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This paper explores the importance and approach to managing public affairs as an increasingly important external-facing function in corporations operating in an increasingly complex, interconnected and politicized global business environment. Drawing on evidence gathered from a multi-site case study of the public affairs function operating within a globally based consumer products company, supplemented by evidence from interviews with public affairs professionals from a cross section of other international companies, the paper examines the role played by public affairs professionals in managing the organizational–government–citizen interface and the issues that can arise from such potentially complex interactions. The paper examines a number of key factors that have influenced the way public affairs operates and can be managed on a global scale, and highlights the challenges that global organizations face in ensuring they have an effective global public affairs presence, capable of handling the array of contingencies that any organization may have to confront in pursuing its goals. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.