Until a few years ago, GE did not have a dedicated public affairs function. This is not to say we did not carry out public affairs activities, but it is probable that we did not define them as such. And we did not have a clearly-defined strategy for public affairs; rather we planned and executed activities as the need arose.
In 2006, GE became a top sponsor of the Olympic Games. The Games have a multitude of stakeholders, from athletes and sporting bodies, to non-governmental organisations and governments, from celebrities to the general public. In the run-up to the games in Beijing, we worked hard to build relationships with a variety of stakeholders who had interests in China and in the games, and we found those relationships reaped benefits for the company and for our Olympics involvement. We realised the importance of having engagement strategies and plans with a whole range of stakeholders, not just with our customers, governments and the media. While our government relations colleagues had always engaged with regulators and legislators, there was a whole range of influencers with whom it was important for us to have relationships and two-way dialogues. However, we were not doing that in a planned and strategic way.
Influencing the influencers
Based in Florence, Italy, Elma Peters has occupied her current position as director of global public relations and public affairs at GE Oil & Gas since November 2012. Prior to that she led communications for GE Energy for the European region. She joined GE in March 2006.
Hugh Gillanders assumed his current role as director of public affairs at GE Europe in 2009. Previously he was vice president of communications for GE Money EMEA. Prior to GE he was European chief operating officer of communications consultancy Edelman.