The practice of lobbying has grown and developed over the years with different firms providing many services beyond the traditional “shoe leather lobbying”. Recently, as client’s needs have evolved, firms have begun to incorporate public relations services. According to The Hill, “Offering PR services, many in the industry say, has become a necessity in an era when controlling the media message is just as important to clients as cultivating relationships.” Incorporating PR capabilities into traditional lobbying practices can turn a firm into a one-stop-shop for their clients, helping them by reducing the need to hire separate firms for grassroots, federal or state lobbying and strategic communications.
In fact, the connection between lobbying and PR is so strong that The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethic issued Advisory Opinion 16-01 which redefines lobbying to include PR professionals who work with political figures.PR Week reports that “On January 26, the Joint Commission voted 10-3 to treat political consultants’ contact with members of the press as lobbying. All PR consultants and their clients must now disclose communication they have with the media and government officials in the state, if the communication intends to influence.”
On Monday, the all GOP S-3 Group became latest firm to make this transition by merging with Bryant Row Public Affairs to form S-3 Public Affairs. The Hill reports, “Stationed in a row house in Eastern Market, S-3 Public Affairs plans to integrate lobbying services with coalition management, digital advocacy campaigns, crisis communications and brand development.”
Similarly, in September 2015, the Democratic leaning lobbying powerhouse Elmendorf | Ryan merged with the PR firm Home Front Communications to create a new 70-person organization named Subject Matter. Discussing the merger Steve Elmendorf, one of the firm’s founders said, “I think lobbying is changing. People realize that decision makers get their information in so many different ways than they used to, and there are more channels of information. You need to do more than just [direct] lobbying.”
Lobby Blog will continue to monitor and report on the latest changes and trends in the lobbying community.