’s important for my state? Or for business? But the voice of the people from the bottom up doesn’t really have an enormous effect on the way government officials act.” He continues: “In the U.S., we know that if politicians don’t do a good job, they’re in the hot seat. But in Brazil, politicians are seen by the voter more as distant figures.” Fabio Rua, director of government relations for Latin America for GE Energy, believes that multinationals are just now recognizing the strategic importance of the role. One sign? Peer practitioners are beginning to harness his expertise as a Brazil-based government relations professional. “I’ve been getting calls from headhunting firms and companies interested in my advice on who they should approach to structure their government relations function,” he says. Rua, who joined GE’s one-person government relations team in late 2009, notes that the company now has someone performing government relations for its transportation and health care businesses, and GE Energy will soon be hiring government relations professionals to work in Mexico, Chile and Venezuela. The fact that the discipline is new, that there are only a limited number of seasoned practitioners and that many multinationals are attempting to hire government affairs professionals for the first time means that anyone with experience is in high demand. “We want somebody to educate Dow on how the government works, because we’re a technology company. We’re a bunch of scientists who think in black and white, and governments don’t work that way,” says Wells. “And the person has to be tenacious. We’re just developing our government affairs organization in South America. Where we need to work with the government, we have to find a way to do it.” Although many multinationals are hiring their first-ever government affairs professionals, some have had fairly large teams in place for quite some time. Whirlpool, for instance, has 27 people in its Brazilian government affairs, sustainability and communications group, says Valle. He notes that the home appliance leader even has an engineer within the government relations function because it’s so important for the company to provide technical expertise to regulators. Rua points out that the majority of government relations professionals in Brazil are young (generally within the 25-to-35 age range) and were never politicians or government officials. In Brazil, he says, there are many different political parties; and so, government officials may have little or no pull once a new party comes into power. For this reason, the most sought-after government affairs professionals usually weren’t elected officials. Rua maintains that the profession itself is coming of age and is being accorded more respect. “I want to be seen as someone who has a strategic role and as someone who really matters in the company,” he says. “I want to be seen as someone who can really help the company to grow.” Fonte: Managing Public Affairs in Brazil (O Momento Mágico) Elizabeth Judd Foundation for Public Affairs http://www.candex.us/download/brazil-report.pdf


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