There is a common perception that lobbying and public relations (PR) have become more enmeshed in recent years, with lines blurred between the two. Part of the confusion lies in the simple fact that both lobbyists and PR specialists seek to influence others. Given the perceived overlap of lobbying and PR, we feel it’s important to distinguish between the two and outline the objectives of both. Let’s take a closer look.
DC Lobbying Firm is generally defined as seeking to influence political decisions on behalf of an individual, organization, or group.
Lobbyists typically work with state and federal legislators and members of regulatory agencies to advocate for the proposal, passage, defeat, or amendment of laws or regulations—whether at the local, state, or federal level. Lobbyists are professionals who seek to understand the concerns, needs, and interests of their clients and use their knowledge of the legislative process to educate key decision makers. Lobbyists are sometimes unpaid volunteers who lobby because they feel strongly enough about an issue that they feel compelled to advocate for it.
Lobbyists represent a range of clients—from trade groups, to nonprofits, to labor unions, to corporations and religious organizations. They are prohibited from paying elected officials for their vote on an issue.
Those who meet three criteria must register as a lobbyist under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. The criteria include:
- Having earned more than $3,000 over a three-month period from lobbying
- Having had more than one lobbying contact
- Having spent more than 20 of their time lobbying for a single client over a three-month period
Now let’s look at public relations.
Public Relations Defined
The definition of public relations (PR) is broad, but generally describes using communication to achieve a variety of goals on behalf of an individual, organization, or group. These goals can include:
- Promoting a product or service
- Internal communications (such as relaying the performance of a company to its employees)
- Communicating the performance of a publicly-traded company (investor relations)
PR has changed considerably alongside evolving technology over the last decade. The introduction of social media and other forms of digital communications have both enhanced and created new challenges for PR. Social media has enabled two-way communication between brands and consumers, and it has created an outlet for influencers (ordinary citizens) to promote brands online. While lobbyists may also use these tools, they generally do so to a lesser degree, as face time packs more of a punch with legislators.
As an article in NPR highlighted, lobbyists may target Capitol Hill, but PR folks often swoop in first to “conditioning the legislative landscape”—in other words, shape public perception. Another key difference between lobbying and PR is that lobbyists are required to disclose their activities (subject to the criteria mentioned earlier), while PR specialists are not.
Both lobbyists and PR specialists play their own unique role in communicating information and furthering the interests of the individuals, organizations, and groups they support.
The expert DC lobbyists at Lobbyit make representation in Washington a reality for organizations of all sizes. Our lobbying service packages are competitively priced with small and mid-size organizations in mind—we believe that everyone deserves equal representation in the halls of Congress.